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In memoriam Neville Alexander

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by Anja DrameImage

It is with great sadness that I have learned of the death of Dr. Neville Alexander today.

He was one of the leading sociolinguists of South Africa and a great inspiration for my own work as a sociolinguist.

Dr. Alexander started his career as a political activist which saw him also spending 10 years of prison on the infamous Robben Island along with Nelson Mandela. Being an intellectual he became a scientist and teacher at the University of Cape Town and a proponent of linguistic rights of the South African languages.

As a leading member of the LANGTAG group that advised the then minister Ben Ngubane on matters of language planning and thus contributed significantly in the development of the country’s innovative linguistic policy which still belongs to the most tolerant and open of the world, he became famous beyond South Africa’s borders.

His views on language were not always uncontested and popular in his own country. But his publications have received wide circulation across the world and have influenced many linguists in their work.

I had the pleasure to meet him on several occasions in South Africa and in Austria. His work and the discussion with him have contributed significantly in my research on terminology policies, and thus had an influence on publications, including the ISO standard ISO 29383 which is again based on the UNESCO Guidelines on Terminology Policies (pdf).

Since 1992 he was also active in the Project for the Study of Alternative Education in South Africa (PRAESA), to promote educational reform in South Africa.

He later became one of the founding members of the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN), the language planning body of the African Union and served on its board.

Throughout his career he called for a stronger role of the African languages in public use and education without disregard for the role of English in South African society. He was aware of the limited power of government to give the African languages the status as equal media. It will take, he said once, a social revolution to achieve that.

He has passed away on 27 August 2012 in Cape Town.

Read a detailed bio of Neville Alexander on South African History Online: http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/dr-neville-edward-alexander

 

Further links:

http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2011-11-11-neville-alexander-a-linguistic-revolutionary

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14357121

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7512700.stm

 

Information technologies the focus of International Mother Language Day 2011

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International Mother Language Day – 21 February 2011

by A. Drame

Linguistic diversity is dwindling fast. Already, half of the world’s 6,000 languages are endangered, according to official UNESCO figures.

While the Internet is now the major driving force when it comes to the spreading of information, knowledge and culture, it is dominated by very few languages, like English, French, Spanish or Chinese. Even languages which are spoken by millions of people, like Kiswahili, Tamil, Hindi are virtually not present in the World Wide Web.

This fact has two major effects: it promotes the dominance of these languages as de-facto global linguas francas; it also still prevents the Internet to develop its full potential as global medium and repository of knowledge and culture. New information technologies these days have ventured into the remotest places of the Earth and reach more people than ever before in history. However, lacking content in “smaller” or less dominant languages hampers the possibilities that this development could open to promote democracy, equal opportunities and development, and to prevent discrimination. All because it still does not allow access to vital information, to education and resources for millions of people with limited knowledge of these few dominant languages.

The neglect of “smaller” languages in the new technologies has yet another adverse effect. While technological development and the evolution of the Internet proceeds ever more rapidly, those languages which miss out to follow suit now, risk to lose more and more of their functions ever faster. With increasing “monolingualisation” and simultaneous permeation of the Web to various social and geographical regions, even languages which may seem healthy and strong today may lose their ability to evolve and develop further through this medium.

At the same time, many contributions from speakers of other languages will not be heard now and in future. Many ideas and innovations that can best be expressed in a person’s mother tongue will thus be lost. The result is a true pauperization of our emerging knowledge societies.

The true danger is that the process reinforces itself to the advantage of some and on the costs of many others. And once gone it is hard to revive.

UNESCO set the theme for this year “The information and communication technologies for the safeguarding and promotion of languages and linguistic diversity” to highlight the new technologies’ enormous potential for safeguarding, documenting and promoting the use of mother languages.

TermNet supports this effort and, therefore, calls for joint efforts to promote linguistic diversity in the new media for the mutual benefit of all.

Federal government announces additional support for Canada’s official languages

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A press release from the Government of Canada.

Read the full original article at the source

GATINEAU, Quebec, April 19, 2010 – The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of Public Works and Government Services, today announced the signing of additional contribution agreements to strengthen Canada’s official languages. The agreements support the government’s Canadian Language Sector Enhancement Program—an initiative which encourages the development of a skilled workforce and integrates language technologies.

In July 2009, Public Works and Government Services Canada invited project proposals for university scholarships in translation and language industry initiatives to support the government’s official languages strategy, the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality 2008-2013: Acting for the Future. Through the contribution agreements announced today, the government is investing a further $6 million in industry projects that will enable organizations to promote and strengthen the language industry in Canada.

“Today’s announcement clearly demonstrates not only the government’s willingness to ensure the viability of this industry, but also our overall commitment to the linguistic duality that enriches our lives and helps to make our country unique,” said Minister Ambrose.

“The language industry in Canada has an enviable international reputation and we are proud to hear Canada cited as an example to follow,” said Alain Chamsi, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Language Industry Association (AILIA). “Given the major labour shortage in the language sector, the Canadian government’s contribution made through these agreements will enable AILIA and other stakeholders to promote and strengthen the industry so that it can continue to be a beacon of language expertise.”

Ce texte est également disponible en français.

For further information, the media may contact:

Chris Hilton
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Rona Ambrose
Minister of Public Works and Government Services
613-697-7324
Email: Chris.Hilton@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca

Public Works and Government Services Canada
Media Relations
819-956-2315

PWGSC news releases are also published on our Web site at http://www.tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca/medias-media/index-eng.html

Diversity and Global Understanding in Vienna

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Working in the context of the United Nations means experiencing cultural diversity and multilingualism. The workshops seek to promote greater awareness of the importance of efficient communication tools and “a common language” spoken when people from diverse backgrounds work together.
We will look into the realities of diversity in the UN system, as they manifest in the field. We will seek to explore the full range of what diversity means for the UN’s working procedure and explore the modes of diversity in real-life situations of working together on
the ground.

Register here

Hence, since deficits in effective internal and external communication, intercultural competence and diversity management have been identified as problematic the question must be asked as to how specially targeted initiatives, tools and policies in this field have
the potential to improve such communication and therefore the performance of the United Nations System and civil society in its support.

Our objective is to deepen the international debate on questions relating to cultural diversity, particularly (but not exclusively) its effects to the working environment of the UN organizations and its peace operations.
Existing infrastructure, ongoing activities and common practise are discussed by the workshop participants and new research proposed in a series of presentations by scholars and practitioners. Thematically the focus is on the benefits of diversity
management, terminology, education and shared communication tools.

An update:

The programme for the Diversity and Global Understanding workshops (31 May – 2 June, in Vienna) has been all but finalized. Have a look below and come join us at the UN Vienna! Participation is free of charge but registration is an absolute must. Places are limited, so it’s strictly first come first serve!

Register here!

Monday, May 31, 2010
4 pm – 6 pm Registration
6 pm – 8 pm Reception by the go4diversity Project

Tuesday, 1 June 2010
9 am – 9.45 am Keynote speech:  Gerhard Budin, UNESCO Chair for “Multilingual, Transcultural Communication in the
Digital Age”; University of Vienna
10 am -12.30 p.m. WORKSHOP I: Diversity and Diversity Management
(Moderator: Gabriele Sauberer)
Gabriele Sauberer: “Diversity, social responsibility and diversity management in the context of peace”

Esra Killaf (MA17)

René Hudribusch (Ministry of Defense and Sport): „The effects of masculine & power cultures on worksplace bullying in the Austrian Armed Forces (and their relation to UN Resol. 1325)“

Lakshmi Kumar (The Orchid School): „Connecting worlds: raising intercultural insights for global-centric leaderships“

1.30 – 3 pm WORKSHOP II:   Go4Diversity: Global Education, Migration, Inclusion and Science
3.30-5.45 pm WORKSHOP III: Terminology – its role in UN peace policy
(Moderators: Anja Drame, Julia Harfensteller)
Anja Drame: Introduction – terminology policies and communication

Klaus Mak (LVAG, Austria): „ProTerm“ and process-oriented knowledge management

Valens Bimenyimana (PIH, Senior Translator/Interpreter) „Rwanda’s terminology and language policy needs“

Mekki El Badri (UNOV, translator for Arabic) „Translators and terminologists at the UN Vienna“

Julia Hafensteller: „Potential and Role of Concepts in Organizational Policy“

Wednesday, 2 June 2010
9 am – 9.30 am Keynote Speech: tentatively: Gabriele Eschig, Austrian Commission for Austria (about UNESCO and Diversity)

9.30 am – 12.30 WORKSHOP IV: Global Education
(Moderators: Reinhard Mitschke)
Reinhard Mitschke: Report about the COMSIC project (Collaboration Competencies for Media Supported Intercultural Groups)

1.30 pm – 3 pm WORKSHOP V, continued:

Kent Kille (College of Wooster): “Interactive Global Education: Active Learning and the Center of Diversity and Global Engagement.”

Jamie Arbuckle (former Canadian UN Peacekeeper): „Intercultural communication among agencies: intra-agency relationships, agencies as cultures“

3.30 pm – 5.45 pm WORKSHOP VI and Practical Training: Fostering global understanding through new ICT tools and ways of communication
(Moderators: Henrike Paepcke)
this one is all about wikis, social networks, blogs, Twitter, etc.

Language Portal of Canada launched

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Canada has been regarded by most of us as the linguistist’s and terminologist’s paradise for many years. And derservedly so. Hardly any other country puts so much real effort into preservation and promotion of linguistic diversity. And above all, these efforts are crowned with professionalism, efficiency and success!

Canada now finally has her one-stop-shop for anything related to her linguistic heritage. The country’s rich linguistic resources are now accessible at the newly launched Language Portal of Canada.

“Through this portal, anybody can finally obtain access free of charge to TERMIUM®, the Government of Canada’s linguistic and terminology data bank. With TERMIUM® finding the right words has just become easier with more than 3,900,000 terms of which some 200 000 are in Spanish” says Gabriel Huard, Director of the Translation Bureau.

He further notes that “the portal also contains a vast array of language tools, a magazine, exercises dealing with problem words in French and English, and a directory of useful links to resources and organizations active in the language field.”

In June 2008, the Government of Canada published the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality 2008-­2013: Acting for the Future. Within the framework of this initiative, Public Works and Government Services Canada mandated the Translation Bureau of the Government of Canada to design and put online the language portal.

Go to www.ourlanguages.gc.ca

India on its way to a modern, multilingual knowledge society

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The Indian government has initiated something that could turn out to be one of the most pioneering projects towards the establishing of the famed knowledge society. Highly multilingual and diverse societies like India have long relied on English as the medium of choice to disseminate knowledge to her people. At the same time it has recognized the fact that a large part of the people do not have sufficient proficiency in that language to make the best possible use of the information transmitted to them in that language. India’s Prime Minister therefore set the stake by demanding to make knowledge, especially in critical areas, available to every citizen – for the sake of nothing less than an educated and informed multilingual society through all levels.

NTM-main

The Prime Minister’s speech was starting point for the National Translation Mission (NTM in short): http://www.ntm.org.in

The initiative is located at the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) in Mysore from where it operates. NTM experts cooperate with various governmental, non-governmental and academic institutions, media houses, publishers and other companies.

Terminology planning, management and standardization are major aspects for the overall success of the mission.

Who will benefit? Well, according to the initiative’s Website all those who have otherwise little access to the knowledge, liker rural and students of weaker sections, teachers of various subject fields, NGOs, volunteers in non-formal education, government and private agencies, media producers and journalists, translators and interpreters, etc.

And hopefully the international professional community from the expertise, products and services by NTM for the Indian languages.

Long walk to freedom for new terms in France

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This great article from Wall Street Journal online describes the way of neologisms through French institutions and expert groups before they become approved new terms.

An excerpt:

PARIS — The word on the table that morning was “cloud computing.”

To translate the English term for computing resources that can be accessed on demand on the Internet, a group of French experts had spent 18 months coming up with “informatique en nuage,” which literally means “computing in cloud.”

France’s General Commission of Terminology and Neology — a 17-member group of professors, linguists, scientists and a former ambassador — was gathered in a building overlooking the Louvre to approve the term.

“What? This means nothing to me. I put a ‘cloud’ of milk in my tea!” exclaimed Jean Saint-Geours, a French writer and member of the Terminology Commission. “Send it back and start again”…

Read the full article on Wall Street Journal online.

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