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Wednesday, 7 October 2015
Members' Day at the Chartered Institute of Linguists
The Chartered Institute of Linguists (CIOL) held their
annual Members' Day on Saturday 3rd October. 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of
the Institute's Royal Charter.
Chair of Council Keith Moffitt described the
CIOL as a "broad church" representing a very rich community of
linguists with a massive range of languages. Chief Executive Ann Carlisle
explained how the Institute is reaching out to a wider, younger membership and
introducing new professional examinations.
The event was held in Central London at BMA House, home of
the British Medical Association. The large Grade II listed building meant that
a series of break-out sessions could run concurrently to meet members' varied
interests and backgrounds.
In the morning, there were 4 presentations:
·Translation and Interpreting at the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office (FCO) by Richard Littlewood
·Be professional! Act professionally! by Alina
·Languages in Higher Education by Dr Elena
·Getting involved with the CIOL by Marta
Stelmaszak MCIL Chartered Linguist
·Languages in the workplace by Richard Hardie,
CIOL Vice President
My first session was "Getting involved with the
CIOL". In keeping with its intention to reach out to younger linguists,
the Institute invited the young and well-known Polish translator, Marta
Stelmaszak to present the benefits of membership, Chartered Linguist status and
volunteering. After her excellent presentation, a panel of long-standing
members explained the value of their membership throughout their careers.
Volunteering at the CIOL
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Richard Littlewood's began his good-humoured session on the
FCO with a description of the Special Translation Section in the 1970s. A team
of 30 translators was created for the UK's accession to the European Union. Richard
continued the tale all the way to today's trading fund with just 10 translators.
He explained both the kudos and difficulties of running an "independent business"
against the cut-throat pricing of competitors and the FCO acting as both client
FCO building in Whitehall, London
After a delicious lunch and networking, we all gathered for
a review of the CIOL's year. An 8-page, full-colour printed summary was
available to all members in their pack for the day and should soon appear on
the website. It was particularly good to meet the two key new members on the
Institute's staff: Matthias Postel (Business Development Manager) and Jane
Galbraith (Head of Membership). Both appointments demonstrate the Institute's
new strategic drive.
Hong Kong and China
In her talk, Ann Carlisle emphasised the importance of Hong
Kong and China to the Institute. The Hong Kong Society has just celebrated its
30th Anniversary. In November 2015, Ann Carlisle and Jane Galbraith will visit China
to launch a new Chinese Association. Ann described the rich thirst for
recognition and qualifications from the UK in particular.
Professor Andy Kirkpatrick of Griffith University gave the
prestigious 2015 Threlford Lecture. His topic was "English as a lingua franca: the
threat to other languages". Unfortunately, it was not a happy
story to tell to a room of linguists.
Endangered languages and communication
According to SOAS predictions, we could see a 90% reduction
in the world's 6,500 languages. There
are more than 1,000 languages within the 10 nations of ASEAN. Surprisingly, the
working language of ASEAN is English. It avoids the need for a translation
budget. Yet, not all delegates feel able to participate fully as a result.
Sometimes a representative is chosen for his English skills rather than
relevant subject knowledge.
A different form of English
English is used by more multilinguals in Asia than English
native speakers. They have adapted the language to their needs. Andy
Kirkpatrick stressed that native Brits and Americans need to understand how English
is changing there. He talked us through
the differing language and educational situations in the various ASEAN countries.
Singapore's devastating policy
Andy described the devastating effects of pushing education
in English too early. English almost always replaces the language of the
region. Singapore's language education policy was seen as spectacularly
unsuccessful with English crowding out other languages. There are concerns that
the ethnic Chinese in Singapore are now unable to communicate at a high level
in their native tongue.
Parents seek to help their children succeed at school by
speaking English at home too. Some of the middle classes do not even learn
their own native language. In Malaysia, there was a legal challenge precisely
because learning in English privileged the wealthy and elite.
Devastating impact on education
English is easier to learn a later stage. There is a
shortage of teachers. Primary school drop-out rates are high. Children find it particularly
hard to understand Maths and Science in a language that is not their native
Timing and text books
English teaching should be delayed
until children have mastered two local languages. Asian multilinguals want to
talk about different qualities of rice, coffee, Islamic finance, etc. Yet,
these subjects are not found in any English text books. They need their culture
and daily life preoccupations incorporated into teaching materials.
Chinese education policy
National Chinese law prescribes Putonghua Mandarin and the Standard
Written language. There is no teaching in Cantonese. 70 million Cantonese
speakers are pushed to speak Mandarin. There are 55 ethnic
minorities in China. Parents naturally want their children to succeed. English
is seen as important to that success. Many send their children to be educated
abroad - some to escape the competitive Chinese system.
In North East China, there is an
example of a successful trilingual policy. Korean and Mongolian are
successfully taught. This has been shown to be of great economic benefit.
By the end of his lecture, Andy
Kirkpatrick had provided CIOL members with a thorough insight into the effects
of English language in Asia.
Multilingual end to day
The full day ended with a friendly
drinks reception. English was not the only language heard at BMA House. Some
members seized the opportunity to practise their language skills in the
multilingual environment fostered by the CIOL.
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