This week in languages: September 2, 2016

by on September 2, 2016



The East African Legislative Assembly has passed a resolution this week, making Kiswahili the official language of the East African Community, alongside English, reports All Africa.

Russian-language learners will now be able to practise speaking the language with grannies in Moscow (Russian)! Under a new project, pensioners will Skype language learners around the world for free in order to share Russian culture and improve the linguistic skills of learners, reports Russia Beyond The Headlines. To sign up to speak to a native-Russian speaker, check out LinguaLink of Generations.

Syrian refugees looking to enrol in government-run French and English language classes in Canada are facing a “wait time of about two years,” reports CTV News. The lack of space in language classes has raised concerns about the ability of refugee families to integrate into Canadian society.

In Singapore, the government has taken to a novel way to educate senior citizens about its policies, active-ageing tips, and activities to fight against dementia—via a 10-part series of dramas in Hokkien called ‘Eat Already?”. In addition to each episode lasting 30 minutes, in Hokkien (the most spoken non-Mandarin Chinese dialect in Singapore),  “the story-telling format of dramas makes them more interesting, and can also help to enhance understanding and recall.” The series starts airing on September 9 at 12pm in Singapore.

Commentaries and Features

In al-Sayyid, a Bedouin village nested in Israel’s Negev desert, people have a higher rate of deafness: 150 in 4,000. “If we hear different accents, we’re not so bothered by it. In small multi-lingual situations like al-Sayyid, they’re less bothered by different means of communication.” Linguists are now studying the al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language used by both deaf and hearing people in the village, and by extension, investigating the origins and transformation of languages over time, reports New York Magazine.

“Sometimes, we do not make the language of the world we inhabit. Instead, it makes us.” Gabrielle Bellot makes a case for acknowledging literature in Englishes instead of just any one variety of English in a commentary on “who gets to decide what counts as English?” in Literary Hub. Meanwhile, Stan Grant, for The Guardian, considers his identity as one who is Wiradjuri, yet speaks English as a first language. “In a country of many tongues that speak of other lands, who can say this? I am who I am and I am from here.” But what if your heritage language is endangered and/or disappearing? Juliana Broad answers this for Tz’utujil, a language spoken primarily in Western Guatemala and experiencing political challenges, the sweep of modernity and standardised tongues, and dwindling speaker populations.

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