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It will get easier. Shrug via PathDoc/shutterstock

Learning to speak English? Making yourself understood isn’t all about the accent

Being able to communicate effectively in a foreign language is a challenge faced by many of us. If you’re a newcomer to a country, conveying a message in a language that is not your mother tongue is often…
Andreas Scheuer, secretary general of the German party considering proposals for make migrants speak German at home and in public. Sven Hoppe/EPA

Bid to force immigrants to speak German in their homes won’t help integration

A proposal in Germany to make all migrants speak German in public and at home has ignited a heated debate about immigration and language. The proposals come from the German Christlich-Soziale Union (CSU…
Sprechen sie Deutsch? German tongue by johnyf33/Shutterstock

Get your tongue around German to master speaking English

It has become commonplace to hear that English is now a sort of “global” language, or lingua franca. Although this might be partly true, is it right to draw the conclusion that native speakers of English…
Wilting away? rosipaw

Latin is dead? Long live Latin!

A little item buried on the inside pages of newspapers recently caused a small stir. Latin plant names, it was claimed, were “in danger of dying out”, following a decision by the International Botanical…
Learning braille is liberating so it’s time to modernise. Dave Halberstadt

Good vibrations bring braille into the 21st century

Even in a world of digital devices, braille continues to be a vital part of life for blind people. For nearly 200 years, this versatile writing system has allowed them to learn, work and live in a more…
Where is the Welsh? Increasingly online. Alan Fryer

Minority languages fight for survival in the digital age

Language is about much more than just about talking to each other; it’s one of the bases of identity and culture. But as the world becomes increasingly globalised and reliant on technology, English has…
Lost in translation. Gwenaël Piaser

We need to fall back in love with learning languages

The drop in applications to European language programmes at UK universities will not have come as a great shock to anybody teaching languages. For at least the past 15 years, the number of students applying…
Modern diplomacy requires a more delicate touch. Haydn West/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Parlez-vous diplomacy? English won’t serve the UK abroad

A report from the British Academy has warned that a lack of foreign language skills could undermine the UK’s future security and capacity for global influence. The report warns of an apathy towards language…
Chinese language learning is happening but we need more. cawdvt

Boris is right, it’s time for us to learn Chinese

I found myself in wholehearted agreement with Boris Johnson, as he took the opportunity of his trip to China to express his opinion that British children should learn Mandarin. China has come a long way…
Publishing a peer-reviewed paper isn’t easy, but new research confirms it’s worth the fight. Cartoon by Nick Kim, Massey University, Wellington

Predicting who will publish or perish as career academics

It doesn’t matter whether or not you think it’s fair: if you’re an academic, your publishing record will have a crucial impact on your career. It can profoundly affect your prospects for employment, for…
Forget Spanish, French or German - try learning a coding language instead. Ivana Vasilj

Learn computerese as a second language (that’s code for code)

If horror meister Stephen King was a computer programmer, his language of choice would probably be COBOL: it’s quite verbose in exposition, has been around for ages and people still make a lot of money…
Steven Bird demonstrates the use of a smartphone for recording oral literature. Steven Bird

Emerging writers of the Amazon: putting vanishing voices in print

My team and I recently ventured into the Brazilian Amazon to record the Tembé language and preserve some of its stories for future generations. This built on earlier work with our mobile phone app that…
Augustine, one of the few remaining speakers of Tembé, recording a story using an Android phone. Steven Bird

Androids in Amazonia: recording an endangered language

The village of Akazu’yw lies in the rainforest, a day’s drive from the state capital of Belém, deep in the Brazilian Amazon. Last week I went to Akazu’yw, carrying a dozen Android phones with a specialised…
Endangered languages are being preserved using cheap mobile phones. Steven Bird

Cyberlinguistics: recording the world’s vanishing voices

Of the 7,000 languages spoken on the planet, Tembé is at the small end with just 150 speakers left. In a few days, I will head into the Brazilian Amazon to record Tembé – via specially-designed technology…

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