Why are Breton speakers protesting about street names?

by Merryn Davies-Deacon

Speaking and promoting minoritised languages often involves struggles against the nation state. In some cases, these struggles can be on a local level. In Brittany, one especially current issue is the “francisation”—Frenchification—of place names. A protest was organised in September in Telgruc-sur-Mer, a small town in the far west of Brittany, an area where the vast majority of names come from Breton, including the name Telgruc itself.

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A bright future for the Welsh Language

by Katie Howard

The Welsh government aims to reach 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050, and there is little doubt that great progress has been made. The number of Welsh speakers has risen from 25% to just under 30% of the population of Wales over the last decade. Plans are afoot to significantly increase Welsh-medium school places over the coming years, with parents choosing a Welsh-medium education for cultural, educational and employment reasons (Hodges, 2011). The percentage of Welsh speakers is unsurprisingly reflected in Wales’ education system, which has seen a rise from 50,000 Welsh-medium school pupils in 2008/9 to over 75,000 pupils in 2017/18.

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Language Matters

by Wendy Ayres-Bennett

With the resumption of Parliament on Wednesday 25 September, the importance of how we use language came sharply into focus. In the highly charged atmosphere of the House of Commons, one MP warned against the dangers of using ‘offensive, dangerous or inflammatory language’. Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Brendan Cox, husband of the murdered MP Jo Cox, put succinctly the reason why this important: ‘because it has real world consequences’. How we use languages – and which languages we choose to learn and to speak – identifies who we are, how we view the world, and how we relate to others. Language matters.

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Want to learn four languages in a year?

by Henriette Hendriks

One of my friends forwarded me an article from a Dutch newspaper that introduces its readership to the idea of “ultra-learning”, a concept introduced by the Canadian Scott H Young (cf. Young, 2019). The article explains how Young managed to pass a 4-year MIT undergraduate course in more or less one year, and how he then set himself the challenge to learn four languages to B2 level (B2 is one of the proficiency levels proposed by the Common European Framework of Reference for languages, a level described as corresponding to a “confident” speaker).  

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Is my Chinese good?

by Yanyu Guo

“My Chinese is not good”, a heritage speaker involved in my linguistic study said with some discomfort, after finishing a Chinese reading task of the experiment. The time he spent on the task was almost twice the average, even slower than some non-heritage learners at a beginner level. However, he performed in a native-like way in listening and speaking tasks, in terms of both accuracy and reaction times. Heritage learners seem to have no problem with grammar but struggle with Chinese character recognition. They are bilinguals, but not biliterals.

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Developing multilingual theatre: Polyphonic I and II

by Joel Chalfen

In May this year, the performers of theatre company, Acting Now, with the support of Polygon Arts, regrouped for a revised production of their devised piece, Polyphonic.  First performed in October 2018 by individuals drawn from a dozen linguistic backgrounds, the production was created in the multiple languages spoken in the group alongside a physical, theatrical language.  Less multilingual but very much intercultural, the process of development and performance opened up questions around language dominance and linguistic nuance as well as how theatrical play offers a space in which such issues can become sources of creativity.

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Teaching standard Mandarin pronunciation to Mongolian learners over the past hundred years

by Jiaye Wu

Mandarin Chinese, an emerging key world business language, has become a foreign language option for some UK students in recent decades. Research into state secondary schools in England shows that only 7-8% offered Chinese as a subject in 2005 with this number nearly doubling to 13% in 2015. By 2020, the UK government hopes to have 400,000 students enrolled in Mandarin courses. In China, although Mandarin is the first language of the majority Han population, 106.43 million or 8.41 percent of the total population in China are ethnic minorities who speak other languages. While a high number of these also learn Mandarin as a second language, how different is the Mandarin taught to them compared with that taught to the mother-tongue Han students or to foreign students worldwide? Has this changed over time? In this blog, I will showcase how one particular ethnic minority group in China, the Mongolians, have been taught Mandarin pronunciation over the last hundred years.

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Do you speak emoji?

by Harper Staples

I would imagine for a lot of us, the answer is probably yes. And this opens up some interesting questions. Firstly, if we can use emojis to communicate with others, and if they, in return, are capable of understanding our meaning, does that make the use of emojis a language in its own right? 

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