The rest of Europe may jump to the conclusion that it’s la belle vie when it comes to the French working week, with the stereotypes of the 35 hour week and 2 hour lunches. However not all is as it seems, the 35 hour working week is often but words on a contract ignored not by employers but by employees.
It was once, and in many cases still is expected of residents of other countries to conform to our language. England has managed to slip further and further down the table when it comes to citizens learning new languages. For years this has been a problem but the European Education Commissioner warns that if England continues this bizarre mind frame then it is seriously going to have a damaging effect on their chances to enter and even sustain employment in the business world.
Figures cited by Androulla Vassiliou show that the UK is quite literally at the foot of a European languages league table. This is rather disappointing when compared to the rest of the EU the UK boasts a mere 9% of 15 year olds who spoke one foreign language, compared to other countries. For example both the Netherlands and Sweden, who of course topped the league table with a whopping 80% of 15 year olds speaking one or more language. 
The UK has quite simply become lazy when it comes to language learning due to high volumes of other countries learning English as a second language. However Ms Vassiliou, Education Commissioner said that “This attitude doesn’t work. We live in a globalised world. We travel a lot. The EU, for instance, won’t employ people unless they speak two other languages.” This is something a lot of people fail to understand, which may soon become increasingly out of control if action does not take place.
Which leads us to share our delight and success at a language event which took place from the 18th – 20th October when Euro London attended the Language Live Show in Olympia which saw excited crowds of language lovers flow through the open doors; a refreshing sight for eyes which are fed up of reading about the lack of enthusiasm which runs throughout the UK.
As we hosted both a seminar and a CV clinic we were delighted at the positive response, restoring faith in people in relation to language learning and furthering their careers using these languages. Something which we can only hope to see flourish to a greater degree within the next year!
If you joined us at the weekend, please get in touch via Facebook and share your experience with us. www.facebook.com/eurolondon
Research which has previously taken place suggests that language learning is at its peak during the early stages in your life. This is typically up until the age of 9 years old and that’s why language learning should be thrust upon children for greater fluency. But just how relevant is this?
Research which was funded by the National Institutes for Mental Health (US) and the Wellcome Trust provides an insight into language learning for toddlers. This new research suggests that the brain has a critical timeframe between two and four for language development. This is mainly due to environmental factors.
UK and US scientists say that the biggest impact on the brain’s writing development to process new words is before the age of four. This was taken from brain scan images which provided results that suggest that young children are good at learning two languages because of the levels of myelin in the brain.
Two scientists, based at King’s College London, and Brown University, Rhode Island, studied 108 children with normal brain development between the ages of one and six.  They used brain scans to look at myelin – the insulation that develops from birth within the circuitry of the brain. To their surprise, they found the distribution of myelin is fixed from the age of four, suggesting the brain is most plastic in very early life.
But to regular people like us what on earth does this mean exactly? It simply means that we are more susceptible to environmental influences on our brain’s development earlier on in life. This is a fantastic trait to have when it comes to language learning; by being able to absorb useful information during infanthood it provides children with a greater base and understanding of what it is they are taking in. In this case fluency is greater at a younger age when it comes to language learning.
This gives a greater understanding as to why submersing children, before the age of four, into a bilingual environment before the age of four gives them the best chance of becoming fluent in both languages.
Some fascinating facts to remember when you may have children of your own!
We are all very aware of how popular the English language is in today’s world, particularly in business as well as the media and is arguably the most dominant language in history. However for those that speak the lingua franca is it a demon in disguise? Many English natives reject the path to learning a new language as the language is so popular worldwide they expect others to learn their language. With many countries still struggling to recover from the 2008 economic crisis could language learning genuinely be the answer to a lot of job hunting difficulties?
In the past, going to university and obtaining a degree was enough to impress employers but with the way the world is changing this does simply not cut it anymore. As a result of this we have countries with a number of top graduates who still struggle to find a career they desire in the working world. Carl Gilleard, former chief executive of the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), said: “Businesses require talent to compete at a global level, and the fact that the UK is lagging behind its competitors in developing graduates who fit the bill is a real cause of concern.”  Something that a vast majority of Brits are ignoring.
According to recent stats 54% of Europeans can converse in at least one foreign language compared to a mere 39% of Britons who claimed the same. Further research indicates that a staggering 14% of UK graduates are missing out on fantastic opportunities within the digital sector as a result of not speaking another language.
Therefore given the evidence, other than voluntary work in order to build experience within sectors in order to provide an advantage in a job search, learning a second (third or even fourth) language could provide an alternative way to stand out and land you that job you’ve been waiting for!
Have you ever watched a film and wished you had a particular gadget or superpower, don’t be embarrassed now; it’s happened to the best of us! Fixated by the opportunities of being transported from a crowded city to a beautiful sunny island, or pondering what an easy life it would be if we could read people minds or the mischief that we could get up to if we had the chance to be invisible. But imagine the possibilities if you could have a conversation with someone on the other side of the world without either of you knowing the same language. According to recent reports in the media Google are in fact working on a new device that could do exactly this.
The gadget that is being designed by Google has been likened to the high-tech gadgets that have been seen in shows such as Star Trek. New developments at Google could potentially allow the technology to become reality as it could translate spoken words into another language in real-time through a receiver. Although the device is still a number of years away from being perfected, Google’s vice president of Android, Hugo Barra, revealed that it has already mastered translations from English to Portuguese.  This isn’t the first translation device that Google have brought to life as they already created ‘Google Translate’ which currently works with 71 languages.
So, if a world existed where language learning was no longer necessary to communicate between two people who speak different languages, would people still bother in taking the time to learn a language? If you asked us, we would have to disagree; although the device is brilliant and indeed would be a great addition to the world in a number of ways – there are certain attributes that it does not possess. Actually learning a language can provide a number of benefits which can benefit your life unlike a gadget, despite its intellect.
What are your thoughts – would a device such as the one Google is working on stop you from learning languages?
Ever thought singing in German, French, Spanish, Arabic (this list goes on) could help you master the art of a language? Well its time to take a sip of water, clear your throat and get belting – even if you’re not the next Katherine Jenkins or Elvis Presley, because singing can in fact improve your language learning abilities.
A number of language learners tend to simply repeat words and or phrases as a means of learning a foreign language which, lets be honest, can become quite boring very quickly. However a new study conducted by the University Of Edinburgh Reid School Of Music, shows that singing in a foreign language is a better way to learn it. One test even showed that people who sang foreign phrases performed twice as well as their non-singing counterparts.
A study was conducted in which participants either listened to words that were spoken and then had to repeat them back or the words were said rhythmically or sung. Researchers decided to choose the Hungarian language to conduct the tests in as participants were unlikely to have much experience in learning this particular language. Participants of the experiment were allocated 15 minutes in order to learn some of the Hungarian language. This was then followed by an exam which tested their ability to learn the words. The results of the study showed that those who had used the singing approach when learning, scored the highest and were also better at recalling the words correctly in tests of long term memory.
A researcher at the University of Edinburgh, Dr Ludke who helped conduct the experiment believed that the findings could dramatically help those who struggle to learn foreign languages. He also found further results suggesting that a “listen and sing” learning method can facilitate verbatim memory for spoken language phrases. 
The University has installed some great foundations for further research to be pursued and in the meantime has provided keen language learners with a new and exciting way to learn another language. So don’t be embarrassed to have a little sing song in a foreign language; after all it could be worth it when you’re fluent in another language!
Is the art of learning languages soon to be a thing of the past? Over years linguists have tried a number of different ways to simplify communication between cultures; this is usually done via the pictograph (signs and symbols).
Pictographs originate from the Ancient Sumerian, Egyptian and Chinese. These early pictographs were ideograms which essentially conveyed meaning via symbols. Pictographs are often used in writing and graphic systems in which the characters are to a considerable extent pictorial in appearance.
Today pictographs are used in similar ways throughout the world in order to communicate at ease between different countries that do not speak the same language. For example ‘emergency exit’ signs, the sign with the little man throwing something in a bin or ‘hazard’ signs – anyone who sees this no matter what language they speak automatically understand the meaning of it. Signs and symbols will only increase as time goes on, but will this leave the population of the world not learning languages?
In many parts of the world pictographs are used on a daily basis at public toilets, airports, around cities and towns when it comes to directions and even now on mobile games such as Angry Birds which is navigated by arrows and not language. Linguists are predicting that as communication becomes more digital and visual, the future of language as the use of symbols and signs are on the increase. What will happen to the use of language leaning if language barriers can be reduced in day to day situations?
There are both advantages and disadvantages of pictographs. A significant advantage is that it can communicate to a large audience of a number of languages and still convey meaning. On the other hand, the disadvantage is they can unfortunately only convey a minuscule amount of information.
Undeniably pictographs make travel significantly easier; helping visitors navigate with ease around the country to see landmarks and sites. But in reality although signs and symbols allow some form of ease within communication, it doesn’t actually assist in human interaction. But general human interaction still counts for a lot for a significant amount of the population. Foreign languages are seen as a successful career tool, particularly with the growing demand for multilingual skills within businesses.
Nevertheless could it be argued that despite the growing need for multilingual skills within businesses, laziness could take over language learning? What do you think? Share your thoughts with us.
Language, whether spoken in French, English German or even Tagalog is an amazing cognitive ability in which we (as humans) understand, learn and produce. One of the more amazing discoveries is that even with over 3,000 spoken languages in the world today dozens of similarities in characteristics between each and every language. Language can be defined as a systematic way to convey meaning using symbols and sounds.
Speech is the dominant means of linguistic communication – many people have come to think that language and speech are the same thing due to their similarities. However, Sign Language definitely suggests otherwise. So, why is this? Well, those that belong to Deaf communities create language using manual gestures, but at the same time in doing so their language shares the same design and mechanisms that spoken languages possess.
Research into sign language and verbal language was conducted by Professor Iris Berent at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts to discover the flexibility of the human language. A paper written by Professor Berenet and her team provide evidence that English speakers can easily learn and recognise key structures of American Sign language, even though there have been no previous exposure or familiarity with this language. 
American Sign Language is the predominant sign language that is used within the deaf communities in both the United States and also the English speaking areas of Canada.  ASL also meets all of the criteria that a language should have, this includes generativity and syntax. Scans of the brain have been taken by researchers; this imaging scan demonstrates that the same areas of the brain that are activated in people who hear spoken language are also activated in deaf individuals when they use sign language.
Surprisingly to many, sign language and spoken language share a number of similar characteristics. Further to the brain activity spoken and sign language both construct words via syllables which are ‘meaningless.’ A research group decided to examine whether or not non signers would be able to discover the structure. The results suggested that participants extended their linguistic knowledge from spoken language to sign language. This finding is significant because it shows that linguistic principles are abstract, and they can apply to both speech and sign.
Can you communicate via sign language, if so what other similarities can you tell us about with regards to verbal language?
Do you remember when you first began to understand what it was your parents were saying to you? Many of you at this moment in time may mutter a laugh under your breath whilst thinking “Who’s going to remember that?” On the other hand some of you may recite your earliest memory when you think you understood what your parent or someone around you was saying; sorry to break it to you but this moment was almost certainly not it. Astonishing new research suggest that babies begin to learn language skills whilst inside the womb.
It was previously thought that babies were only able to begin understanding language at the age of six months. However a team which was lead by Professor Christine Moon of Pacific Lutheran University conducted research which tested the language understanding skills of new born babies from Tacoma and Stockholm, Sweden.
Professor Moon played recordings of a distinctly American English vowel sound and a Swedish one, and tested the babies’ responses by measuring the one thing a day-old baby is really good at: sucking on a pacifier. The sucking patterns reveal that there is a familiarity between the vowel sounds of their mother tongue at birth, which suggests that careful listening took place in the womb.
Moon commented on his research and said “For them it’s pure sound – they don’t have the ability yet to look at a mouth and see where that sound is coming from. And yet they’re already trying to make sense out of it, and it’s just marvellous.” 
Previous studies had also shown similar research of pre birth learning which was that a late-stage foetus can pick up on the musical components of speech, like melody, rhythm and volume. Also similar to this is a popular theory which is known as the Mozart Effect. This theory consists of playing music to babies in the womb and is linked with boosting IQ, improving health and strengthening family ties. Yet another fascinating phenomenon which takes place before child birth even occurs.
Learning a new language can be fun and exciting, simply down to the sheer thought of knowing that at the end you will know a whole different language. Language learning can also open up a number of opportunities socially, economically and just generally about countries and cultures. (Other benefits can be seen in our previous blog such as ‘Bilingual Children Better At Problem Solving’ – http://www.eurolondon.com/blog/en/bilingual-children-better-at-problem-solving/)
On the other hand it can also be quite an intense experience; from getting to know the different vocabulary to articles used and the grammatical side to a new language. However, it’s not all doom and gloom as when learners are getting to learn the ins and outs of a new language when faced with the difficult grammar and vocabulary – it can be somewhat entertaining and refreshing. Each and every language has a quirky aspect to it and in Britain one of those quirks is idioms.
Idioms are often grammatically incorrect therefore can be quite confusing to non native speakers. If some of the following were taken quite literally it could lead to a lot of confusion for language learners therefore we thought we would share the real meaning behind these bizarre expressions from the English language.
Smell a rat – When someone is suspicious of something and a situation doesn’t feel quite right.
Kill two birds with one stone – This phrase is used when someone can accomplish two things at the same time with one action.
Raining cats and dogs – A classic weather related idiom – meaning that it’s raining a lot, something that is quite typical in Britain.
What’s eating you? – This is a question of concern, not a concern that something is physically nibbling away at you but more emotive when someone feels down or seems to have a lot on their mind.
Bend over backwards – This particular idiom means when a person goes the extra mile to make an effort with something they are involved in.
Have you ever come across any strange idioms when learning a new language? If so let us know.