Government must increase English classes for migrants and make them take oath of allegiance, says report


By Ashley Cowburn Political Correspondent (The Guardian). Monday 5 December 2016

‘We also need a spirit of unity, compassion and kindness that brings together under our common British values of tolerance, democracy, equality and respect’

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(Dame Louise Casey with the former Prime Minister David Cameron who set up the review in 2015 Getty)

Immigrants should have more access to English language classes and be made to take an “oath of allegiance” in order to improve integration efforts, a Government report has warned. .

The review, by Dame Louise Casey, the Government’s community cohesion tsar, was set up in 2015 by the then Prime Minister David Cameron to consider what could be done to boost integration in isolated and deprived communities.

The report is also expected to be critical of the Home Office for a lack of strategy in attempting to integrate new immigrants into communities across Britain.

But in a preview of the review, which spanned the course of a year, Dame Louise, who is also director general of the Government’s Trouble Families scheme, made 12 recommendations.

Dame Louise said there were areas which were struggling to cope with the pace and scale of change they faced as a result of immigration while there were still large social and economic gaps between different ethnic groups.

In particular she highlighted the plight of women who found themselves marginalised through poor English language skills while being subjected to “coercive control, violence and criminal acts of abuse, often enacted in the name of cultural or religious values”.

In a wide-ranging set of recommendations the review called for more English classes for isolated groups, greater mixing among young people through activities such as sport, and a new “oath of integration” enshrining British values for all holders of public office.

The report adds: “A shared language is fundamental to integrated societies. The Government should be supporting further targeted English Language provision by making sufficient funding available for community-based English-language classes, and through the adult skills budget for local authorities to priorities English language where there is a need”.

“Social integration is about closing the gaps that exist between people and communities,” Dame Louise said. “This report has found those gaps exist in terms of where people live but also in terms of the lives they lead and the opportunities they have to succeed. So it is about how we get on in life, as well as how we get along with each other.

“To help bind Britain together and tackle some of the division in our society we need more opportunities for those from disadvantaged communities, particularly women, and more mixing between people from different backgrounds.

“We need more effort to be put into integration policies to help communities cope with the pace and scale of immigration and population change in recent years. But we also need a spirit of unity, compassion and kindness that brings together under our common British values of tolerance, democracy, equality and respect.

Responding to the report Sajid Javid, the communities secretary, said: “This Government is building a democracy for everyone and our country has long been home to lots of different cultures and communities, but all of us have to be part of one society – British society.

“So while it’s right that we celebrate the positive contribution that diverse groups make to British life, we also need to continue making sure that nobody is excluded from it or left behind.

“To do that, we need to take a serious look at the facts and must not shy away from the challenges we face.  Dame Louise’s report is a valuable contribution, and I will be studying her findings closely.”

Ryan Shorthouse, the director of Bright Blue, said: “The Casey Review is right: we need to do much more to ensure people from different social and ethnic backgrounds are mixing – in schools, the workplace and in neighborhoods. Such integration is not only vital for individuals, building their networks and improving their life chances, but for society generally, improving understanding and trust.

“To be truly integrated in our country, people need to be able to understand and speak English. Having competence in English language is the passport to being economically and socially active in Britain.”

“That’s why the Government now needs to be bold and launch a national mission to ensure everyone in this country can read, write and speak English, at least to a basic level, by the end of this Parliament.

Original Article (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/dame-louise-casey-immigration-english-language-british-values-major-report-warns-a7455431.html)

 

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Academics uncover 30 words ‘lost’ from English language


15.09.17 (BBC News)

Jodie Whittacker

Snout-fair, dowsabel and percher are among 30 “lost” words which experts believe are still in current use.

Researchers have drawn up the list to persuade people that these defunct words can still have a relevance.

Snout-fair is a word for handsome, dowsabel means “lady-love”, and a percher is a social climber.

Dominic Watt, senior linguistics lecturer at the University of York, said he hoped people would re-engage with the language of old.

The team spent three months searching through old books and dictionaries to create the list.

A few of the ‘lost’ words

  • Nickum A cheating or dishonest person
  • Peacockize To behave like a peacock; esp. to pose or strut ostentatiously
  • Rouzy-bouzy Boisterously drunk
  • Ruff To swagger, bluster, domineer. To ruff it out / to brag or boast of a thing
  • Tremblable Causing dread or horror; dreadful
  • Awhape To amaze, stupefy with fear, confound utterly

Mr Watt wants to bring these words back into modern conversations.

“We’ve identified lost words that are both interesting and thought-provoking, in the hope of helping people re-engage with language of old,” he said.

“Snout-fair”, for example, means “having a fair countenance; fair-faced, comely, handsome”, while “sillytonian” refers to “a silly or gullible person, esp one considered as belonging to a notional sect of such people”.

“Dowsabel” is “applied generically to a sweetheart, ‘lady-love'”.

Margot Leadbetter, the snobby neighbour from 1970s BBC sitcom, The Good Life, could be seen as an arch example of a “percher” – someone “who aspires to a higher rank or status; an ambitious or self-assertive person”.

The BBC series Trust Me is the story of a “quacksalver” – a person who “dishonestly claims knowledge of, or skill in, medicine; a pedlar of false cures”.

Joey Essex
Image captionJoey Essex: “Snout-fair” to some, to others a “sillytonian”

The list of 30 “lost words” are grouped into three areas the researchers feel are relevant to modern life: post-truth (deception); appearance, personality and behaviour; and emotions.

The final list also includes the words “ear-rent” – described as “the figurative cost to a person of listening to trivial or incessant talk”, “slug-a-bed” – meaning “a person who lies in late”, and “merry-go-sorry” – a phrase used to describe “a mixture of joy and sorrow”.

Original article (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41266000).

How learning a new language improves tolerance


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Why learn a new language?
Timothy Vollmer, CC BY

Amy Thompson, University of South Florida

There are many benefits to knowing more than one language. For example, it has been shown that aging adults who speak more than one language have less likelihood of developing dementia.

Additionally, the bilingual brain becomes better at filtering out distractions, and learning multiple languages improves creativity. Evidence also shows that learning subsequent languages is easier than learning the first foreign language.

Unfortunately, not all American universities consider learning foreign languages a worthwhile investment.

Why is foreign language study important at the university level?

As an applied linguist, I study how learning multiple languages can have cognitive and emotional benefits. One of these benefits that’s not obvious is that language learning improves tolerance.

This happens in two important ways.

The first is that it opens people’s eyes to a way of doing things in a way that’s different from their own, which is called “cultural competence.”

The second is related to the comfort level of a person when dealing with unfamiliar situations, or “tolerance of ambiguity.”

Gaining cross-cultural understanding

Cultural competence is key to thriving in our increasingly globalized world. How specifically does language learning improve cultural competence? The answer can be illuminated by examining different types of intelligence.

Psychologist Robert Sternberg’s research on intelligence describes different types of intelligence and how they are related to adult language learning. What he refers to as “practical intelligence” is similar to social intelligence in that it helps individuals learn nonexplicit information from their environments, including meaningful gestures or other social cues.

Learning a foreign language reduces social anxiety.
COD Newsroom, CC BY

Language learning inevitably involves learning about different cultures. Students pick up clues about the culture both in language classes and through meaningful immersion experiences.

Researchers Hanh Thi Nguyen and Guy Kellogg have shown that when students learn another language, they develop new ways of understanding culture through analyzing cultural stereotypes. They explain that “learning a second language involves the acquisition not only of linguistic forms but also ways of thinking and behaving.”

With the help of an instructor, students can critically think about stereotypes of different cultures related to food, appearance and conversation styles.

Dealing with the unknown

The second way that adult language learning increases tolerance is related to the comfort level of a person when dealing with “tolerance of ambiguity.”

Someone with a high tolerance of ambiguity finds unfamiliar situations exciting, rather than frightening. My research on motivation, anxiety and beliefs indicates that language learning improves people’s tolerance of ambiguity, especially when more than one foreign language is involved.

It’s not difficult to see why this may be so. Conversations in a foreign language will inevitably involve unknown words. It wouldn’t be a successful conversation if one of the speakers constantly stopped to say, “Hang on – I don’t know that word. Let me look it up in the dictionary.” Those with a high tolerance of ambiguity would feel comfortable maintaining the conversation despite the unfamiliar words involved.

Applied linguists Jean-Marc Dewaele and Li Wei also study tolerance of ambiguity and have indicated that those with experience learning more than one foreign language in an instructed setting have more tolerance of ambiguity.

What changes with this understanding

A high tolerance of ambiguity brings many advantages. It helps students become less anxious in social interactions and in subsequent language learning experiences. Not surprisingly, the more experience a person has with language learning, the more comfortable the person gets with this ambiguity.

And that’s not all.

Individuals with higher levels of tolerance of ambiguity have also been found to be more entrepreneurial (i.e., are more optimistic, innovative and don’t mind taking risks).

In the current climate, universities are frequently being judged by the salaries of their graduates. Taking it one step further, based on the relationship of tolerance of ambiguity and entrepreneurial intention, increased tolerance of ambiguity could lead to higher salaries for graduates, which in turn, I believe, could help increase funding for those universities that require foreign language study.

Those who have devoted their lives to theorizing about and the teaching of languages would say, “It’s not about the money.” But perhaps it is.

Language learning in higher ed

Most American universities have a minimal language requirement that often varies depending on the student’s major. However, students can typically opt out of the requirement by taking a placement test or providing some other proof of competency.

Why more universities should teach a foreign language.
sarspri, CC BY-NC

In contrast to this trend, Princeton recently announced that all students, regardless of their competency when entering the university, would be required to study an additional language.

I’d argue that more universities should follow Princeton’s lead, as language study at the university level could lead to an increased tolerance of the different cultural norms represented in American society, which is desperately needed in the current political climate with the wave of hate crimes sweeping university campuses nationwide.

Knowledge of different languages is crucial to becoming global citizens. As former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan noted,

“Our country needs to create a future in which all Americans understand that by speaking more than one language, they are enabling our country to compete successfully and work collaboratively with partners across the globe.”

The ConversationConsidering the evidence that studying languages as adults increases tolerance in two important ways, the question shouldn’t be “Why should universities require foreign language study?” but rather “Why in the world wouldn’t they?”

Amy Thompson, Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics, University of South Florida

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

New Chinese-backed ELT publisher aims to innovate


September 2017 (EL Gazette)

innovaweb

A new ELT publishing house, Innova Press, has been launched in Beijing.

The new UK-based publisher is backed by a consortium made up of China’s largest language teaching publisher, FLTRP, its largest language school chain, New Oriental, and edtech giant Hujiang.

Claiming that ‘mainstream ELT publishers are stuck in the past’, Innova president Richard Peacock told the assembled press corps at the launch: ‘We need a new ELT publisher for a new ELT world.’

Promising evidence-based material, with innovative content designed to make the most of new technology, Peacock said Innova Press was in ‘a uniquely powerful position to establish itself as a major international player.’

As well as ELT, the new publisher will specialize in materials for teaching Chinese language and culture for English-speaking markets as well as teacher training.

As UK-based publishers lose global market share and US publishers withdraw from the market, it is hoped a Chinese-backed publisher will achieve the goal of ‘becoming a leading and truly innovative international publisher’.

Original article (http://www.elgazette.com/item/438-new-chinese-backed-elt-publisher-aims-to-innovate.html).

 

 

Do international students in Britain need better English skills?


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Bobby Pathak, Heriot-Watt University

The start of the academic year is fast approaching, with new students from across the UK looking forward to starting university with a mix of trepidation and excitement.

The UK is also a popular place for international students to study, given that it has some of the best universities in the world. This means that many UK students studying at a British university will be joined in their lectures by students from around the world.

The latest UK Council for International Student Affairs report shows that Chinese students studying at UK universities have far exceeded any other nationality since 2013. The same report also reveals that China is the only country showing significant increases compared with other non-EU countries where recruitment is virtually stagnant.

For many of these students from China, this may be the first time they are educated in only English. And there is the expectation that these students will be able to fully understand and keep up with other students.

Language ability

Having adequate English language skills is important to international students, as there’s no point in them turning up on their first day only to realise they don’t understand the curriculum. In the same way, this proficiency is also important to native English speakers – given that many courses require an element of group work and seminar discussions. Universities don’t want to accept students who will ultimately fail their course either.

International students are offered a place at UK universities on the condition that they have a certain level of English language proficiency. This is checked through a UK Home Office approved test known as the Secured English Language Test.

International students can sometimes struggle with the language.
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In theory, students sit the test, pass and then look forward to starting their new life in a new country. But things get problematic when students do not achieve the required score. In this case, universities may then offer an additional pre-sessional programme of English language study at an extra cost to the student. If completed successfully, this allows these students onto their chosen course.

So far, so good. But the the problem here is that many students do not actually take the Secured English Language Test at the end of their pre-sessional programme. This means that it’s never categorically known if, by the end of the summer course, a student’s language proficiency is at the level originally required by the university.

Testing times

That said, it’s not in the interest of universities to set a student up for failure. But surely if the entry requirement of a university course is a certain grade in the Home Office exam, then the same exam should be given at the end of these programmes. This would help to maintain a level playing field for all students on the course.

As someone who works on these pre-sessional programmes as an assistant professor, I believe there is clearly a value in teaching English for academic purposes. These sessions are also a time when nonnative learners can get a sense of the UK’s academic culture along with the conventions they will be expected to follow – something some UK students would also benefit from, too.

International students need to be made to feel welcome.
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But of course, the point of the programmes is about getting students up to a certain standard of English. Perhaps then the answer is for the Home Office approved tests to be changed to better reflect what is being covered in university pre-sessional programmes.

The ConversationWhat this all boils down to is that universities must make sure they are doing enough to support international students. And this support is particularly important given the outcome of the EU referendum and the UK’s apparent fixation with immigration. In this way, the numbers speak for themselves – international students wanting to come and study in the UK is no longer something universities can simply take for granted.

Bobby Pathak, Assistant Professor (Pre-Sessional) English for Academic Purposes, Heriot-Watt University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 

Oxbridge reigns supreme in global university ranking


September 2017 (EL Gazette)

Oxford University

The UK has scooped the top two spots in the new THE World University Rankings for the first time in 13 years – but experts fear that Brexit could change the situation, writes Claudia Civinini.

The University of Oxford holds on to the pole position, while Cambridge has risen from fourth to second place, knocking off the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), now joint third with Stanford University.

However, since a sizeable share of research funding comes from the EU (about a quarter for Cambridge and a fifth for Oxford), and data shows that EU applications have declined 5 per cent since last year, Brexit poses a threat to the UK universities in the top league.

Universities are ‘a huge national asset and one that the country can ill afford to undermine at a time when its place in the global order is under intense scrutiny’, said Phil Baty, editorial director of the THE global rankings.

Mr Baty said the lofty position of UK universities ‘served to highlight what is at stake if we cannot agree a sustainable way to properly fund our universities’

If we fail to welcome global students, he said, then ‘research funding and academic talent that currently comes to us from the European Union is cut off.’

The rankings also highlighted a widening gap between UK elite universities and other universities – about half of the UK’s top-200 representatives have slipped down the rankings.

This could also be due to increased competition from Asian institutions, the data shows.

Overall, Europe is showing a strong performance in the rankings, but Asian universities are rising fast.

Europe now has seven institutions in the top 30, down from 10 last year, while Asia has now three -National University of Singapore, the Chinese Peking University and Tsinghua University.

These two Chinese institutions now out-rank Germany’s top university, LMU Munich, which has slipped from 30th to 34th, while the Swedish Karolinska Institute and the Swiss École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne fell off the top 30.

‘Europe will need to work hard to ensure it can sustain its performance in future years’, Mr Baty said.

MEI reveals plans for quality assurance scheme


Posted on Aug 30, 2017 by Patrick Atack (The Pie News)

Marketing English in Ireland, a membership organisation for ELT schools in Ireland which advocates for high standards in English teaching, has revealed it is nearing completion on a new quality assurance scheme for its member schools across Ireland.

MEI, Dublin, Ireland, ELT, AssurancePhoto: ATC Language Schools

The sector has been left without a proper accreditation or quality assurance body since ACELS’s legal foundation was stripped as the result of a 2015 court case.

Although ACELS was not shut down by the court case, it can no longer accept applications from new schools seeking to prove quality standards and ACELS accreditation is not required in order to be listed on the Interim List of Providers (needed to accept non-EU visa nationals).

“In a response to that sort of vacuum, we were being proactive”

David O’Grady, CEO of MEI, told The PIE News this led to fears that standards may be allowed to lapse, so MEI decided to step in and offer its expertise.

“We had a feeling that schools in the long-term would maybe cut corners or be less interested in keeping standards. We wanted to bring, from the industry, a model that would be a good model for quality assurance,” he revealed.

Working with the consultancy firm Evolve, MEI has built its own quality assurance scheme, with the working title ‘English Language Education Ireland’.

MEI has piloted the inspectorate arm of the new scheme in two schools, the ATC school in Dublin, and the Bridge Mills school in Galway, and following a training day in June which was attended by almost 50 schools, MEI is awaiting feedback on its self-assessment module.

The move is a positive interim measure given the vacuum in regulation options since the court case challenging ACELS accreditation as the de facto indicator of quality back in 2015.

The sticking point for a government-backed accreditation scheme since then has been legislative backing.

The Irish government passed legislation on the International Education Mark in 2012, which allows QQI to award IEMs to institutions with satisfactory quality assurance in place. However, an amendment to the QQA (Education and Training) Act 2012 is needed before an IEM specific to the ELT sector can be implemented.

With the introduction of the IEM ELE, the ACELS scheme will cease to exist,” explained Sue Hackett, QQI’s validation of English language education manager.

However, until that legislation is passed, Irish ELT schools are left without a functioning regulator. It was due to this gap that MEI began constructing its own QA scheme.

“In a response to that sort of vacuum, we were being proactive,” O’Grady explained.

But, he continued, “there is is no immediate hope that there’ll be any clear regulatory framework or architecture for the English language… this year or next”.

Therefore, while the quagmire of a minority government in the Irish Dáil continues to hamper efforts to establish a fully fledged service similar to ACELS, MEI will continue to progress with their independent QA scheme for its own members.

“Our aim is not to usurp government of their role in accreditation and QA, but to assure our members and maintain their quality standards,” O’Grady said.

Original article (https://thepienews.com/news/mei-reveals-plans-for-quality-assurance-scheme/)