European Union: 60% of lower secondary level pupils studied more than one foreign language in 2014

According to statistics produced by Eurostat, learning a foreign language at school is very common in the European Union (EU). Around 18 million lower secondary school pupils (98.6% of all pupils at this level) studied at least one foreign language in 2014. Nearly 11 million of them (59.9%) were studying two foreign languages or more.

English was by far the most popular language at lower secondary level in 2014. English was studied by more than 17 million pupils (97.3%). French (5 million or 33.7%) came second, followed by German (3 million or 23.1%) and Spanish (2 million or 13.1%).

Here is the link pointing to the full press release issued by Eurostat on Feb. 1st, 2016: http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/2995521/7146709/3-01022016-AP-EN.pdf/31595c2c-dbb8-4c95-9ad5-8cb038ffecd3


Exciting keynote speakers and large attendance at second edition of Translating Europe Forum in Brussels

I cannot be thankful enough to have received a confirmation from DG Translation, the European Commission's in-house translation service, for me to participate in the Translating Europe Forum which was held at the Conference Centre Charlemagne Building (CHAR) in Brussels on 29-30 October 2015. I could not make it on Thursday 29 October but attended a very informative session and great workshops from 9:15 to 12:45 on Friday 30 October 2015.

I was first surprised to see a full house in the Charlemagne Building's main meeting room Alcide de Gasperi (capacity: 447). Attendees, the vast majority of them being young translators since this year's forum was all about young people in translation, could enjoy a first excellent presentation by Italian freelance interpreter, translator and branding coach Valeria Aliperta who was introduced by Galician translator and television presenter Xosé Castro Roig. Valeria Aliperta, also Head of External Relations of IAPTI and a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, explained how translators or interpreters can use branding to get more visibility and enhance their profile online. Through her boosting presentation, the Italian interpreter gave an insight and a few takeaways into starting branding process, explaining why it is relevant to go through it, telling why we should invest in such branding, etc. Valeria Aliperta studied in Italy and now lives in the UK where she founded her own business called Rainy London Translations. You can see on her website www.rainylondontranslations.com and on her blog http://www.thestylishfreelancer.com/ how branding is not simply a pretty or colourful logo but a tool for every translator or interpreter in a modern world.

After this plenary session held in the De Gasperi room, I had the chance to attend two workshops: a first one on the role of translation for multilingualism and another one on revision and terminology. The first workshop focused on the "Man vs. Machine" debate and was illustrated by examples mentioned by a great panel of language industry experts like Mr. Panagiotis Alevantis, DG Translation's representative in Athens, Greece, Mrs. Judit Sereg, a freelance audiovisual translator from Hungary, Mrs. Zoe Moores, a respeaking expert from Britain, and Konrad Fuhrmann, Policy Officer at DG Education and Culture of the European Commission. Mr. Panagiotis Alevantis explained how in Greece and Cyprus young people who have learned a second language at school simply cannot speak in it when they reach the university level. He also highlighted that 51% of Greek businesses find language skills more important than digital computer or IT skills. There is therefore a need to focus on language learning in schools nowadays, especially since the Europe 2020 - Rethinking Education project has been underway and should set a new benchmark on foreign language learning. At least 50% of 15 year olds should have knowledge of a first foreign language and at least 75% should study a second foreign language by 2020. There is much talk about the benchmark being that students should reach level B2 in accordance to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Integrating this into the digital single market will be a real challenge. As today's technological developments are ongoing and Google Translate is much talked about or criticized, quality work and awareness of translators keep making a difference in the business. For instance, we definitely need translators when it comes to idioms. As it seems that machines are taking over and people do not take care about writing and language learning anymore, there is a clear signal to be sent to politicians and maybe some lobbying to be done among MEPs for instance. Let us not forget, as Mr. Alevantis pointed it out, that the real international language for business remains the language of your client (and not necessarily English)! Mrs. Moores ended the workshop by saying that technology could also be of help or generate innovation in some way in the translation business. She said that respeaking, a process of using speech recognition software to produce subtitles in real time for live television programmes, pays off for instance. She works full-time as a respeaker in Great Britain. Mr. Fuhrmann and Mrs. Sereg concluded that although big groups like Microsoft and Google tend to stop cooperating with universities in order to develop e.g. their spelling and auto-correction systems, technology could also be a benefit for less used languages like Hungarian, Basque, Welsh, etc. which could serve as a new digital eco system for smaller companies or assocations willing to develop open source translating or terminological tools. And why not having translation play a role in the language learning process in the end?

The last workshop I have attended on Friday morning dealt with revision and terminology. Three brilliant students (two from Belgium and one from Switzerland) involved in terminological research, proofreading or revision gave interesting presentations of their work done through their studies in major European universities.

The wrap-up session was again moderated by Spanish journalist Xosé Castro Roig who gave the floor to Rytis Martikonis, Director-General of DG Translation, and other young professionals. Major risks and threats like the "Man vs. Machine" issue, the gap between academia and real life, the price pressure or the deprofessionalisation in the sector of translation can be tackled thanks to big events like the Translating Europe Forum. It was the second edition of the now traditional annual event. Mr. Martikonis invited all participants to come back to Brussels next year and see how all young translators have evolved. It was also highlighted that it was a real pleasure of being a translator when attending such a well-organized event like the Translating Europe Forum. As a conclusion, we can all agree that language is not only about data or reducible to digital data. As Mr. Martikonis finally put it: "Mastering the language will help meet challenges!"

You can find details and information about the excellent Translating Europe Forum 2015 (including video files of all presentations freely available) on: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/translation/programmes/translating_europe/forum/index_en.htm

The motto of DG Translation is "Link up with languages" and the forum was indeed an excellent opportunity to do so!



Improving English reading/listening comprehension - Selection of useful hyperlinks for kids and teenagers

Just like every year, I was asked to help some kids and teenagers who had to retake language examinations last summer (either in Dutch, English or German). I did help a young female cousin who had not achieved satisfactory results in Engish last June. Her teacher asked her to work on her listening and reading comprehension as well as on her writing skills over the summer.
We worked on that last August. I quickly noticed that my young cousin knew some appropriate vocabulary but she was shy and not confident in building long sentences in plain English. She was not used to watch TV programs or listen to podcasts in English language, etc. While it was rather easy to make my cousin write a few essays about topics studied at school or based on her course material, it seemed definitely more complicated to improve her listening comprehension skills in such a short time. I gave her a few tips to prepare effectively for the retake exam. The efforts made by my cousin eventually paid off and everyone (herself, parents, relatives and myself) is now very happy about how it turned out.
Among the tips given to my young cousin last summer, there was a selection of useful links which have helped and still help her improve her listening and reading comprehension. I have also shared these links with my two sons, who should also improve their English language skills on a regular basis.

Here are the selected hyperlinks:

Listening comprehension
http://learnenglishteens.britishcouncil.org/skills/listening-skills-practice (a website created by the British Council);
http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/multimedia/london/ (a website created by the BBC World Service);
http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/ (a website created by the BBC-British Broadcasting Corporation);
https://www.englishclub.com/listening/ (EnglishClub, a free website for learners and teachers of English);
http://learningenglish.voanews.com/ (a website created by VOA-Voice of America).

Reading comprehension
http://www.thetimesinplainenglish.com/wp/ (a website created by The Times);
http://www.englishforeveryone.org/Topics/Reading-Comprehension.htm (a website created by the Read Theory team, a group of professional writers and educators);
https://www.newscientist.com/article_topic/teenagers/ (a website created by the weekly magazine New Scientist).

For adults who want to improve their comprehension skills and brush up their rusty English, these links also offer them a nice opportunity to do so.


Quelle sera demain la langue de l’Europe?/Welche Sprache spricht Europa in Zukunft? (broadcasted on ARTE at 14:00 on 2015-06-06)

Which language for Europe?

MT+2, of course! Well… Here is the explanation: the EU would like to have every European speak three languages, that is to say two languages besides his/her mother tongue. Except that MT+2 has been quickly replaced by MT+E: mother tongue + English. And this means two, not three! Why would young people learn a second foreign language when they manage to be understood anywhere thanks to some English language skills? In these circumstances, why not have English to become the lingua franca of all Europeans one day? It is now unquestionable that even young French people start to learn English, a language held in contempt in the past. And there are less and less of them who learn German nowadays.
But having English as a lingua franca is not so simple after all...

See the Yourope report broadcasted on ARTE and arte.tv on Saturday, Jun. 6th, 2015:
- French version on http://info.arte.tv/fr/quelle-sera-demain-la-langue-de-leurope
- German version on http://info.arte.tv/de/welche-sprache-spricht-europa-zukunft


Labelling and packaging are crucial in today's globally-wired consumer world

Since labels seem to have a very important role in the life of every product, not following correct labelling requirements and forgetting cultural impact could be extremely expensive nowadays.
This reminds us of four golden rules when translating or adapting labels:
- you shall always make sure to translate labels correctly;
- keep in mind that words, names, colours or images on a label might be interpreted differently in other cultures;
- research for labelling requirements is a must;
- be sure to have your label written in every mandatory language according to national or regional labelling requirements.
For example, as far aesthetics are concerned, Americans and most Europeans believe that suntans are attractive, youthful and healthy. The Japanese do not believe it and would not consider the appearance of a suntanned individual on an ad or in a TV commercial very attractive. As far as colours are concerned, black and white are colours of mourning in Japan and should not be used on a product's package there. Similarly, a packaging with a green label would not be very well received in Malaysia because of the meaning of the colour green. Malaysians actually associate green with the jungle dangers and diseases.
Therefore, getting product label translations right or picking a good brand name for a product is/are either vital for consumer safety or can mean a high level of consumer brand awareness. I have taken time to collect and display some pictures of funny labels or brand names potentially having embarrassing double meanings. Here is now a nice compilation of examples which I have found on the internet and in the press.

Enjoy the hyperlinked document and start 2015 with a good laugh (and I am sure that some readers will laugh their head off)! One more evidence that labelling and packaging are crucial in today's globally-wired consumer world:




Best wishes to all readers,

-- Bert


You can’t say that in English!

Found on Babbel.com:

By some estimates the English language has more than a million words. It’s impossible to nail down an exact figure, but it’s generally agreed that no other language has nearly as many. It’s not like any of us use all one million words, but still – you would think that English must have a word for everything, right? (by John-Erik Jordan)

Read article -- click here:
You Can’t Say That In English!


"Our Language" by Simeon Potter

More than twenty years ago, when I was still a student involved in translation studies at the University of Mons, Belgium, my father offered me an old book that he had kept and cherished for years: "Our Language" by the late Professor Simeon Potter. It was still a time when offering a rather old paperback version of a book meant a lot. It was then considered like sharing some bits of family heritage.
My Dad has retired for a few years, after having made a whole career as a language teacher in Southern Belgium's secondary schools and having been one of the few members of the Commission for Germanic language teaching programs officially recognized by the Ministry for Education of Brussels-Wallonia Federation.
The book which had been offered as a gift, a Pelican Original, was and still remains a classic for linguists.

I had read most of "Our Language" during my studies and have just plunged again into this excellent little book about the evolution of the English language. Each page of the book reveals some surprising anecdotes or astonishing explanations on how the English language and/or vocabulary has evolved and been influenced by other languages or dialects through the ages.
You are for instance reminded "that of all the living languages of Europe Lithuanian is the most archaic, preserving in its structural pattern the primitive features of Indo-European most faithfully. Lithuanian still preserves seven case-forms in its nouns, four tenses and four moods in its verbs, an elaborate series of participles and highly involved system of inflexions."
In the book written by Professor Simeon Potter, you will read that "the notion that there is any virtue in uniform spelling is recent. Shakespeare himself varied the spelling of his own name."
You will also learn that Dr Samuel Johnson, the first really authoritative lexicographer, "was not interested in the improvement of English orthography. He and other lexicographers, on the other hand, revised the French Academy Dictionary and changed the forms of some five thousand words or one quarter of the whole French vocabulary."
Another interesting anecdote is about the translation of Friedrich Nietzsche's Übermensch by George Bernard Shaw. He translated Übermensch as superman while others had previously rendered it beyondman and overman. It set the fashion in super words, especially in America.
At a time when more interest is being shown in language learning than ever before, Simeon Potter's book makes an excellent introduction to modern linguistics.
As internet users commented on some fora, websites and blogs, "Our Language" by Simeon Potter is one of the most interesting, informative and accessible books on the English language and its origins that is available. It is not a new book (first published in 1950) but it is still as accurate as ever. Definitely a book to (re)discover for all language lovers!