MEITS Blog


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.

Continue Reading

Angkor Supermarket: Multilingual landscapes of Cambodia

by Hui (Annette) Zhao

In January 2019, I went to a linguistic anthropology conference in Siem Reap, Cambodia (CALA – the Conference on Asian Linguistic Anthropology). Before the trip, all I knew about the city was ‘oh, that’s where Angkor Wat is!’. I boarded the plane to Siem Reap, hoping that my languages (Mandarin, English and a bit of French) would help me survive the 5 days since my Khmer is limited to ‘អរគុណ’ (pronounced /ʔɑˈkun/, meaning ‘thank you’).

Continue Reading

French grammar – what a waste of time!

by Wendy Ayres-Bennett

French grammar – and the difficulty of acquiring the rules of le bon usage or correct usage – is once again in the news. Two schoolteachers from Belgium have had the audacity to suggest that the rules for past participle agreement with the verb avoir ‘to have’ should be simplified. Why? Because learning these rules takes some 80 hours of teaching in school, and this time, the teachers argue, could be better spent on other things. 

Continue Reading

A Fieldwork trip to Multilingual Hohhot, Inner Mongolia

by Jiaye Wu

When the cold winter is well over, I have come to visit 呼和浩特 (Hohhot) in May for my PhD project which investigates the under-researched history of teaching and learning Mandarin Chinese as a second language to Mongolian minority groups in China since 1900. Hohot is the capital of North China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region. 

Continue Reading

The Linguistic and Ideological Complexities of the ‘Chinese’ Language

by Hui (Annette) Zhao

United Nations’ Chinese Language Day falls on 20 April, and is one of the six UN language days, celebrating multilingualism and the use of six official languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish). Here, I want to talk about the term ‘Chinese’, a ‘simple’ term packed with linguistic and ideological complexities.

Continue Reading

Dipping a toe into language standards and variation in multilingual China

by Nicola McLelland

I’m an intermediate learner of Chinese, something I’ve been doing very slowly in my “spare” time over the past few years. Last year, I scraped a pass at Level 4 of the official government-sponsored Chinese language tests (HSK), which means - to quote the official Hanban website - that I “can converse in Chinese on a wide range of topics and are able to communicate fluently with native Chinese speakers.” That might even be true, as long as by “conversing” you mean that I mainly listen.

Continue Reading

A needle in a haystack? Seeking languages in government

by Wendy Ayres-Bennett

In October 2015 we organised the first National Languages Workshop in Cambridge, with help from the Cambridge Strategic Research Initiative in Public Policy and the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP). It comprised an open session in the morning with a series of presentations from representatives of different government departments, and a closed session under Chatham House rules in the afternoon. As a result, we produced a policy document, the Value of Languages.

Continue Reading

Spelling and the ongoing standardization of written norms

by John Bellamy

There have been a number of developments in recent months with regard to orthographic norms and standards in written language. The Institut d'Estudis Catalans (IEC) ratified a new set of spelling norms last October, which gave rise to heated debates over changes to the usage of accents (in terms of the diacritic). This January witnessed the death of 111-year old Zhou Youguang, who had played a pivotal role in the development of Pinyin, used for depicting Chinese characters using the Latin alphabetic script. One of the particularly valuable functions of Pinyin is for the teaching of Standard Chinese and a structured, clear, standardized set of writing criteria can be incredibly helpful in the language-learning process.

Continue Reading

Page 1 of 2 pages

Find By Author




Our Partners