Researchers from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands have developed an online language game in which participants can test how well they understand a related language. By playing the game, participants both help with research on communication in Europe and have a chance to win one of a selection of great prizes (tablet, iPod etc.). 2,000 participants are required. Everybody can play the game – it doesn’t matter how old they are, which languages they speak, or what educational background they have.

You can participate by clicking on this link: http://www.micrela.nl/app

In memoriam John Gumperz (1922-2013), pioneer in sociolinguistics

john_gumperzThe renowned linguist John Gumperz “devoted his career to improving cross-cultural understanding and his work in ethnography of communication, interactional sociolinguistics, discourse strategies, code-switching, and urban anthropology was extremely influential” (BLC).

Born in Germany to Jewish parents, Gumperz moved to the US with his parents in 1939. Having received a Bachelor’s degree in chemistry, he later became fascinated with language and switched fields, pursuing a PhD in Germanic languages at the University of Michigan. From 1956 until his retirement in 1991, he worked at the UC Berkeley where he pioneered research in linguistic anthropology.

His main interest was sociolinguistics, the study of the effect of society (cultural norms, conventions, etc) on language use. Specifically, he established the subdiscipline of interactional sociolinguistics by using discourse analysis to investigate “the way people convey and conceal meaning and social standing with their choice of words, their intonations, and their accents” (Goodyear). Among his many contributions to the field is the introduction of the ‘speech community’ as a unit of linguistic analysis.

John Gumperz passed away on Friday 29 March 2013 in Santa Barbara, at the age of 90.

For more information, read the obituaries in the New York Times  and The Daily Californian, and listen to an interview with his former student, Professor of Linguistics Deborah Tannen (Georgetown University), on NPR.

Transcending Linguistic Boundaries at Work

Transcending Linguistic Boundaries at Work: Latino and Korean Immigrants in Koreatown, NYC


Korean words (left) and their Spanish translation (right) written by Jose, 25, Mexican immigrant worker in Koreatown.
Photo courtesy Karen Velasquez

Fascinating blog post about Latino immigrants settling in ethnically diverse Queens County, New York City, where an estimated 138 languages are spoken. Many of these Latinos find work in Korean businesses and form “mutually beneficial relationships that allow immigrants to succeed in the US despite certain challenges, such as having undocumented status”. The success of these relationships hinges on language…

by Karen Velasquez, an anthropology and education PhD student at Teachers College Columbia University and adjunct professor of cultural anthropology at Fordham University. She is currently conducting dissertation research on workplace education and language learning among Latino and Korean immigrants in Koreatown, NYC.

published in Anthropology News

Click on the title to read the full blog post.

Infographic: The World’s Most Educated Countries

How do you measure how ‘educated’ a country is? In 2012, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) used the number of residents who had obtained a high-school diploma and college degree (or equivalent) in 34 countries. The following graph takes a closer look at the top 10, taking into account measures such as % of GDP spent on education, literacy rates and employment rates.

Most Education Countries Infographic

Source: Education News

Infographic: For-Profit vs Non-Profit Online Education in the US

Online education may be the biggest educational revolution of the 21st century. As more and more students join so-called MOOCs (massive open online courses), universities around the globe either form the vanguard of this growing movement or struggle to keep up. In December 2012, the Economist reported on Free Education, and the Guardian’s platform for online learning holds a number of reports on developments in the UK.

The following infographic explains how non-profit and for-profit online education compare in the US:

Online Education: Non-Profits Fight Back?

Source: http://www.onlinedegrees.org/online-education-non-profits-fight-back/

Infographic: Access to Education Around the World

In western Europe, at least, most of us take access to education for granted. Worldwide, the situation varies considerably. The following infographic gives an overview of enrollment figures in OECD countries and brings to light some interesting differences:


Source: onlineclasses.org

Australia: literacy deficit in undergraduates threatens knowledge economy

IlliteracyIn a passionate commentary published in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, an Australian researcher draws attention to a worrying literary deficit among undergraduate students. Dr Russell Marks, Honorary Research Associate in the School of Social Sciences at La Trobe University, claims that, despite numerous educational reforms and the high test scores required for entry to Higher Education, “a majority of 18-year-olds who enrol in most first-year humanities subjects are  unable to reliably construct a simple sentence”.

While teaching higher-level analytical skills such as critical analysis of discursive structures and academic essay writing skills are the bread and butter of academic teaching, many university tutors “are spending precious time giving crash-courses in English grammar instead of  leading discussions about the topics at hand”.

He warns that the school system’s failure to provide students with basic literacy skills puts at risk an increasingly knowledge-based economy and deprives individuals of the tools to participate fully as citizens and workers.

Read the article ‘Time to declare war on illiteracy’ to find out more.


2nd term for Barack Obama – What does it mean for US education?

After a long and closely fought campaign, US President Barack Obama was re-elected with a clear majority in the electoral college, even before Florida’s recount confirms the final tally.

But what does his 2nd term mean for US education? Here are some reactions to Obama’s re-election and predictions about what it means for schools, students and educators in the United States:

The Chronicle of Higher Education: ‘With Obama’s Win, Colleges Anticipate 4 More Years of Reform

National Education Association: ‘Reelection of President Obama a Victory for Public Education and Students

Center for Education Reform press release

The Fiscal Times: ‘Obama’s Re-election Mandate: Fix Our Failing Schools

Education Week: ‘Labor, Charter Forces Notch State-Level Election Wins’

New English Proficiency Index: Sweden on top, China down to 36th

The English Proficiency Index ranks the English-language ability of 54 countries, based on a survey of 1.7 million people carried out by Education First, one of the world’s largest private education company.

The top 10-ranked countries are all European, topped by Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. One clear loser of the ranking is China which slipped from 29th to 36th in this year’s ranking, making it the second-lowest country in Asia.

Read more about the survey in this China Daily article.

Australia: Jobs quota for speakers of Asian languages?

Last week, the Australian government published its white paper on ‘Australia in the Asian Century’, which, among other things, recommends that all students should be encouraged to learn an Asian language. Now, former prime minister Kevin Rudd has joined the discussion, calling for the business community to “set aside a quota of jobs for Australian students who can speak an Asian language”. Such a quota would serve as an incentive, showing students that learning an Asian language could lead to a secure career path for them.

To learn more about this issue, read this article on the ABC News website, this opinion piece from the Syndey Morning Herald, and this post on the Language on the Move blog.