Polytechnical Institute of Leiria launches new Chinese course

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

From here in Portuguese today. Just as interesting as the launching of a new course is the person chosen to head it: a professor from Macau. Someone from Macau really is the obvious choice for something of this nature, and the more opportunities and projects like this there are the more China will wish to keep developing it as their gateway to the Lusophone world.

The Polytechnical Institute of Leiria (IPL, Instituto Politécnico de Leiria) will begin in March a Mandarin course aimed at graduates of the institution in the areas of engineering, technology and management.

It is a joint initiative of two educational institutions of the IPL, which aims to respond to the increasing development of economic relations between Portugal and China.

The creator of the new course will be Yu Xiang, professor at the Macau Polytechnical Institute.

Founded 30 years ago, the IPL currently represents about 95% of higher education in the district of Leiria and includes a community of more than 12,000 students, around 900 teachers and over 300 technical and administrative staff.

Mentioned in the article as well, the IPL's current option for Chinese seems to be this course, a diploma in translating and interpreting Portuguese and Chinese.


Photos of Equatorial Guinea, standardizing American Spanish

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Two Spanish-related links today:

One is this collection of photographs from BBC of Equatorial Guinea, "el único país africano donde se habla español" (the only African country where Spanish is spoken). Even this little bit of Spanish in Africa is not doing so well according to some.

The other article worth reading is this one in Spanish, about the Spanish spoken in the United States. One interesting part:

El director de la Academia Norteamericana de la Lengua Española ha insistido en que hay que "romper" la idea de que en Estados Unidos se habla mal español, porque en realidad se habla "un español distinto, con inevitables ribetes anglosajones".

The director of the North American Academy of the Spanish Language insists that one must break the idea that the Spanish spoken in the US is bad Spanish; in reality it is a distinct type of Spanish with an inevitable Anglo-Saxon edge.


Attendance at Goethe-Institut in Athens up 20% over last year

Monday, February 27, 2012

From here in German:

German-Greek relations have been strained since the euro crisis. In spite of this, more and more Greeks want to learn German. They hope for better job prospects.

A recent survey found that eight out of ten Greeks consider Germany's role in Europe to be negative, and for 76% of them Germany is even a "hostile" country.

On the other hand there are more Greeks wanting to learn the German language than ever before. German courses in Athens are currently a hit, and in the Goethe-Institut in the Greek capital are 350 students learning the language. This is 20% greater than one year before.

The rest of the article after this though is all about German-Greek relations, the euro, the economy...no more info on language after that.


Not sure if proof of larger trend or just charismatic teacher

Sunday, February 26, 2012

When I see articles like this:

Spurring the interest at Desert Vista High School is Latin teacher Sarah Knapp Palumbo, one of the AJCL state chairs. Membership in her Latin classes has grown from an initial few dozen to more than 200 in five classes in the school, which doesn’t require Latin.


Further accuracy testing of Google Translate for Esperanto

Saturday, February 25, 2012

With more time to write today, let's take a more detailed look at the translation quality given by Google Translate from Esperanto to English and vice versa. As noted yesterday (and in other places besides here), the accuracy of translation is surprisingly good for the small corpus used...and that is no surprise to anyone that has learned an IAL before.

So what's the best way to test out the accuracy? Instead of coming up with sentences on my own, using those available on Tatoeba.org seems to be a good idea. My Esperanto is not fluent but I'll see what I can ascertain from these.

For example, example sentences from English to Esperanto containing the word 'with' (chosen randomly). Using some relatively short ones:

Correct sentences from Tatoeba:

He will come with his wife, as is often the case with foreigners.
Li venos kun sia edzino, kiel ofte okazas ĉe eksterlandanoj.

And now using Google Translate:

Li venos kun sia edzino, kiel ofte okazas ĉe eksterlandanoj.
He will come with his wife, as often happens with foreigners.

No problem there.

He will come with his wife, as is often the case with foreigners.
Li venos kun lia edzino, kiel estas ofte la kazo kun eksterlandanoj.

Uh oh, the latter means he's coming with someone else's wife...

Next sentence:

Write with a pen, not with a pencil.
Skribu plume, ne krajone.
Skribu per plumo, ne per krajono.

Now Google Translate:

Write with a pen, not with a pencil.
Skribu per plumo, ne kun krajono.

per is probably better here.

Skribu plume, ne krajone.
Write plume, not pencil.

-e seems to be a problem for Google.

Skribu per plumo, ne per krajono.
Write with a pen, not with a pencil.

No problem here.

Next sentence:

Companions with the same aim, to carve out their own future, cooperate with each other.
Kamaradoj kun la sama celo, konstrui sian propran estontecon, kunlaboras unu kun la alia.

With Google Translate:

Companions with the same aim, to carve out their own future, cooperate with each other
Kompanoj kun la sama celo, skulpti sian propran estontecon, kunlabori kun aliaj.

I think this one's okay, not certain though.

Kamaradoj kun la sama celo, konstrui sian propran estontecon, kunlaboras unu kun la alia.
Comrades with the same goal, to build their own future, cooperate with one another.


Next sentence:

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

Mi ne scias, per kiuj armiloj estos farata la tria mondmilito, sed je la kvara ili estos bastonoj kaj ŝtonoj.

Google Translate:

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. 
Mi ne scias, per kio armiloj Tria Mondmilito estos batalis, sed Mondmilito IV estos batalis per bastonoj kaj ŝtonoj.

Estos batalis is weird. Estos batalata I think would be correct. It did use per instead of kun here though.

Mi ne scias, per kiuj armiloj estos farata la tria mondmilito, sed je la kvara ili estos bastonoj kaj ŝtonoj. 
I do not know with which weapons will be made ​​on the third world war, but on the fourth they will be sticks and stones.

A correct but overly literal version would be "with which weapons the third world war will be done".

Next sentence:

I usually prefer to pay with credit card and not with cash.
Kutime mi preferas pagi kreditkarte ol kontante.

Google Translate:

I usually prefer to pay with credit card and not with cash.
Mi kutime preferas pagi per kreditkarto kaj ne kun mono.

Can't seem to decide whether it wants to use per or kun here.

Kutime mi preferas pagi kreditkarte ol kontante. 
Normally I prefer to pay kreditkarte than cash.

Another problem with understanding nouns turned into adjectives.

Next sentence:

You're so impatient with me.
Vi estas tiel senpacienca je mi.

Google Translate:

You're so impatient with me. 
Vi estas tiel senpacienca kun mi.

I think this one is correct.

Vi estas tiel senpacienca je mi.
You are so impatient on me.

Slightly incorrect, not a huge deal.

Next sentence:

I don't have anyone who'd travel with me.
Estas neniu, kiu volas vojaĝi kun mi.
Mi havas neniun, kiu vojaĝos kun mi.

Google Translate:

I don't have anyone who'd travel with me. 
Mi ne havas iu ajn kiu volas vojaĝi kun mi.

I think this one is okay.

Estas neniu, kiu volas vojaĝi kun mi. 
There is no one who wants to travel with me.


Mi havas neniun, kiu vojaĝos kun mi. 
I have no one, who will travel with me.

Also fine.

Last sentence:

How did you come up with this crazy idea?
Kiel vi ekhavis tiun frenezan ideon?

Google Translate:

How did you come up with this crazy idea? 
Kiel oni elpensis tiun frenezan ideon?

You turns to oni here! Certainly a result of the mixed usage of one and you in English (one cannot simply walk into Mordor = you cannot simply walk into Mordor)

Kiel vi ekhavis tiun frenezan ideon? 
How you got this crazy idea?


As far as automatic translation goes, this is probably about 7 to 8 out of 10.


Guess which language just got added to Google Translate

Friday, February 24, 2012

See it here?

Hm...can you see it? Let's zoom in:

Finally, Esperanto has been added to Google Translate. This is huge news for Esperanto and IALs in general.

The first reason is obvious: being added is a symbol of prestige, and makes the language that much easier to learn.

Another reason: being added to Google Translate proves that a language has a large enough corpus. Google Translate uses parallel texts to translate one language to another, and without that it cannot function properly.

Another reason: this will be a very interesting test of how easy IALs are for machines. Since they have few to no grammatical exceptions and fewer idiomatic expressions they should theoretically have fewer errors in translation as well. A comparison of translation quality between Esperanto and some other small languages (Maltese, Estonian...) would be interesting. Actually, Latin might be the best to compare here. Of course, with few native speakers it isn't as easy to point out errors; while some phrasing in a country's L1 may be wrong simply for being awkward (even if grammatically correct), in Esperanto, Ido etc. it could be correct. Example:

"My desire to study has grown increasingly higher."

Grammatically there's nothing wrong with that, but it would be corrected by an English speaker to something like "I want to study more now than before." In an IAL, both phrasings would be correct, or at least not incorrect enough that it would require a correction.

So.....let's see how good the translator actually is. Ready!

I live in a house with nine cats. -- Mi loĝas en domo kun naŭ katoj.

I would like to have more money. -- Mi ŝatus havi pli da mono.

Without you, I don't know if I can live. -- Sen vi, mi ne scias ĉu mi povos vivi.

He is a character and has courage, and such characters are few in number in Biblical stories. --
Li estas gravulo kaj havas kuraĝon kaj tiaj karakteroj estas malmultaj en numero en bibliaj rakontoj.

The days become longer after the winter solstice. -- La tagoj fariĝis jam post la vintra solstico.

Come to my company downtown for an interview. -- Venu al mia kompanio centro por intervjuo.

That is...surprisingly good. My Esperanto isn't fluent but all but the last two look correct.


No surprise: Koreans most want to learn English, Chinese, Japanese

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Some info from an article here in Korean on foreign languages Koreans want to learn. Having Chinese in second place is no longer a surprise, but almost doubling Japanese in percentage of interested respondents may be. Spanish comes in surprisingly low.


A survey done on 2050 families of university students and 958 working people in Korea on the languages they most wanted to study revealed the following:

"Are you currently studying a foreign language?" -- 46.6% responded yes, 32.8% responded "I plan to", 20.6% said no.

To the question "which foreign language do you want to study?" the responses were English (49.6%), Chinese (21.7%), Japanese (12.4%), French (3.5%), German (2.8%), Spanish (1.8%).

To the question "why do you most want to study a language?" the responses were personal development (44.6%), career and advantages (23.4%), workplace demands it (13.7%), for a promotion (6.9%), to read research papers and documents in original languages (2.6%), traveling abroad (1.9%).


Cape Verde kind of supports Equatorial Guinea's entry into the CPLP

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Found this news in Portuguese here and French here (can't seem to find it anywhere in English using a keyword search).

Apparently the Prime Minister of Cape Verde (José Maria Neves) said on the radio (RCV) that Cape Verde has no problem with Equatorial Entering the CPLP (Community of Portuguese Language Countries), after it has conformed to the statutory premises of the organization.

There's little other detail in the article, which fits well with today where there is little time to translate an article.

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Portuguese School of São Tomé to move to new location

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

From here in Portuguese - I wasn't going to mention this item as it's fairly inconsequential, but I kind of like the website for the school - horrible design but something about the kids telling you about what they like and don't like is charming. There seems to be a disagreement there on whether soup is tasty or not.

*Eu gosto de sopa e de esparguete.
*Não gosto de sopa.
*Não gosto de sopa.
*Não gosto de sopa, de fazer ditados e de contar.
*Não gosto de comer sopa.
*Gosto de jogar à bola e não gosto de sopa de tomate.
*Eu sou normal, a minha comida preferida é carne assada com batatas fritas, não gosto de tomar sopa e adoro jogar futebol.
*Eu gosto de ajudar o meu pai. Não gosto de sopa.
*Não gosto de sopa, manteiga e cajamanga.
*Gosto de brincar e não gosto de sopa.

Some of the article:

The UCCLA (União das Cidades Capitais de Língua Portuguesa - Union of Capital Cities of the Portuguese Language) will support the project implementing the new facilities of the Portuguese School of São Tomé, currently located in the former residence of the military command of the colonial era and provided by the Portuguese embassy.

The Portuguese School of São Tomé follows the Portuguese curricular system, and has about 60 elementary students. In late 2011, the Ministry of Public Works and Natural Resources of São Tomé and Príncipe gave state land for the construction of new premises for the school.

This new space with capacity for 100 students will include living and recreational areas, a library and a place for physical activities, among others.

The investment for the new school is supported by the Association of Portuguese Parents of the city of São Tomé. It is estimated that the new facilities will be in place for the academic year 2013/2014.


Catalan is 14th-most spoken language in the EU, and other things

Monday, February 20, 2012

An article here in Spanish has some info on Catalan usage in the EU right now, and not just in terms of number of speakers but also where it is used and where it isn't. Some of the info from the article:

- Catalan has about 10 million speakers.
- The number of readers of Catalan daily newspapers increased by 29% last year
- The radio and TV audience for Catalan has also increased (doesn't indicate by how much), although only 3% of cinema in Catalonia are in Catalan.
- More than 30% of foreigners in Barcelona are learning Catalan, compared to 7% a few years ago.
- Education: 89% of primary schools in Catalonia use Catalan as a working language and all public universities there use Catalan in more than 50% of the courses given.
- There are 199 laws in the state that require labeling in Spanish, compared to 2 laws that require the same in Catalan.
- Justice is where Catalan is especially weak: 14% of sentences are written in Catalan, a decrease of 6%, and only 3% of the demands in court are in Catalan, even though 99% of the staff of the administration of justice in Catalonia know the language.


Latvian referendum on Russian as an official language took place today

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The referendum that took place today is why I repeatedly extended the deadline for my own personal poll on the same issue. It looks like so far the results are 75% opposed, with 93% of the votes counted.

A few sites before the referendum surmised that Russian could become an official language of the EU if it were to pass. Allow me to mention again my mostly silly idea to make it happen: 1) make Kaliningrad an independent state, 2) fund it to the teeth and help it to meet EU entry requirements as quickly as it can, 3) watch the tiny country join and see Russian become an official language. This will never happen, but it is fun to imagine.

Edit: in related news, looks like Latvijas Radio has redesigned its webpage, which means I'll have to look around for the articles with audio and matching text again. There are a lot more audio buttons on other articles now, but they are expanded versions of the short text summaries, and aren't all that helpful for the language learner.


Early Dawn images of Vesta all made public; finally we get to see the first approach to Vesta

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A few days ago the Dawn team made a great amount of mission data public, a pretty big deal for a mission that until now has only provided teasers in the form of an image of the day. Since Dawn has been in orbit around Vesta for quite some time it's easy to forget that in the beginning there was a huge amount of irritation from those keeping a close eye on the approach (including from yours truly) as no pictures of the approach were released for...about a month or so, I believe. Our view of Vesta last summer went from a single dot to nothing, then nothing, then nothing, and then finally a fairly large image that really drove the point home that there was a lot of intermediary camera footage that the team had and we did not.

With any other mission this would be more or less an academic point, but because Dawn has a second target it is not: the next target after Vesta is the far more interesting (and larger) planet Ceres, and one hopes that we will be treated to a proper approach next time.

Here is how the approach should have been shown as we awaited with bated breath:

We won't have to start going after them for images until late 2014 when Dawn begins its approach to Ceres. The current distance to Ceres is now less than 129 million km (thanks to Vesta's orbit), or 0.8623 AU.


German interview with Michael Studemund-Halévy on Judaeo-Spanish

Friday, February 17, 2012

I found an interesting interview here in German yesterday on Judaeo-Spanish, an interview with a linguist who ended up learning it, in Romania of all places. The interview is quite simple yet informative, and I agree with him in a number of places.

His estimates of the number of speakers:

Weltweit rund 25.000 Menschen. In der Türkei gibt es 22.000 Sepharden, von denen aber nur 600 bis 800 Judenspanisch sprechen. In Bulgarien leben 3.000 Sepharden mit 250 bis 300 Sprechern des Judenspanischen. In Serbien zwei Sprecher, in Slowenien, Bosnien, Herzegowina, Makedonien und Griechenland nur noch wenige. Dafür aber in Paris, London, den USA - und in Israel.

There are around 25,000 speakers worldwide. There are 22,000 Sephardi in Turkey, of which only 600 - 800 speak Judaeo-Spanish. In Bulgaria there are 3,000 of which 250 to 300 speak the language. In Serbia there are two speakers, in Slovenia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia and Greece also a few. But there are also speakers in Paris, London, the US, and Israel.

Also, according to him:

- Nobody speaks it as a mother tongue anymore
- Yiddish is a good comparison for Judaeo-Spanish, as they are both to a certain extent late medieval variants of their respective mother languages plus a lot of Hebrew influence, spoken by a diaspora

Here's where I strongly agree with him:

Q: Sie haben Französisch, Portugiesisch, Spanisch, Rumänisch und Hebräisch gelernt. Warum?
A: Weil ich frei sein will, alles im Original zu lesen, was ich will.

Q: You have learned French, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian and Hebrew. Why?
A: Because I want to be free to read everything I want to in the original language.

I answer that question in a similar way: learning another language is the closest I can ever get to directly absorbing another person's thoughts and perspective (e.g. Leto in God Emperor of Dune). If I am doomed along with everybody else to never being able to fully understand even another single person, at least I can acquire a rough approximation, and language is one of the best ways to do it.


Q: Welche Sprache sprechen Sie denn am liebsten?
A: Am stärksten emotional besetzt ist wohl das Portugiesische. Obwohl ich Französische objektiv besser spreche.

Q: Which language do you like to speak the most?
A: Emotionally I feel the strongest toward Portuguese. Although objectively I speak better French.

I feel more or less the same way, though just about Romance languages. Objectively I like the sound of European Portuguese and Romanian the best.

Anyhow, the interview is an interesting one. Here it is automatically translated into English as well.


German Language Society sees good trend for German in Israel

Thursday, February 16, 2012

An article here in German is worth reading, but unfortunately low on detail besides a (unreferenced) number of people interested in German in Tel Aviv. I'll provide more of an explanation than a translation of part of it:


The article begins with a bit about how it's rare to find a group of Germans going to another country and speaking German and Israel in particular, but some people from the German Language Society did just that...a bit about how there are rougly three generational views in Israel of the German language: one generation which sees it as the "language of the murderers", and German speakers in this generation only use it at home. The next generation of German speakers in the country was ashamed of the language and did not pass it on, while the generation that came after that generally sees it as a cool language to know. Bands like Tokio Hotel and the World Cup 2006 are cited to be a part of the reason for this.

The real intent of the group visiting Israel was to explore the current position of the German language in Israel. They see a positive development there: 20 years ago there was not a single German language discussion group, no schools offered degrees in German. Nevertheless today there is still a "difficult situation" with the language, with examples such as the Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Tel Aviv calling it "German-Jewish studies", official financing of German lessons is rather scarce, and German literature is usually studied through English.

The Goethe-Institut in Tel Aviv says the conditions are not too bad, with an estimated 1,700 people in Tel Aviv (total population 400,000) interested in the language. Not sure where this number came from, perhaps from a random sampling.


The Goethe-Institut in Tel Aviv has a lot of interesting material too, usually in German and Hebrew and also sometimes in English.


Guess which part of the proposed US budget is NASA?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The New York Times has a page here showing an interactive makeup of President Obama's proposed budget for the upcoming year. The graphic looks like this:

Any guesses which of these circles represents NASA's budget? There are a lot of them but try to think about what size it should end up being compared to the whole.


so which one is it?


it is:

this one!

Keep that in mind the next time you see someone make the argument that we shouldn't be exploring space 'because there are so many things we should be fixing at home first with all that money'. Their argument in visual form is as follows.

This Earth-based spending is mostly justified, because it is being spent at home:

and if we could just stop spending money on this:

we would be able to finally, once and for all, really find a solution to the issues we face here on our planet.

An exaggeration? Of course. But pray tell, which other circle of similar size receives as much attention and criticism as NASA? $14.1 billion for international security assistance? $13 billion for other? $9.3 billion for risk management agency? Yes, there are always calls for cuts for such agencies. But the grandiose idea that we should cut spending on a single minor agency to 'solve our problems here on Earth' sounds completely ridiculous ("let's cut programs for the Office of Justice so we can solve our problems here on Earth"), and is also just as ridiculous when applied to NASA.


L'Etranger (Is Gospoti) has now been translated into Sambahsa

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Today Olivier Simon has finished the translation of L'Étranger by Albert Camus into Sambahsa. L'Étranger is probably one of the best novels to read for a French student given its short sentences and extensive use of the passé composé, and this makes the Sambahsa translation just as useful for learning the language:

Ho emt id autobus ye dwo saat. Id weter eet chald. Ho mejen in Célestesrestaurant, kam adet. Quanti spruv maung aytan dia me ed Céleste mi hat sayct :“Hams tik ein mater.” Quando ho abgwahn, me hant hamrahn tiel id dwer. Eemlyt sturdiht ob ho tohrben stighes do Emmanuels hem kay laune ud iom unswordo cravat ed un brachar. Is hat lusen sien oncle, oik munts pre.

The complete translation is here:

Is Gospoti (l'Étranger in Sambahsa)

By the way, I am also on the verge (maybe three weeks away) of finishing a translation I have been working on for about five months. The translation itself is completed, but now there is some proofreading and formatting to do. This translation is not into an IAL, however. I'll write more on it when everything is completed.


More on the 70 East Timorese going to study in Brazil

Monday, February 13, 2012

This article in Portuguese is the last of the few I had to write about on East Timor and the Portuguese language. I did have another but it was more or less a duplicate of another one; this one touches on a subject mentioned in the last post but has more information.

A group of 70 students from East Timor will go to Brazil in March to study at the Universidade Federal da Integração Luso-Afro-Brasileira (Federal Lusa-Afro-Brazilian University of Integration) in Ceará. Brazilian Ambassador in Dili Edson Monteiro told the Lusa news agency that: "After a process of selection, in which we were aided by the Universidade Nacional de Timor-Leste (National University of East Timor, or UNTL), the first group of 70 East Timorese students will leave for Brazil in March."

According to the ambassador, the students will be in Brazil for a period of three years, returning after that to East Timor to finish their last year at the UNTL.

Edson Monteiro also said that 30 university teachers were to soon arrive in Dili to give lessons in all the faculties of the UNTL.

"It's the first time that something of this dimension is being done, and coincides with the first year where UNTL will give courses in Portuguese. In the next year it will have two classrooms to study Portuguese and in four years it will be the language of use of the university, as the law of education in East Timor requires", he said.


Radio Vatican: Portuguese language is gaining ground in East Timor

Sunday, February 12, 2012

From here (Brazilian Portuguese version of Radio Vatican) in Portuguese yesterday. I have a few more Portuguese-related articles to write about in the next few days too.

Prohibited for nearly 25 years in East Timor, Portuguese has been gaining ground. By means of crossword puzzles, word searches and colouring pages for children, Brazil has been encouraging the dissemination of the language in the Asian country, which became independent from Indonesia ten years ago. Until then Indonesian was the official language of the country, now the official languages are Tetum and Portuguese. Because of this vacuum, there is a "repressed desire" for the Timorese to learn the language, according to the Brazilian ambassador in Dili, Edson Monteiro.

He says that in a book fair in 2010, all copies in Portuguese were sold on the first morning of the event. After that, the embassy contacted Brazilian publishers to partner with them. One of these donated 80,000 Portuguese titles.

In March, about 70 East Timorese will go to Brazil to learn Portuguese and attend college, according to Folhapress.

Barazilian TV is also seen in East Timor: programs such as "A Grande Família" (The Large Family) and "A Diarista" (The Diarist) have been broadcast on RTTL (Rede de Televisão do Timor-Leste - East Timor Television Channel).

"The Timorese identify with the scenario and Brazilian stories, in particular those that come from a rural environment. The film "Dois Filhos de Francisco" (Francisco's Two Sons) has had the most success here", said the ambassador.

After that follows a general introduction to Portuguese and the countries that speak it, information that can easily be obtained on Wikipedia or elsewhere.


Number of Portuguese teachers in East Timor to double this year

Saturday, February 11, 2012

From here in Portuguese today:
The number of Portuguese teachers in East Timor will double this year from the current 80 to approximately 170, according to an announcement from the MNE (Ministério dos Negócios Estrangeiros, Portuguese Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The increase in teachers in the country is the result of a new protocol signed between the MNE and East Timor.

These teachers "will be placed in all 13 districts of the country, and the Portuguese cooperation will also contribute "to the training of 7000 East Timorese teacher candidates, as well as teachers that currently teach at primary and secondary schools, in an educational system comprising 300,000 students", said a statement by the MNE sent to the Lusa news agency.

The accord "aims to aid the Timorese educational sector during the 2012 - 2014 period, and at the same time to reinforce the use of the Portuguese language in East Timor"...a better education is the primary objective, considering Portuguese diplomacy to be "vital for the reduction of poverty, and consequent social and economic development of East Timorese society."


Second Confucius Institute in Switzerland to begin in September 2012, in Zürich

Friday, February 10, 2012

A bit from this article in German:

In autumn in Zurich a Confucius Institute is to open its doors. Some professors from the University of Zurich voted against the project for fear of Chinese influence.

Since the government of the People's Republic of China made the decision seven years ago to promote the Chinese language and culture in the world, over 90 Confucius Institutes have been established in Europe alone...in November 2011 the first Confucius Institute on Swiss soil was founded in Geneva, and now Zurich is to get one of its own, with a planned opening date of September 2012.

There is great interest on the Chinese side. "Sino-Swiss relations have experienced a rapid, profound development in recent years" says Liang Jianquan, Consul General of China in Zurich. "We are pleased to be able to develop these relationships based on mutual respect and benefits to both sides."

The meeting of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Zurich (Fakultätsversammlung der Philosophischen Fakultät) is not quite so euphoric. The group, with 136 professors and representatives, had to first approve the statutes. A third of those present in October reportedly voted against the project, a number the dean's office will not confirm. "There was a certain amount of reluctance from some members, who expressed concerns about possible political complications", admitted Peter Fröhlicher (Dean of the Faculty of Arts).

At the Confucius Institute itself will be likely no events that deal with critical themes such as the human rights situation in China. "The Institute will not be a place where politics is driven", said Liang. The Tibet question is for the PRC "an artificial issue", whose discussion does not belong at such a place.

In spring contract negotiations are to take place between Zurich and Beijing. Important issues such as the financing of the institute will then be discussed. It is usual to get start-up financing through the Chinese Confucius Institute sponsor Hanban, which is subordinate to the Chinese Ministry of Education, and financing of such institutes is usually a shared cost (matching fund principle) between institutes of two nations. How much the Chinese side is to pay is still open.


Link roundup for 8 February 2012

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Today's links are:

--- This National Geographic article on Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan. While I assume I would still prefer Almaty for its larger size and better climate, if this happens then I would consider living in Astana for a time:

With the core of the capital near completion, Nazarbayev has ordered his architects to explore the possibility of building another huge tent that would shelter a climate-controlled "indoor city" of 15,000 people.
I've always thought controlling a city's climate makes sense, and doing so would not necessarily require a perfect 20C temperature every day. Massive forestation for windy cities is one easy example of how a climate can be moderated, and simply connecting more areas through underground tunnels is an easy way to 'paraterraform' parts of them. There are quite a few examples of subway stations that are connected by underground malls, for example.

--- If you speak Portuguese and want to test your knowledge of Spanish false cognates, see here: http://noticias.terra.com.br/educacao/quiz/teste-seus-conhecimentos-sobre-falsos-cognatos-em-espanhol

--- The Bulgarian Wikipedia is having a "one new article a day" campaign from 1 to 15 March:
„1 нова статия“ — между 1 и 15 март 2012 г. ще се проведе инициативата „1 нова статия“. Целта на проекта е с общи усилия, в рамките на две седмици, Българската Уикипедия да се разшири значително. Начинът, по който това ще стане, е като всеки, който посети БГ Уикипедията между 1 и 15 март, напише по една нова статия. За повече информация и все още липсващи статии в Българската Уикипедия, посетете страницата на инициативата.
The gist of the campaign is this: if you visit the Bulgarian Wikipedia between those dates, please write a new page. The current number of articles is 126,000+, and shouldn't be too different in three weeks.

--- Barack Obama is returning $200,000 of campaign donations, a practice that, while well-intentioned, I wish politicians of all stripes would do away with. Passively receiving donations and soliciting donations are two different things, and a politician who campaigns on Position A should not be made to feel that they have to return donations from anyone who believes in Position B, has committed a crime, or anything else. Once money has switched hands it is the person who receives the donation who may now use it as he or she sees fit. If a politician does not believe in the views of someone they have received a donation from, why give it back so that they can make use of it again? Keep it and use it for good.

--- Vladimir Putin wrote an editorial for the Washington Post today about democracy.

--- Quebec solidaire sees French as a central priority, but not their primary one.


Looks like Persian has a language learning podcast too

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

It's called Chai and Conversation. It seems to be pretty much the same excellent format that these language learning podcasts use - two people get together to record a podcast together, listening to it is free, and bonus materials cost a tiny bit of money.

The podcast is recorded biweekly, and the latest lesson is Lesson 22. They are still going over some pretty basic concepts by then (how to count objects using تا, how to conjugate داشتن in the present tense) and the podcast focuses on colloquial Persian instead of literary.

This means that for the time being if you're really focused on getting to fluency in the language you're going to want to use a site like this to help make it happen.

One other good thing about the site: the note on why they use the term Persian instead of Farsi, with which I agree 100%.


Otto von Bismarck's voice now known not just to the dead

Tuesday, February 07, 2012


It was lost for 123 years: the only audio recording of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (1815 - 1898). The recording was found in a dark corner of the New York Edison archives, and can be listened to, albeit only very poorly.
The audio can be heard here, and it really is bad. Apparently it's an excerpt of Gaudeamus igitur, Allons, enfants de la Patrie (Marseillaise), and an exhortation to his son to do everything in moderation.

I tried a noise removal in Audacity and it ended up sounding pretty weird - perhaps somebody else will do a better job, in which case I'll update the post with a better link.


20% of South Karelian police are learning Russian

Monday, February 06, 2012

From Voice of Russia here (found it on the Portuguese version of the site), referencing a report from the Finnish YLE:

According to the television agency YLE, Finnish police on the Russian border are beginning to learn the language of their neighbors. There are 40 policemen in the courses, which represents 20% of the personnel of the Police Department of South Karelia. The interest in the Russian language has obviously been caused by the influx of tourists, and may prove helpful in extending into local rescue services.

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Deutsche Welle's design has just changed

Looking at Deutsche Welle today, the site now has an entirely new design (plus a new logo). It comes as a bit of a surprise at first but it is not too hard to navigate, and finding programs, podcasts and German learning material in each language is somewhat easier.

Besides that there don't seem to be any fundamental changes to the site, and the number of languages is still the same. Italian is still lacking, which I believe to be a mistake - if Germany is being put into the role of Europe's reluctant economic savior, it might as well capitalize on that with a bit of outreach into one of Europe's most spoken languages.


Nantes says yes to Ya d'ar Brezhoneg

Sunday, February 05, 2012

That's according to this:

The Nantes city council voted last Friday for the membership of the village to Ya d'ar Brezhoneg (Yes to the Breton language)...the five selected actions are: the development of bilingual education; the purchase of Breton books in media centres; the implantation of bilingual signs at the entrances to the city (these already exist); bilingual cultural programming; the authorization of wedding ceremonies in French, or in Breton, or in both. Naturally, contracts will remain written only in French.


Number of students learning Chinese in Réunion: at least 1300

Saturday, February 04, 2012

More numbers from an article here, this time in French and on the number of students learning Chinese in Réunion. No surprise that numbers are up compared to ten years ago:

For the 2011-2012 school year, nearly 1300 students have chosen Mandarin, compared to just 177 in the year 2000. To this figure, one must also add about 100 students at the University of Réunion, individual learners as well as preparatory classes.
A few paragraphs down we can see just how much support and aid is being given to students who elect to study Chinese:
From late March you can take your case to the Confucius Institute for a scholarship for linguistic study in China (from 4 weeks to 2 years), offered by the Chinese government. This course includes the cost to enter China, a monthly allocation of 1500 yuan ($240, 180€), as well as the cost of university tuition and housing. It is not mandatory to be a student of the institute when applying. For more information: http://confucius.univ-reunion.fr

A deal like that to learn a language as useful as Chinese is not bad at all.

Edit: might also be helpful to show the location of Réunion for those who know little about it.

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Link roundup for 2 February 2012

Friday, February 03, 2012

No time to write much today so here are some interesting links from some open tabs of mine:

-- This one is by far the most interesting, a super-Earth in the habitable zone of a red dwarf star just 22 light years from here. I'll have to read more on that tomorrow.

-- This article says that Deutsche Welle's Latin American Spanish content has grown from 2 to 20 hours a day.

-- Ahmadinejad said something about Iran's new Spanish language TV channel.

-- And finally, an editorial entitled The need for a bilingual America.


433 Eros makes (relatively) close pass of Earth

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Slightly different from most near-Earth asteroid news involving a tiny asteroid a few metres in diameter at a distance around that of the Earth to the moon, today the asteroid 433 Eros passed by at an extremely safe distance of about 27 million km. A pass at this distance is uninteresting for most asteroids, but not this one, because of two things:

1) its huge size,
2) the fact that this asteroid has already been visited and observed close up in very good detail, and
3) that collective observations of the asteroid will help us to more accurately determine its parallax, and from that the dimensions of the Solar System itself.

The Eros observation campaign will continue until the third of February, and Goldstone has completed its observations as well.


More French students learning Chinese

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

We already knew that, but here are some more numbers from an article here:

Today it is possible to learn Chinese in 30 primary schools and 535 middle and high schools. At the beginning of the school year in 2011, 29,505 students learned Chinese in high school, compared to 9,328 in 2004.

Mandarin today holds the 5th place among languages studied in secondary schools. At the same time, some 6,000 French students left this year for Chinese schools, a large share of the 22,000 European students in this situation.


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