Overseas Chinese Affairs Office to bring 100,000 youths to China for summer camps over five years

Monday, April 30, 2012

That's from an article here (French version of CRI), one that almost was not interesting enough to mention except for the part at the end which is fairly interesting: one of the easiest targets in teaching a country's language are people of the same ethnic origin, and China seems to be working hard at this.

The Chinese government will promote the teaching of the Chinese language abroad to better satisfy the growing interest in China and its language, said Li Haifeng (director of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office) on Monday.

The office will further cooperate with foreign authorities in education in order to make Chinese one of the main languages in their educational curricula, he said.

It has trained about 17,000 teachers since 2010 to teach the language abroad, and helped more than 270 schools and organizations to improve their teaching conditions.

During the next five years, the office will invite 100,000 young people of Chinese origin to participate in their summer and winter cams in order to "connect with their roots". Such camps have already attracted over 40,000 Chinese youths overseas since 2010, he said.


Confucius Institute to open in Porto Alegre

Sunday, April 29, 2012

From here in Portuguese:

On Wednesday Porto Alegre will open its first Confucius Institute. It will be located on the Vale campus of the UFRGS (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul) and is a partnership between the university and the Communication University of China (CUC).

The institute will have classrooms and short-duration courses. The professor and writer Jane Tutikian will be the Brazilian director of the site - a Chinese director must be appointed by July. Two more Chinese teachers will be selected to give lessons to the Brazilians.

There are around 300 Confucius Institutes around the world, with only four in Brazil.

View Larger Map


Tedx talks in other languages

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Those can be found here, a page that categorizes Tedx talks by language, country, and so on. It is not entirely accurate as there are a good amount of English videos hidden there, especially in places where English speakers are more common than others (Germany, Hong Kong, etc.). Sometimes the title will help out here, but not always.

Since these videos don't have transcripts it wouldn't be worth mentioning on a post were it not for the number of languages contained there, namely:

American Sign Language

The ones in bold are those in the list that usually have very limited content online, especially audio content.
Catalan for example:



Arabic only the 29th most translated language on Index Translatonium

Friday, April 27, 2012

From here in French, from Morocco:

Index Translatonium, UNESCO's international translation library, has highlighted the very alarming status of Arabic as a target language. With 12,263 works translated into Arabic, this language is in 29th position - far behind Czech in 14th place, Serbian in 23rd, and Romanian in 24th. 
The top five most translated languages are English in first, then French, German, Russian, and Italian. 
Looking at the numbers by country, Germany is at the top of the list with 250,000 translated works. After that is Spain, France, and Japan. Morocco does not make the top 50 due to having only 373 translated works. 
Translatonium has more than two million entries for 500,000 authors in 148 countries since 1982. It was created in 1932 by the defunct League of Nations, it was taken over by UNESCO in 1946, then computerized in 1979. Since that date, member countries have been obligated to send a list of their published translations every year.


Planetary Resources is exciting right from the beginning

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I watched the presentation today given by Planetary Resources:


and found it to be exciting to say the least. For those who don't know, Planetary Resources is a new company that has gotten a lot of attention in the past week primarily due to two reasons:

1) the company plans to do something that has never been done before: eventually mine (small) asteroids, and
2) more importantly, it is backed by billionaires. The founders of Google, for example.

The company's general plan will take place over three stages: 1) observation from afar, 2) observation close up, and 3) resource exploitation. Stage 1 is what makes this interesting right from the get go. Transcribing from the video:

As of this morning there are 8,931 near-Earth asteroids that we know of...we have a population of almost 9,000 near-Earth asteroids, which represents by the way my friends, one percent, one percent of the near-Earth asteroids that are larger than 50 meters. So there are almost 500,000 -- there are between 500,000 and a million asteroids that we expect to find out there over time that are greater than 50 meters and that are close to us in terms of the near-Earth capability. That's an extraordinary amount! We only know one percent of them right now. And so our first phase, beyond the development of our technology, is to prospect. We're gonna do it by launching a space telescope, a series of space telescopes which are our Arkyd 100 series which we're gonna see, and then we're eventually gonna launch swarms of spacecraft using our Arkyd 300 series to these targets, as we characterize them and learn about them...
The launching of one or more space telescopes in the beginning specifically to find asteroids - that's exciting. Not only is it exciting because it is doing science that NASA otherwise has to beg to find the funding for, but because it is easy to do. Mining an asteroid is something entirely new, but building and launching a telescope? No problem. I would even recommend building telescopes on the ground to accomplish the same thing, such as what Pan-STARRS is doing now. Perhaps Planetary Resources will do that as well; it's hard to tell from that video alone without any more detail. But either way it happens, finding asteroids is easy to do and I am very glad to see their investment being used in this way in the first phase.


François Hollande to ratify the European charter of regional languages

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Possible / probable (currently at 54% to Sarkozy's 46%) next French president François Hollande has made it easy to decide on a subject for a post today: he held an event in Bretagne (Brittany) where he promised to ratify the European charter for minority languages. That would turn France from light green (signed) on this map to dark green (signed and ratified). From here:
18h10. "We will ratify the charter of regional languages" François Hollande promised to ratify the charter of regional languages: "We will do it together, without threatening the French language".
and here:
Holland moves on to the role of the localities. "We need them in order to work. After May 6, I will initiate a new act of decentralization...French will not be threatened. But Breton should be taught and disseminated as all regional minority languages!"


Article: Employers in Bavaria don't like Latin

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

That's the gist of this article in German, which can be read through Google Translate here. The general gist though is that some people (employers) don't want German students to study so much Latin. I naturally disagree.

Employers, teachers and scientists advise students to not spend their time learning dead languages. Their message: learn Spanish, Chinese or Turkish instead of Latin. "Our modern economy is geared to exchange with other countries. Many economic partners are situated in east Europe, Asia and Latin America. And many customers, even inside the country, do not speak German. We need employees that speak the languages of these people" says Barbara Dorn from the Confederation of German Employers (Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände). Mario Oesterreicher, head of the Modern Languages Association, calls for a wider range of languages such as Chinese or Dutch in schools, saying that students who know these languages will fare better in the job market than "Latiners". Latin continues to boom in high schools, but other languages are catching up. The number of Spanish students in NRW has almost quadrupled in ten years to 120,000. 20,00 students learn Dutch, three times more than in 2002. Latin and French are among the subjects that students fail the most...The penchant for classical languages seems to be a German phenomenon. "In France maybe one percent of students learn Latin, in Bavaria it is 50%." Those who want to change the status quo are of the opinion that: "Latin promotes logical thinking? Other languages do that too. Latin helps in the teaching of German? Why not then improve German classes?"
So why do I disagree? For many reasons that I won't elaborate on here, but most of all because of the impression it gives that language learning is an activity that takes place during youth, when it can and does happen at any time. There's no reason a student could not learn Latin during school, then graduate and find a need for Spanish, which can then be learned through a few months of self-study followed by a number of months in Spain (the number of months depending on the student's language learning ability and the level of fluency desired).


François Hollande gania le primer votacion in France con 28.4%

Monday, April 23, 2012

Yo non ha ci un suplemente al noveltas in le grande jurnales, ma yo volavi reapelar le lectores de Page F30 que le votacion in France ha juste finate. Hollande con 28.4%, Sarkozy con 25.5%, i Le Pen con 20%. Le dueme votacion sera le 6 de maye.

Anque le participacion e interesante: plu di 80%.


Dawn to spend 40 more days around Vesta, bringing a small asteroid into Earth orbit to mine

Two interesting things happened in space last week:

- The Dawn team has decided to give the probe forty more days to orbit Vesta, giving it about a week more time in its current low orbit, and the rest of the time in the high-altitude mapping orbit. Doing this will not change the arrival date at Ceres, so no problem there; all it will require is a bit more thrusting on the way, and thus more fuel. The decision to spend more time around Vesta may also forebode more time spent around Ceres after arrival, given how much larger and more interesting the second target is, along with the less fuel it will have once it has arrived. In the meantime, Dawn is still approaching Ceres simply by virtue of the orbit of Vesta which is currently catching up to Ceres from behind:

Current distance to Ceres is 0.6757 AU, or 101 million km.

The other interesting piece of news last week was this one on asteroid mining, or more specifically a new company called Planetary Resources that seems intent on doing just that. Two previous posts here on the possibility of asteroid mining (we're talking very small asteroids here, just seven or so metres in diameter) are here and here. The general idea is this: bring a small asteroid into Earth's orbit, then use it somehow.


CPIK (Chinese Program in Korea) about to begin

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Many who have taught in Korea before or have friends there who have know about the EPIK program, whereby English speakers with degrees (not specifically teaching degrees) come to Korea to assist in teaching in public schools on one-year contracts. Korea is now beginning something similar for Chinese, which is interesting as I had wondered for some time whether such a program would actually be necessary. The reason: China is just an hour or less away by plane (Qingdao is about 40-50 minutes), and there are a lot of ethnic Koreans in China that can obtain residency quite easily and, one assumes, also get jobs teaching Chinese.

On the other hand, Korea does love setting up ambitious national programs for just about everything, so perhaps this is not much of a surprise. The information in Korean is here (and almost a month old). According to that page:

- Work on this began November last year during a Korean-Chinese international cooperation meeting in Beijing
- 200 Chinese teachers to be brought over this year; 140 in April, 60 in September
- The teachers will have degrees in teaching Chinese (i.e. the so-called 'a degree in anything and a pulse' does not get one a job teaching in Korea)
- 94% of those coming in April have a master's or higher

And some other information not really worth translating. It will be interesting to see if this program grows over time, or whether the number of teachers officially invited remains in the hundreds and Koreans seriously interested in the language simply choose to take the hour-long plane ride to learn it directly during school vacation and other time off. I haven't paid much attention to this program over the past few months so I'll have to keep an eye on it.


Korean remake of Who's on First: 1루수가 누구야?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

This video (embedding has been disabled by request) is one that I certainly never expected to see: a Korean version of the classic Abbott and Costello routine Who's on First?. Not only that, but this is not in standard Korean either but the dialect in the southeast - Gyeongsangnam-do, or Busan (Busan is the second-largest city in the country). This dialect is kind of like the Kansai-ben of Korea in that Kansai-ben is spoken in the second-largest city in Japan and seen on TV a lot, so it is understandable by pretty much anyone and anyone can try to fake an accent, though those actually from the area will find it awkward. The one used in the video is not too hard to understand though, certainly not as tough as something you might find on Gag Concert (개콘) or somewhere else.

Watching the video it is just as funny as the original. Very well done.

The guy on the left is the one that knows the names and is confusing the other one on the right. The names are:

1루수 = 누구
2루수 = 뭐
3루수 = 몰라

So the first baseman is who, the second is what, the third is don't know.


Video tour of ChinesePod's new office

Friday, April 20, 2012

ChinesePod (a podcast for learners of Chinese) has recently moved to a new office, with plenty of staff and a fairly nice interior. I'm especially appreciative of ChinesePod not just for its usefulness and popularity but also for its inspiration to others, people who have decided to begin their own podcasts for much smaller languages. Lithuanian Out Loud for example, which is most certainly the most comprehensive Lithuanian learning resource on the internet.

Their new office appears in this video, which begins with Jenny talking with Benny Lewis who has been learning Chinese for some three and a half months now.


Interesting paper goes over 50 years of language teaching at FSI

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Found an interesting paper here the other day, written in 1999, going over some lessons in language teaching acquired by the FSI (Foreign Service Institute) over fifty years. Particularly interesting are:




This next one is particularly important - something I wrote/ranted about back in 2008:





The end of this next one is particularly important, and is something many of us have encountered in life: a schoolmate who is fluent in two languages thanks to their parents (often English and Chinese in Canada), but who simply can't learn foreign languages. To them, their first two languages are simply part of them and no more helpful than knowing one is to someone else.



This last one is also critical. One-on-one demonstrations of 'fluency' are often simply one person controlling the conversation. That is a great tip when learning a language (don't let the conversation get out of control or you'll get lost), but often a rather dishonest way to demonstrate mastery. Sometimes, of course, this is unintentionally dishonest: when speaking only to one person at a time (Skype for example) one can begin to get the impression that fluency is just around the corner when you are in fact just talking about easy topics that you are keeping good control over.


Further testing the Sambahsa - English dictionary on GoldenDict

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

I mentioned in yesterday's post that the newly-created dictionary for Sambahsa on GoldenDict (a kind of dictionary software) is best for reading content that has already been created, and with a bit of time today I tested this out. Using Le Petit Prince / The Little Prince in Sambahsa, I have looked up every word in the dedication while pretending to be an English speaker that does not know much or anything about other languages (least of all Sambahsa) to see how easy it is to go through a story like this with dictionary in hand.

The quick conclusion: quite good, and will be much better with further tweaking. Verb conjugation is the biggest problem here (ho appears a lot but does not have its own entry), plus some rough edges here and there such as entries like quan(do) which technically do not bring up a search result for either quan or quando.

Also, reading Sambahsa in this way is way, way more enjoyable than otherwise (a .txt file on a large page in Firefox using ctrl-f to search). Words like im and ei I really do not enjoy learning in grammatical tables as I much prefer to see words in context, and seeing them in practice is much nicer.


Here it is word by word:

Ad Léon Werth

ad = at

Beudo pardon im magven ob dedievs tod buk uni balirh. 
buedo = ?
pardon = pardon
im = to them
magv = child
ob = because of
dedievs = ? may recognize dedie (dedicate)
tod = this
buk = book
uni = to a(n)
balirh = adult

Ho un serieus excuse : 
ho = ?
un = an
serieus = serious
excuse = excuse

so balirh est is sellst prient ho tienxia. 
so = that
balirh = adult
est = is
is = the
sellst = ? but may recognize sell (good)
prient = friend
ho = ?
tienxia = everywhere

(Question for Olivier: Sambahsa doesn't need od here? is sellst prient od ho tienxia...)

Ho alyum excuse : 
ho = ?
alyum = ?
excuse = excuse

so balirh ghehdt prete quant, hatta buks promagvens. 
so = that
balirh = adult
ghehdt = ghehdt doesn't exist but ghehd (can, is able) is obvious enough.
prete = understand
quant = all
hatta = even
buks = books
pro = for
magv = child, as above.

Ho un trit excuse : 
ho = ?
un = a
trit = ?
excuse = excuse

so balirh weict in France quer is paytt ob hungher ed srigos. 
so = that
balirh = adult
weict = ? the nearest entry is Weicmen, meaning "inhabited Earth, ecumene".
in = in
France = France
quer = where
is = he
paytt = suffer
ob = because of
hungher = hunger
ed = and
srigos = not in dictionary, but srig = cold. Reader may wonder if Léon Werth is frequently ill.

Is want husur. 
is = he
want = ? reader will probably assume 'want'.
husur = comfort

Sei quant ta excuses ne sont kafi, 
sei = if
quant = all
ta = these, those
excuses = excuses
ne = not
sont = are
kafi = enough

io accepte dedie tod buk ei magvi qui so balirh buit prevst. 
io = I
accepte = accept
dedie = as above
tod = this
buk = book
ei = to him
magvi = dictionary has magv, child
qui = ":masculine singular nominative singular pronoun ; undetermined plural nominative ; accusative interrogative ; relative pronoun" -- probably confusing to the reader.
so = that
balirh = adult
buit = he was
prevst = once, before

Vasyi balirhs buir magvi prever (bet pauks ex i mehme to). 
vasyi = not in dictionary, but vasyo (all) is there
balirhs = adults
buir = they were
magvi = as above
prever = former
bet = but
pauks = not in dictionary. pau (few) exists.
ex = out of
i = them
mehme = not in dictionary, but mehmen = remembrance.
to = that

Corrego ghi mien dedication : 
corrego = not in dictionary, but correg for correct (vt) is there.
ghi = "has no definite meaning, it often appears in second position in a clause and serves to emphasize the"
mien = my
dedication = dedication

Ad Léon Werth quan is eet un lytil pwarn
ad = to
quan = quan(do) has 'when'.
is = he
eet = he was
un = a
lytil = little
pwarn = boy


GoldenDict dictionary files now available for Sambahsa

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Robert Winter informed me this morning that Sambahsa can now be added to GoldenDict, a piece of dictionary software that is very convenient. It is convenient for one reason, but first I will show a screenshot:

What makes it so convenient is the instantaneous lookup. With this one can look up the meaning of any Sambahsa word in English without any delay, requiring no internet connection or accessing any site. That makes it perfect for understanding translations. Were the opposite to be available (English to Sambahsa), it would make creating translations and chatting in real time that much easier.

I have actually never used GoldenDict before today but the simplicity and speed is very nice.


Radio Netherlands is 65 years old

Monday, April 16, 2012

Nothing to add to this article about the 65th anniversary of Radio Netherlands, which also comes with a video interview with the longest-serving employee there, a man who has worked in the mail room for 45 years, and doesn't come across as being all that old.

The languages of Radio Netherlands: Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, English, French, Indonesian, Papiamento, Portuguese, Sarnami, Spanish.


Portuguese language countries condemn military coup in Guinea-Bissau

Sunday, April 15, 2012

This is related to the question of membership for Equatorial Guinea in the CPLP (Comunidade de Paises da Língua Portuguesa), a group that is concerned that membership for the country would compromise their ability to stand for human rights issues. This recent unanimous condemnation is one example:

The CPLP has proposed the creation of a military force to intervene in Guinea-Bissau after a military coup last Thursday which led to the imprisonment of the interim president and the prime minister of the country.

Meeting in Lisbon, the eight members of the CPLP threatened those responsible for the coup with sanctions if constitutional order is not restored.

Hours before, political parties from Guinea-Bissau met with military leaders of the coup, who said they planned to return power to civilians.

The former ruling party did not participate in the meeting. The whereabouts of its candidate Carlos Gomes Junior for the presidential elections that were to happen next month is still unknown.

The army says that he is "safe" and that he was arrested. The coup was condemned by the international community.


Kumzari dictionary in the works

Saturday, April 14, 2012

That's according to an article here in French (with video) on Kumzari, an Iranian language spoken in northern Oman (i.e. just across the strait from Iran) with a lot of Arabic and Portuguese (and apparently other) influence. A linguist is named Erik Anonby who lived there from 2007 to 2009 is working on a dictionary to help preserve the language, spoken by a few thousand.

Automatically translated into English here.

Zoom in on the location in the map to see the actual village where it is spoken. As you zoom in it looks like nothing, then nothing, then nothing...then it suddenly appears.

View Larger Map


New video promotes exploration of Venus. I mostly agree.

Friday, April 13, 2012

This video uploaded two days ago has been getting some attention on Reddit:

The basic premise is this:

1) Venus is interesting, our sister planet, may have had life, may still have life up in the clouds. Agree.

2) So we should explore it. Agree.

3) We need a mission to the surface and it will cost way more than missions to Mars. Do not agree.

On point #3 I do not agree because of two reasons: 1) We do not need to concentrate on surface missions for quite some time, and 2) Even mentioning the surface further promotes the mistaken image we have of Venus: that it is a hellish planet that is nearly impossible to explore. This is only true on the surface, not in the clouds.

The video does show a solar flyer, but it is not the focal point.

The reason why a flyer is so effective is actually explained in this Ted.com video advocating something similar to Mars:

What is the best way to unravel the mysteries on Mars that exist? We asked this question 10 years ago. We invited 10 of the top Mars scientists to the Langley Research Center for two days. We addressed on the board the major questions that have not been answered. And we spent two days deciding how to best answer this question. And the result of our meeting was a robotic rocket-powered airplane we call ARES...We fly about a mile above the surface. We cover hundreds of miles, and we fly about 450 miles an hour. We can do things that rovers can't do and landers can't do: We can fly above mountains, volcanoes, impact craters; we fly over valleys; we can fly over surface magnetism, the polar caps, subsurface water; and we can search for life on Mars.

The difference is that a solar flyer on Venus would be a virtually indefinite mission thanks to the slow rotation (= permanently available sunlight), and it would hover at 50 km above the surface instead of one or two. However, it would be able to dip down from time to time for a while until its electronics were in danger of melting, upon which it would retreat back to the higher part of the atmosphere to cool down, and then repeat. A first mission would be interesting enough checking out the most earthlike area with trips down to maybe 40 or 30 km above the surface (average temperature about 140 and 220 C respectively), and perhaps later ones could be built to withstand these temperatures for longer.

Finally, keep in mind that the highest parts of Venus are about 10 km above the surface, so these would be even easier to see from close up. To see the top of Maxwell Montes from a mile away, it would have to fly down to an altitude of about 13 km where the temperature is about 360 C (460 C on the surface).


French broadcasting to be drastically reduced in Morocco

Thursday, April 12, 2012

From here in French:

The other area where the minister (Communications Minister Mustafa Khalfi) is implementing a major reform is in the linguistic component.

Half of the programming of the channel 2M will be in Arabic, 30% in Amazigh (subtitled) and 20% in foreign languages (that is, mostly French and Spanish).

In addition, national radio will have to dedicate 70% of their programming to Moroccan music, followed by Arabic and foreign music.

The news in French broadcast every night at 8:45 pm will now be shifted to after 11 pm.


Swiss teacher teaches German using two tables (charts)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An article here features a teacher that has been teaching German for five years, who apparently gives his students two tables to refer to that unite all the basic grammar:

"To understand German, one must solve a simple equation, combining conjugation, grammar and vocabulary" explains the 35-year-old teacher. His students have only two tables to learn by heart to know all declensions and agreements of the German language.
He has not published these methods or tried to sell them yet so it's impossible to say what they look like - also how large these two tables are that are to be learned by heart.

The article itself is not about PR for the teacher, however; it's about teaching methods in Switzerland and how much leeway teachers have to use their own methods. Apparently this teacher's methods are not entirely welcome.


Bulgarian, Afrikaans and Armenia, Portuguese and German

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Three things to share that touch on all these languages and countries.

First Bulgarian. Here's a Bulgarian folk song that is easy to follow. Lots of it (from my limited Bulgarian) seems archaic, like хи for и (actually should have an ` over it) meaning her. It also seems to be west of the yat border with немаше instead of нямаше.

Afrikaans and Armenia: the front page article on the Afrikaans Wikipedia is Armenia (Armenië), and as is often the case on the Afrikaans Wikipedia it is very detailed.

Portuguese and German: some more information on the popularity of German in Portugal here:

According to data from the Goethe-Institut, the profile of students of German has been changing in recent month. The increase of male students was about 50% and there are more students learning German for professional reasons. This increase has been observed especially in introductory courses. In the winter semester which just ended there was an increase of about 22%, while in the same period of time one year before (2010/2011) the increase was just 4%.


Independent MP Pierre Curzi wants to strengthen the Quebec Charter of the French Language

Monday, April 09, 2012

From here in French a bit over a week ago:

Independent MP Pierre Curzi filed a bill in Quebec that significantly changes the Quebec Charter of the French Language adopted in 1977 by the government of René Lévesque.

Concerned about the anglicization of the region of Montreal, he believes that one must reverse the current trend. For this, he proposes that French be declared the common language, that company names must also have a generic French name (e.g. Les magasins Canadian Tire) and that a company obtains a certificate of conformity with the Charter in order to get public contracts.

The bill would also lower the number of employees needed for the Charter to apply to a company from 50 to 25.

The private member's bill has little chance of being called, but Pierre Curzi believes that it will at least serve as the basis for a public discussion, especially in terms of the future of the French language in Montreal. "In less than 20 years, the number of people who use French at home will fall to 43% in the greater region of Montreal. In other words, the greater Montreal area will become a bilingual region in fact. There is an urgent need to act." he said in a press conference.

Amir Khadir from Québec solidaire welcomed the presentation of the bill, which incorporates many proposals of his party. The Parti québécois also welcomed the initiative.


Link roundup for 7 April 2012

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Here's some of what wass interesting this week:

--- The astronomy picture of the day for yesterday is fantastic: Venus wandering through the Pleiades. Right now Venus is about as high up in the evening sky as it gets, and in the next few months it will suddenly lower until it finally transits the face of the sun in June. After that there are no more transits of this nature until 2117. Well, from Earth at least. To see them before 2117 we'll have to be looking at Venus from another point in space.

--- Kepler has been renewed until 2016, which is one of the best pieces of news this year. Since Kepler does not confirm extrasolar planet candidates until it has seen three passes, the minimum amount of time it takes to find a planet is equal to the planet's orbit multiplied by two, and the maximum three. Example: let's say a planet orbits its star every 500 days. If Kepler began its mission one hour before the planet passed in front of its star we would see three transits after 1000 days: one on the first hour of day 1 of the mission, the second 500 days later, and the third 500 days after that. If it began the mission one hour after the planet had passed in front of its star then it would take almost 500 days for the first transit, then 500 more for the second, and another 500 for the third.

--- An article on Fanagalo, the only pidgin based on Zulu (plus Afrikaans, English and other African languages), and the lingua franca of mines in South Africa. Not surprisingly, it is endangered and in danger of extinction.

--- More on the UK's Skylon spaceplane.

--- Just found out about this recently: a history of the world in 100 objects from BBC. 100 podcasts, each about 15 - 20 minutes in length. That's a total of about 30 hours, and if you are blessed with enough time to hear them all then definitely do so.

--- Europe is considering one of three projects for a major mission in the 2020s. The first is an X-ray telescope specifically designed to study black holes, the second would study gravitational waves, the third would be a dedicated mission to the moons Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. My vote naturally goes to the third: as a general rule, when one cannot fund all the missions one wants to, the ones with the best PR should normally take precedence.

--- Somebody (not me) has started a Sambahsa subreddit. I'm the 14th subscriber.


Bilingual (German - French) education continues to increase in Alsace

Saturday, April 07, 2012

An article here in French begins with an interview with a person who is 20 years old and a chef de rang at a restaurant in Strasbourg and who was enrolled in bilingual schools since he was in kindergarten. He talks about how useful German is for him to know, and then the article gives some numbers:
Bilingualism continues to develop in Alsace. According to figures there are 24,627 students from kindergarten to high school that are taking a bilingual curriculum, three times more than in 2000 (7,119). In primary school the number of bilingual students increased from 6,731 to 19,812, middle school from 344 to 3,656 today, high school from 44 to 1,160. For Claude Froehlicher, president of the association of bilingual students, putting one's child in bilingual education is "common sense". "It's an opportunity for the future of one's child. German, he says, is the most spoken language in Europe. For employment it counts. The parents also say that it can't be bad to immerse oneself in a linguistic culture."


Which languages Germans most want to speak fluently

Friday, April 06, 2012

According to this, a digital publishing firm called AG has carried out a small survey on which languages Germans most want to speak fluently and how they learn them. The survey was done online on 715 people, 51% women and 49% men. Note how they ask the question about which language they want to learn: Welche der folgenden Sprachen würden Sie am liebsten verhandlungssicher sprechen? (Which of the following languages would you most like to speak fluently?) which means that Germans who already know English will often still pick English if they would like to speak it better. Also note the word for fluent: verhandlungssicher, literally negotiation-sure. Business fluent, as opposed to fließend which is just the regular word for fluent.

The selection of languages they gave was also unfortunately small. Russian, Portuguese, Dutch, Polish etc. are others that I could see respondents choosing, and any that are interested in those languages but not others will certainly just choose English (improving one's English) as a default.

1. What would be the main reason for you to learn a new language?

Work-related reasons: 40%
Holidays: 22%
Stay abroad: 20%
Other: 12%
Partner speaks another language:6%

2. Which of the following languages would you most like to speak fluently?

English: 52%
Spanish: 17%
Italian: 14%
French: 13%
Arabic: 2%
Chinese: 1%
Japanese: 1%

3. How do you most enjoy learning languages?

Combination of online learning and personal tutoring: 38%
By oneself on the computer, internet: 35%
Travel for language study: 14%
Language school: 13%


Ted.com talk transcript for Romance language comparison

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Breaking up sentences into short fragments gives something like this:

Not bad at all. When using multiple languages like this the goal is to break the sentences up into fragments that are fairly short so as to make them memorable and easy to compare. The translators on Ted.com do not make these translations in order to facilitate interlinguistic comparison, so there is only so much that can be done with them...

...unless a few native speakers decide they want to help by tweaking these translations into ones that have as many cognates as possible, but still without being awkward. Identifying this awkwardness or lack of it is why a native speaker is necessary, as an L2 speaker would have an easy enough time finding cognates, but would not know exactly how they felt to an L2 speaker.


Three things about languages

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Three things about languages today:

--- 113 public school teachers in the Philippines will be taking Spanish courses this summer to more effectively teach the language. This is taking place at the Instituto Cervantes.

--- An article about a book featuring Esperanto translations of 200 Maltese proverbs. With 200 proverbs it's probably more of a pamphlet than a book but no samples of the proverbs are given so I can't tell.

Finally, an interview with Richard Simcott. The reason I'm embedding it is because I like his analogy of sports to language aptitude (actually language interest). I won't spoil it through paraphrasing it here though.


New numbers from internetworldstats.com, now for May 2011

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

I'm not sure exactly when the numbers on internetworldstats were changed, but I think it must have been within the last month as I usually end up checking their numbers every few weeks or so.

The last post I wrote on their numbers was here, and as before the image they have is older than the numbers below so it's easy to compare. Last time the comparison was between December 2009 to June 2010; this time it's June 2010 to May 2010, a full year.

Strangely, the only numbers that have changed since that time have been English, Chinese and Spanish:

English: 537 million to 565 million (+27 million)
Chinese: 445 million to 510 million (+65 million)
Spanish: 153 million to 164 million (+11 million)

Either very few countries have released census data since that time (unlikely) or the site owners have neglected to factor this in (much more likely, unfortunately).

Another interesting source for online languages is this one:


which analyzes websites themselves, not countries and their populations. It begins thus:

Spanish, Castilian
Dutch, Flemish

Something about it does not seem right, however. Persian and Czech with 50% more content than Korean, and Swedish with almost twice as much? Highly unlikely.


Portugal to charge 120 euros per student taking classes in Portuguese abroad

Monday, April 02, 2012

From here in Portuguese:

Portuguese immigrants in Europe will pay 120 euros annually to the state for each child of theirs that attends classes in Portuguese in their host countries. These classes, which were free until now, are provided by the official network of teaching Portuguese abroad, with teachers hired and paid by the Portuguese state. The Portuguese constitution requires the state to ensure the teaching of Portuguese to the children of immigrants.

The annual fee of 120 euros will be charges to students that take Portuguese classes outside of regular school hours, in so-called parallel teaching. In 2010 more than half of the 50,000 students took the Portuguese classes in this way. Those who take the classes during regular school hours (inclusive education) are exempted from the fee.


Asteroid 2012 EG5, 60 metres in diameter, will fly by the Earth tomorrow

Sunday, April 01, 2012

An asteroid is on the verge of flying past the Earth, another one that shares the characteristics of small asteroids that often make the news:

1) Only discovered in the past few days or weeks
2) Flyby distance similar to or less than that from the Earth to the moon.

Most of these asteroids (and apparently there were another two in the past month) are quite small, just a few metres in diameter. This one in relative terms is a monster at around 60 metres in diameter, the same as the length of a jet. Asteroids up to around 10 metres in diameter will break up in the atmosphere on the way down, but this one would cause a bit of damage. If you were standing 20 km away for example you might experience something like this:

The projectile begins to breakup at an altitude of 54000 meters = 177000 ft
The projectile bursts into a cloud of fragments at an altitude of 4700 meters = 15400 ft
The residual velocity of the projectile fragments after the burst is 4.77 km/s = 2.96 miles/s
The energy of the airburst is 4.52 x 1016 Joules = 1.08 x 101 MegaTons.
No crater is formed, although large fragments may strike the surface.

Air Blast:

The air blast will arrive approximately 1.04 minutes after impact.
Peak Overpressure: 18900 Pa = 0.189 bars = 2.69 psi
Max wind velocity: 41.4 m/s = 92.6 mph
Sound Intensity: 86 dB (Loud as heavy traffic)
Damage Description:

Glass windows will shatter.

About 30 percent of trees blown down; remainder have some branches and leaves blown off.

At even a slightly greater distance the effect is much smaller. Were an asteroid like this to hit the Earth it would most likely land in the ocean, the next most likely location would be uninhabited land. An asteroid of this size hitting the Earth is scary and unsettling (as it should be), but not catastrophic.

2012 EG5 will be passing by at a distance 0.6 times that to the moon, and a slightly slower than normal velocity of 8.54 km/s. You can take a look at and play around with its orbit here.


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