This week in languages: March 3, 2017

by on March 3, 2017

24/02/2017–03/03/2017

Headlines

Albuquerque Public Schools in New Mexico, USA have created a programme to provide students with a bilingual Spanish-English education from pre-kindergarten to university! The new programme—which is looking to hire more bilingual teachers—is expected to groom “students who will be much more prepared for the global market”, reports Krqe News 13.

In commemoration of Aboriginal Languages Month, some stores and co-ops in Canada have rolled out a programme to label supermarket groceries in indigenous languages such as Slavey, Cree, and Chipewyan! CBS News reports that such initiatives aim to “bring language education out of the classroom”—each grocery item has a QR code enabling shoppers to listen to its pronunciation.

Localingual: One man’s ambition to capture dialects and accents and to “highlight the globe’s language diversity” in a map. You’ll now be able to zoom in on a country and listen to crowd-sourced recordings of people speaking in their local dialect, reports Wired.

Is “clock” related to “frog” in the same way that “baby” is related to “bottle”? While the answer is likely to be ‘no’ for most people, previous studies have found that for children with autism, the answer can be less clear as one challenge faced by these children is that of distinguishing between related and unrelated words. A recent study at Johns Hopkins Medicine that measures the brain’s electrical activity using an electroencephalogram (EEG) indicate, however, that adults with autism may be able to discriminate between related and unrelated words as well as those without autism. In adult participants with autism, a record of spikes in brain activity “when looking at related and unrelated words” was shown to mirror those of control participants. The differences were that in the test participants, the spikes were delayed and predominantly found on the right side of the head rather than evenly distributed over both right and left sides. These findings suggest the use of compensatory learning strategies in word discrimination for adults with autism, prompting the possibility of intervention to develop these strategies quicker and earlier in children with autism.

Tackling racism and micro aggressions in English: The University of Washington, Tacoma has declared that “there is no inherent ‘standard’ of English”, and that expectations to conform to proper grammar perpetuates systems of racism.

GIPHY has launched a library of more than 2,000 GIFs of Sign Language: Sign with Robert! Search for a word in English and you’ll be able to know how to sign it in American Sign Language. Mashable reports on how the team behind Sign with Robert hopes to create a more inclusive type of education, and that the humble GIF could be the perfect medium for Sign Languages.

Can a stroke change the way you speak? Manchester mum, Tracy Lloyd suffered a stroke in Dec 2014 and was left with a Liverpudlian accent (aka Scouse) when she recovered.

Commentaries and Features

What’s in a name? In response to a recent racist vandalism incident,  Colombia University’s Chinese undergraduates produced a video “Say My Name” in which students explain their names, rich with cultural meaning. College student Guo Quanzhi stands in solidarity with his fellow Chinese friends and explains why we’re more than skin deep, in Sixth Tone. On the same note, Patrick Cox talks about racial identity and the politics of the use of “black” and/or noir in the US and France [a fantastic podcast], for PRI.

What makes someone a native speaker? When she moved to the US, Vishakha Darbha was constantly faced with people amazed at her proficiency in the English language. “Use it to talk and debate, not discriminate”, says Vishakha Darbha for Paste Magazine.

One day in the life of an interpreter: Alexander Drechsel interviews Italian interpreter and researcher Paola Gentile on the status of interpreters [podcast]. 

The Hakka people (客家, literally ‘guest people’) have historically been known as migrants. How has their language evolved? The Straits Times’ Abigail Ng WY profiles the Hakka language and shares the status of the language in Singapore, as the fourth largest Chinese language group after Hokkien, Teochew, and Cantonese. While the language is not grammatically gendered the way most European languages are, the words for body parts are in Hakka: tongue is sep ma and is ‘female’, while nose is pi gong and is ‘male’.

In spite of strict bilingual language policies in the education system and falling enrolment numbers for Urdu classes, the Urdu community—with more than 5,000 speakers in Singapore—is staying alive through ground-up efforts. The Straits Times speaks to Urdu Development Society Singapore (UDSS) administrator, Saadiah Zahra, who shares her love for Urdu.

In recognition of the varied language landscape of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in Bangladesh, Tim Brookes has created an illustrated children’s regional dictionary of 100 words for the endangered languages of the area. The book contains words with translations in English, Bangla, and indigenous languages such as Marma and Chakma. Support his project on Kickstarter here!

If you’ve been to the movies lately—to catch Arrival!—and haven’t been able to find many things of interest, check out Language Crawler‘s list of movie titles that feature linguists or explore linguistics and languages.


This week’s Roundup contains articles and commentaries from the last two weeks, because Unravel’s back from a break! 

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