MEITS Blog


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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Orange is a migrant word

by Michael Evans

When I was a small boy in Iraq in the 1950s fruit, in particular, loomed large in everyday life. Growing up in a bilingual family, we codeswitched between English and Arabic depending on who you were taking to. Most basic items in daily discourse existed in two sets of vocabulary.

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A rós by any other name..?

by Deirdre Dunlevy

‘That’s a weird name, what is it in English?’

For anyone with a name that is not easily identifiable as English, you’ve probably heard this before. And as someone whose name doesn’t have a ‘translation’- my name is just my name- it is incredibly frustrating as people try to figure out what my name ‘is’ in another language.

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Double minoritisation: non-standard varieties of minoritised languages

by Merryn Davies-Deacon

For a long time, non-standard varieties of widely-spoken languages, such as regional dialects of English, were stigmatised. On the BBC, regional accents are still rare. But there is evidence that non-standard varieties are beginning to be valued as assets to our cultural diversity. Earlier this year, the New York Times British-Irish Dialect Quiz was a big hit.

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“The two cultures” 60 years later

by Thomas H Bak

This week marks the 60th anniversary of one of the most famous and controversial academic lectures in European history: C. P. Snow’s Rede lecture at Cambridge University entitled: “The two cultures”. The lecture is complex and has many interwoven themes, some specifically British, others consciously global, but I think it would be fair to say that at its heart lies C P Snow’s criticism of the lack of respect, interest and knowledge that the “literary” academics have when it comes to science, particularly applied science and technology. The topic has been extensively debated in the context of its intellectual history and subsequent criticism, but my question is a slightly different one: does it still have anything relevant to say to sciences and humanities of our time?

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Noticing languages - noticing linguistic inequality

by Nicola McLelland

I’ve just been called up for Jury Service – my first time – and I’m approaching it with what I’m guessing is the usual mix of curiosity, eagerness to be useful, and nervousness. The last time I set foot in a courtroom was doing work experience as a teenager, shadowing a court interpreter. The defendant who needed the interpreter was convicted of a driving offence. He said he hadn’t understood the rules, but, I discovered, that was no defence, though it might mean a more lenient sentence.

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The myth of English as the language of science?

by Dieuwerke (Dee) Rutgers

In this day and age, it is hard to imagine the world of science without English: The dominance of English as the lingua franca of the international scientific community is generally undisputed, even if the impacts of this dominance are more contested. My aim here is not to make a claim to the contrary: English is indeed the preferred language of scientific communications today. Still, I wonder – might there be more to the ‘language of science’ than meets the proverbial eye? How ‘English’ is our scientific language anyway, and what does this reveal about the history of science? Might our bias towards science published in English be leading to lost knowledge and missed opportunities? What are the less visible and less tangible parts of our scientific endeavours, and what roles do languages play within this?

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