Lost in Translation

I read, with some amusement, that the new French Prime Minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, has been forced to provide alternative pronunciations of his surname to Arabic-speaking countries as his surname sounds like their word for a rather intimate male body part!

This is not the first time that I have heard of people having to change their names due to unfortunate translations. Indeed, our Assistant Academic Manager was forced to use his middle name when he lived in Japan upon realising that his first name corresponded to a Japanese translation of “Toilet”! Can you guess what his real name is?

This led me to think about the often derided ‘Chinglish’ – Chinese translations of Mandarin into English – and my own time reading this whilst travelling in China. This,

usually after a couple of beers, became extremely funny to myself and my travelling companions and I have added my own example of the “best” chinglish that I found whilst in the bathroom of a restaurant in Beijing! If you want to see more, just search “chinglish” in Google and a whole host of websites will appear.

What this tells us is that not everything will easily translate, as anyone who is bilingual will tell you. Thus, it is so important to understand the context of a sentence and how it relates to the words around it to ensure a correct estimation can be made for the meaning. One can’t solely rely on a dictionary – a fact that any Spanish waiter could tell a British tourist, no doubt!

I think that by being in a country and dealing with locals in the local language, you get a much better grasp of the more colloquial language that often prevails – thus, helping you to understand the nuances that a dictionary will not tell you. Better still, if taking a course in that country, you can ask your tutor to help you with the definition!

Then, you are further along in your goal to becoming fluent.

How about you? Have there been times that you were “lost in translation”? Perhaps there is a funny translation in your name? Or, there has been a local idiom which you have been unable to understand? Join the discussion and let us know!

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English Speaking Universities

I have read with interest the recent news, reported by the BBC that the Politecnico di Milano, one of Italy’s leading Universities is now switching the majority of its Undergraduate courses and all of it’s Graduate courses from Italian Language to English.

The University’s rector, Giovanni Azzone states that if the University wishes to remain visible on the world stage, then it simply must adopt the English language.

Citing that English is now the language of higher education, particularly in science and engineering internationally, and with it being the international language for business, graduates will become more employable, research will be more widely shared and the best international students and professors will be attracted to the University.

Thus, I presume, ensuring the continued success of the University.

Additionally, pointing out the increased competition from wealthy American and Asian universities, Mr. Azzone suggests that to effectively compete with these, students must use English.

I believe it to be a shrewd move by the the University and, to me, this all makes perfect sense. I see it as the University simply reacting to the increasingly globalised world that we all now live in.

Like any good business, they are adapting to fit the new needs that are fast emerging, ensuring that they stay ahead of the game – and being the first Italian University to do this, they should be well ahead in 5 or 10 years time compared to their Italian counterparts.

Many Northern European universities already teach in English and enjoy excellent Erasmus schemes with other Universities and don’t distinguish based on language. Thus, they already receive top talent and are able to be ranked higher for research as this is in English.

This realisation of the global language is something that Edinburgh School of English has advocated for a long time. The communication skills workshops we run are specifically designed to help students use English in international teams and build confidence in English, focusing on performance, fluency and accuracy. Furthermore, incorporating student interests and focuses, we keep classes topical and relevant to the student, leading to a higher level of applied skill when outwith the classroom.

We aim to to help our students perform to the best of their ability on the world stage!

It is my thought that as more Universities and businesses enforce an English Language requirement, communication focused English courses such as ours will become ever more in demand as parents and students alike realise the opportunities this opens to them and the need to remain competitive in ever increasing competition.

We’ll see what happens in 5-10 years time…!

Jerry

Are Short Language Courses Beneficial?

Many students choose to study a language course for a long period of time as they wish to improve as much as possible. But, this type of extended study is not for everyone. Some students may only have 2 weeks holiday from work, or only 2 weeks in between terms at school or University. Often, it will even come down to cost and students will invest in a course for as long as they can afford, which could only be 2 weeks – or even 1!

So, is there a benefit in doing such a short immersion course or would it be better to invest in a longer course in your home country?

I feel that both are acceptable!

I am currently looking to start a Spanish course (having discovered that I have some aptitude for Spanish) which will take place over summer, for 4 hours a week over 2 nights, plus 1-2 hours of homework each week. So, let’s say, 6 hours a week of study over 4 weeks, so 24 hours in total.

This should give me grounding in the language, give me some vital base vocabulary and introduce me to basic grammar so that if I venture to Spain on holiday, I should be able to, at least, order a coffee.

Take that further and I will slowly learn more over an extended period of time. But, I don’t think I would achieve fluency. Maybe in 20 years or so and after 3456 hours of study, which is not ideal if I wish to be able to use the language in business, for example – my career would be over before fluency!

However, if I were to take a two week holiday, I could do that in Spain, where I could also take an immersion language course. If I were to take an intensive course, then, in one week, I could study for the same number of hours as I did over 4 weeks back home. Plus, I would be using the language out of the classroom, further strengthening my communication skills.

Additionally, as the classes are close together, I would also probably remember more from morning to afternoon than I would back home in between my class on a Wednesday and my next class the following Monday, thus I would develop much quicker. This point is discussed in a blog by Communicad, using research from Shona Whyte, and it supports my assumption. Also, having come from a Psychology background, specialising in Biological Psychology, I am aware of the neural pathways needed to turn short-term memory into long-term memory and I know that this works more effectively with shorter time spans between learning intervals.

Therefore, I feel that a short language course is an ideal way for me to supplement my own language learning back home. I believe that I would come back with better understanding and a more advanced level having condensed 2 months learning into two weeks. I also feel that this would help me to achieve fluency much quicker, thus being of quicker benefit to my career progression.

It may, then, be a good option for you, the reader, to consider a short, intensive language course over this summer. If you are studying a language course at home, then I have no doubt that a short course will be of benefit to you and will see you becoming a more confident user of your language.

It’s certainly something that I will be doing!

Jerry Meldrum

Why you should invest in Language Training in a Recession

An intensive language study class

Students enjoying the benefits of language training

It is well known and globally apparent that the world’s economy is not in the best of shape. As a result, people are forced to tighten their budgets, which often means that further investment in education is neglected.

However, this can often be short-sighted and a miscalculation that could be costly, both in times of economic hardship and in economic prosperity.

In the increasingly globalised world, where business is conducted in many different countries, companies are increasingly looking for those who can meet the demands of this by being bilingual. Indeed, simply typing in the term “bilingual” today into reed.co.uk, my search returned 350 jobs asking for bilingual applicants.

Careerbuilder.com wrote in 2009 that 31% of executives spoke 2 languages in a survey of over 12,000 respondents and in their search results, 6000 jobs were advertised for bilingual applicants. If you remember, 2009 was a particularly difficult year for employment after the global recession hit in 2008 – so it seems logical that applications speaking 2 languages held more of a chance of gaining employment than those who didn’t.

Of course, the case cannot be as black and white as this. However, it does not change the fact that today’s search or the search by Careerbuilder in 2009 created many job opportunities that could not be applied for by someone who speaks only one language.

When searching for jobs, have you ever seen the phrase “bilingual applicant preferred”? I know I have – and I didn’t apply. With my experience and skills to date, I feel that it is highly likely that someone would have comparable skills and also a second language. Which applicant do you think would secure the role? It’s highly likely that the bilingual applicant would have nudged me out of the field, leaving me to continue my search.

Thus, I would say that it is a justifiable case that there is probably more opportunity to gain a role in a tough economy if you are bilingual.

But, what about afterwards?

Well, one would assume, having gained employment at a difficult time, you will be suitably experienced by the time the economy recovers and companies start to grow again. Thus, you would be ideally placed to secure that promotion or, indeed, move to a higher role in a different organisation. You would have gained the experience that many people had failed to achieve in the same time frame and as such, could reap the benefits when purse strings are loosened.

In short, you are doing yourself a massive favour by learning another language.

Therefore, when considering what will bring the best value for your money, when you do not have much spare – it would be a good idea to invest in language study.

It could prove to be the best thing you did for your current and future prospects and see you weather any financial storm that may come in the future.