Les immigrants auront peu d’incidence sur le déclin du français au Québec

More demystification:

Deux nouvelles études mettent en lumière les défis auxquels fait face la langue française au Québec. Elles confirment le recul net anticipé du poids des francophones au Québec d’ici une quinzaine d’années — et cela, peu importe les efforts déployés pour accueillir plus d’immigrants parlant français —, de même que l’importance que prend l’anglais en milieu de travail.

Dévoilées lundi après-midi par l’Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF), ces études viennent étoffer des données contenues dans le grand Rapport sur l’évolution de la situation linguistique, publié en avril 2019, et dans une étude de Statistique Canada publiée en 2017.

Pas de grande surprise par rapport aux constats, donc, mais les conclusions « confirment ce que plusieurs études ont montré — le français décline », commentait lundi Myriam D’Arcy, directrice générale de la Fondation Lionel-Groulx, qui s’intéresse de près à ce dossier. « Il est temps d’agir : on attend impatiemment le projet de loi » que doit déposer le gouvernement Legault pour mettre à jour la Charte de la langue française.

La première étude s’appuie sur les Projections linguistiques pour le Canada, 2011-2036. Ce rapport prévoit notamment une diminution importante de la part de la population utilisant le français à la maison (de 82 % en 2011 à 75 % d’ici 2036).

L’OQLF a demandé aux chercheurs de Statistique Canada d’étudier différents scénarios — touchant tous la composition de l’immigration — pour mesurer s’ils auraient un effet sur la part relative du français dans les différentes catégories habituelles (langue maternelle, principale langue d’usage à la maison, etc.). Résultat ? Les « scénarios auraient somme toute un effet assez limité sur l’accroissement du poids démographique de la population québécoise de langue française », notent les chercheurs.

Même un scénario « théorique peu probable » qui ferait en sorte que 100 % des immigrants du volet économique (c’est Québec qui assure leur sélection) seraient originaires de pays francophones « ne permettrait de faire progresser que marginalement les différents indicateurs du français ».

L’OQLF conclut donc elle aussi que « le poids des francophones de langue maternelle et celui des personnes dont le français est la langue parlée le plus souvent à la maison diminueront d’ici 2036 ». Dans le premier cas, on parle d’un recul d’au moins sept points de pourcentage ; dans le second, d’au moins six points.

Au travail

Pour l’étude Langues utilisées dans diverses situations de travail au Québec en 2018, l’OQLF a mandaté une firme de sondage pour qu’elle éclaircisse qui parle anglais au travail et pour quelles raisons. L’Office s’est gardé d’établir des comparatifs ou de commenter la situation.

Sur l’île de Montréal — là où se concentrent les questions liées à la protection du français —, 53 % des travailleurs parlent surtout français au travail, alors que près de 19 % utilisent surtout l’anglais. Le quart des travailleurs passent d’une langue à l’autre.

Pourquoi ? Près de la moitié (49 %) des répondants qui utilisent au moins régulièrement l’anglais le font pour « offrir un service à la clientèle du Québec ». Parmi les autres raisons mentionnées régulièrement, il y a notamment le fait que des « collègues préfèrent utiliser » l’anglais (25 %).

Source: Les immigrants auront peu d’incidence sur le déclin du français au Québec

Conservatives Back Bloc Québécois Push To Make French The Mandatory Language For Quebec Immigrants

Pandering. Quebec already selects its economic class immigrants where it sets language criteria. Citizenship is exclusive federal jurisdiction which the Conservatives know and should respect. And the “decline” of French is more a myth than reality as it pertains to the language most often spoken at home, where immigrant languages have increased rather than English (see André Pratte’s https://montrealgazette.com/opinion/opinion-questioning-whether-french-is-in-decline-should-not-be-heresy):

Conservatives MPs voted nearly unanimously with Bloc Québécois members Wednesday in favour of making French the mandatory language for all immigrants to Quebec.

Bloc MP Sylvie Bérubé’s private member’s bill, however, was defeated — 147 in favour to 172 against — with the Liberals, NDP and Green Party members opposed.

In a statement, the Bloc accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly of failing to act to counter the decline of the French language in Quebec. “[They] have a big credibility deficit,” MP Mario Beaulieu, the Bloc’s critic for official languages declared.

Last week, Joly proposed several new measures to achieve what the government calls “substantive equality” of both official languages. Among the proposals, the federal Liberals proposed giving workers employed by companies under federal jurisdictions in Quebec the right to work in French, as well as those in other regions of the country with a strong francophone presence.

Right now, the Citizenship Act states that applicants aged 18 to 54 must demonstrate an adequate knowledge of one of the official languages of Canada before obtaining citizenship. The Bloc campaigned in 2019 to change the law so that those residing in Quebec need to demonstrate only knowledge of French.

The bill also suggested that anyone 18 to 65 should have to demonstrate their language capability.

Several dozen Grit MPs sought to register their objection to the bill en français.

Over on the Conservative side, less French was spoken but all but one vote — New Brunswick MP John Williamson — lined up with the Bloc.

Ontario MP Marilyn Gladu, who registered her support in French, told HuffPost Canada there are about 8,000 francophones in her Sarnia–Lambton riding, and they’re seeking a bilingual designation from the province to obtain French-language services in the region. “This is an important issue,” she said.

“I think it is important to protect the French language in Canada, especially in Quebec.”

As someone who previously travelled frequently to Quebec for work, Gladu said, she believes receiving services in French is particularly important.

“Our party supports strengthening the French language in Canada,” she said, “and we would like to see this bill go to committee.”

British Columbia MP Dan Albas told HuffPost Canada that he had concerns about the bill’s changing the maximum age for requiring linguistic knowledge to 65 from 54 but felt that the bill “warrants study at committee.”

That line was also repeated by Quebec MP Pierre Paul-Hus, who told HuffPost that while the bill has the commendable objective of protecting French, it might be hard to impose language requirements on those 54 to 65, “because the change can be difficult for new arrivals.”

That said, he added that his party believes the bill should be sent to committee and amended.

Pressed about his personal opinion on the bill, Paul-Hus said he was “before anything else, a Quebecer who is proud of his francophone heritage.

“And I want Quebec to remain that way,” he said, in French.

During a debate in the House of Commons last fall, Bérubé said her bill’s objective was to ensure that anyone who becomes a citizen and resides in Quebec can “integrate into their host society.”

“In Quebec, the common language is French. The purpose of the [province’s] Charter of the French Language is to make French the official and common language of Quebec,” she said. “Right now, a permanent resident who wants to become a citizen and reside in Quebec could do so without knowing a single word of French.”

‘Most immigrants who live in Quebec speak French,’ says Liberal MP

The Liberals’ response came from Soraya Martinez Ferrada, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship. She spoke of her own experience arriving in Quebec as a political refugee, and seeing her single mother and grandparents take French classes.

“We all received our citizenship before we could speak French. Today, my children and my cousins are all young Quebec francophones who work and study in French. That was possible in 1980, and I think it is still possible today,” she said.

Martinez Ferrada said the federal government is determined to help all newcomers obtain the language skills they need to integrate into their host community and noted that Quebec already selects its economic-class immigrants.

“Most immigrants who live in Quebec speak French. Census data show that, 10 years after they arrive in Canada, 90.5 per cent of economic immigrants, 71.1 per cent  of immigrants under the family reunification program and 84.3 per cent of refugees speak French,” she said during the bill’s only debate in November.

Montreal MP Anthony Housefather told HuffPost that he believes the current requirement — to have adequate knowledge of French or English no matter where you are in the country should stay that way.

“We live in a bilingual country and when becoming a citizen you should be able to do this in French or English anywhere in Canada you happen to live,” he said. “These qualifications for citizenship should not be different based on the province or territory someone happens to live in.”

Housefather added that the Tories’ position was “very much a reversal on previous Conservative positions on Quebec and language issues, which is consistently happening these days to compete with the Bloc.”

Tories have high hopes in Quebec

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole has made no secret that his goal is to obtain 30 seats in Quebec during the next election. The party currently has 10. For the Liberals and the Tories, securing a large portion of Quebec’s 78 seats is often seen as a ticket to a majority government.

Manitoba Conservative MP Raquel Dancho told the Commons last fall in declaring the Tories’ support for the bill that the Conservatives were doing so because they have “great respect for the Quebec nation and understand the cultural importance of protecting the French language.

“The Conservatives are offering Quebeckers a serious alternative to the Liberals. We are the only ones who can beat them in the next election and form the next government,” she said.

But standing in either party’s way is a popular Bloc Québécois, which currently has 32 seats and, according to the latest Angus Reid survey, 29 per cent support among respondents, compared with 31 per cent for the Liberals and 18 per cent for the Conservatives.

The Liberals tried to quash a previous version of the Bloc’s bill back in 2018. Bill C-421 — as it was then called — was deemed by a subcommittee to be unconstitutional and non-votable. The Bloc appealed and a secret vote was held in the House that the Liberals — who had a majority of the seats back then — were successful in defeating.

Three years ago, things were different.

The Conservatives did not participate in the bill’s only debate.

Bloc bill riddled with errors, says lone Quebec NDP MP

Pierre Nantel, at the time an NDP MP, spoke in favour of the bill, saying his party’s Quebec caucus would surely have sent the bill to committee for further study if it had been given a chance.

“It is shameful and disrespectful for any Quebec MP to ignore the vulnerability and value of Quebeckers’ quiet nationalism and to fail to proudly defend Quebec’s distinct identity,” Nantel said in the chamber. (Nantel was later dumped by the NDP and was defeated running as a Green candidate in the 2019 election.)

This time round, the party’s lone Quebec MP, Alexandre Boulerice, told HuffPost the Bloc’s bill is riddled with errors and he doesn’t think his party’s support in the province will suffer because of the New Democrats’ opposition.

For example, Boulerice said, the bill doesn’t take into account future interprovincial moves, doesn’t make note that Quebec already gives francophones priority through its economic immigrants, or that it places an unfair and unnecessary burden on those that arrive as refugees.

“La fausse bonne idée quoi,” he wrote, in an email, loosely translated as a bad good idea, or a good idea at first glance.

Source: Conservatives Back Bloc Québécois Push To Make French The Mandatory Language For Quebec Immigrants

Move to curtail minority-language instruction in schools signals ongoing shift in China’s cultural policy

Of note:

Like many schools in China, the Yanji City Number 6 Middle School posts its school calendar on an outside wall. On the list are the usual subjects: language and literature, math, English, biology, politics, physics, history and sports.

Missing, however, is any reference to the Korean-language instruction that once defined this place. Like many other schools in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Number 6 has long taught most courses in Korean.

Yanbian borders North Korea and counts 35 per cent of its population as ethnically Korean. But teaching Korean wasn’t just a nod to demographics or history – it was the law. For Koreans, local regulations mandated that courses could be taught in Chinese only with special permission.

Beginning this school year, that suddenly changed.

“Other than Korean class, subjects like math and science are all taught in Mandarin,” said one Korean man in Yanji. “Before, it was all taught in Korean.” A propaganda poster on the wall calls for those at the school to “build up the sense of unity of the Chinese nation.”

It “feels like the suppression of an ethnic minority – or possibly the cancellation of ethnic languages altogether,” the man said. Police closely followed a Globe and Mail reporter on a recent trip to Yanji, and The Globe is not identifying people interviewed there to shield them from retribution.

What happened in Yanji, however, was not accidental.

Last year, a commission under the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, the permanent body of China’s central legislature, examined rules that mandate use of local languages and found them unconstitutional, according to a disclosure made last week. The review takes aim at language policies nearly identical to those found in Yanbian and Inner Mongolia, where fierce protests and teacher strikes erupted last fall after officials halted most Mongolian-language instruction.

It is one of the strongest indications to date that what is taking place in classrooms on the distant fringes of the country reflects a major change in Beijing’s approach to those whose language and history differ from the dominant Han culture, which makes up more than 90 per cent of the country’s population.

The constitutional review appears to form “part of a concerted effort aimed at changing national policy towards minorities,” said Changhao Wei, a postdoctoral researcher at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center and the founder of NPC Observer, a website that tracks Chinese legislative development.

The broader Chinese ambition is about “Han supremacy. It’s a racial project of domination,” said Gerald Roche, an anthropologist who specializes in language politics at La Trobe University in Melbourne. “They want to be at a point where they are a nation united by language.”

From the early days of Communist Party rule, China has carved out a unique place for its minority populations. Following a Soviet model, it officially recognized 56 nationalities, categorizing people from the dominant Han to the Hezhe, which in 1964 numbered just 718 people. The Chinese Constitution guaranteed ethnic groups “the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages and to preserve or reform their own traditions and customs.”

Though chairman Mao Zedong ultimately suppressed some ethnic policies, since 1949, China’s 55 minority groups have received benefits including government-backed language support, advantages in hiring and education and exemptions from the strictest family-planning policies.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, however, has overseen major changes. Across China, cities and provinces – including Yanbian – are stripping away the additional university placement exam points long awarded to ethnic minorities to improve their scores. Affirmative-action-style hiring policies are being reworked. Officials have rescinded lenient family planning policy for some minority groups, including the largely Muslim Uyghurs.

Mr. Xi has advocated the “forging of a communal consciousness of the Chinese nation,” calling for greater recognition of Chinese culture by people of all ethnic groups. Authorities must strengthen Chinese language education, emphasize patriotic education and “bury the seeds of loving China in every child’s heart,” Mr. Xi said in 2019.

Late last year, Beijing for the first time appointed a Han official to lead the National Ethnic Affairs Commission – Zhu Weiqun, one of China’s most prominent voices on ethnic affairs, has argued that China’s current ethnic policies are in need of replacement, saying recognition of minorities and preferential policies toward smaller ethnic groups fractures national unity.

Banishing minority-language instruction, Chinese authorities and scholars have said, is necessary to reduce poverty and create equal workplace opportunity.

Teaching Mandarin is the best way to “improve the quality of the next generation of ethnic minorities,” said Yang Wenhui, an ethnic studies scholar at Yunnan University. “They can’t afford to always be falling behind.”

The promotion of Mandarin began in earnest in 2001, with the adoption of a national language law. By 2009, half of China’s population was deemed competent in Mandarin. By last year, 80 per cent had reached that level.

Beijing’s insistence on Mandarin education, however, has been interwoven with efforts to suppress ethnic dissent. After riots in Tibet and Xinjiang in 2008 and 2009, a “more oppressive assimilatory dynamic really emerged,” said Prof. Roche, who spent eight years living in Qinghai and working with linguistic minority groups.

In 2017, authorities in Xinjiang placed teachers in intensive Mandarin-language summer instruction. Last year, a similar program was rolled out nationwide, with authorities pledging to increase teachers’ use of “excellent Chinese language and culture.”

In Yanji, the imposition of Mandarin instruction has support within the Korean community. “I went to Korean schools. I couldn’t keep up with my classmates at all when I entered the university,” one man said. “Mandarin was too difficult.” He has placed his own child in a Chinese kindergarten. “Our mother tongue is Korean. We can speak [it] at home if we really want to,” he said. Local bookstores, too, continue to stock large quantities of Korean-language titles.

Others, however, worry what’s happening in schools is a sign their own government has turned on them.

“Our mother tongue has been removed just because we are an ethnic minority group,” a Korean woman says. “We can see from places like Tibet and Xinjiang that for a minority to become too strong isn’t a good thing these days. It feels to me like oppression.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/world/article-move-to-curtail-minority-language-instruction-in-schools-signals/

Sweden proposes language requirement for would-be citizens

Pretty standard requirements elsewhere:

Justice and Migration Minister Morgan Johansson presented details of an inquiry into the proposals on Wednesday morning.

“Language is the key to work, but also the key to society,” said Johansson as he outlined why the government thought it needed to find “a better balance between rights and responsibilities” for would-be citizens.

Foreign nationals applying to become Swedish would need proof of Swedish skills at A2 level for speaking and writing, the second lowest out of six levels on the Common European Framework of Reference, and B1 for reading and listening.

To take the test, it would cost 500 kronor ($60) for the section relating to civil society and 2,000 kronor for the language component.

Citizenship applicants could alternatively provide proof of passing Grade 9 in a Swedish high school, or a course at upper secondary school, or the highest level of the Swedish For Immigrants (SFI) course.

The language requirements would apply to people aged between 16 and 66 who apply for Swedish citizenship, but certain exceptions are proposed, including for people with certain disabilities or those who are from a vulnerable background – for example being stateless or illiterate – who can prove they have tried to reach the required knowledge level but been unsuccessful.

Citizens of other Nordic countries who live in Sweden would also be exempted, as they are subject to a different process and are only required to notify authorities, rather than apply, in order to receive citizenship.

The proposals were put together based on reviewing the processes in place in other European countries, of which only three including Sweden do not currently require a language test.

But the details aren’t finalised yet. The next stage is to send the proposals out for consultation from relevant authorities, and they may be adapted depending on the responses received. Then a proposal would need to be passed by parliament and work to begin on putting together the tests.

“This is a reasonable proposal and we hope that it can be put into place as soon as possible, but of course this is a large organisational challenge,” said Johansson.

The government committed to investigating language tests for citizenship applicants in the cross-bloc deal struck with the Centre and Liberal parties, whose support the Social Democrat-Green coalition needed to form a government.

Separately, the government is looking into whether language skills should be required for permanent residence in Sweden.

Source: https://www.thelocal.se/20210113/sweden-proposes-language-requirement-for-would-be-citizens

Bloc to promote bill on French-language proficiency for new citizens

Virtue signalling, given that citizenship is exclusively under federal jurisdiction. Challenge for Liberal, CPC and NDP Quebec MPs and will see if any pander to this bill:

The Bloc Québécois will get to debate a bill Thursday that would require anyone applying for Canadian citizenship in Quebec to demonstrate functional proficiency in French.

Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet says that familiarity with the official language of Quebec is essential amid what he calls an ongoing threat to the mother tongue of most Quebecers.

Currently, most applicants must demonstrate a professional proficiency in either English or French to qualify for citizenship, but a private member’s bill Bloc MP Sylvie Bérubé introduced in February would change that to require French for immigrants who have settled in Quebec.

The chance to debate the legislation comes after Montreal Liberal MP Emmanuella Lambropoulos told the House of Commons official languages committee last week that the idea of a French-language decline is a “myth.”

She reversed her comments following a social media backlash, saying in a statement Saturday her remarks were “insensitive,” that French is in decline and that she hopes to find ways to protect it.

Blanchet said some Liberals threw Lambropoulos “under the bus” in calling her out for her initial remarks, and suggested the governing party was hypocritical in its professed concern for the state of the French language.

“What is insensitive actually is the reaction of the rest of her caucus,” Blanchet said Wednesday. “She probably said out loud what many of them do think.

“I strongly doubt that when they have private conversations in the corners of their caucus they say, ‘Oh, French is in a bad situation.'”

Meanwhile, reports of a recent tweet — since deleted — by Chelsea Craig, the Quebec director of the federal Liberal party, referring to the province’s 43-year-old language law as “oppressive” fanned the regional firestorm.

Craig posted a subsequent message to Twitter on Wednesday stressing that Bill 101 is important and stating in French that “French is declining in Quebec and it must be protected.”

But the damage was done. For the third day in a row, Bloc and Conservative MPs hammered the Trudeau government with questions about the state of the French language in Canada.

“It makes no sense,” Conservative MP Alain Rayes said in French during question period in the House of Commons Wednesday afternoon.

“Will the prime minister immediately condemn her disrespectful comments?”

Blanchet asked Trudeau whether he agreed with Craig.

“Does the prime minister of Canada believe that Bill 101 is ‘oppressive’ against the English in Quebec” Blanchet asked in French.

The prime minister replied that the government supports the law — known as the Charter of the French Language — and recognizes that in a bilingual Canada, Quebec “must be first and foremost French-speaking.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Wednesday he supports stronger laws to protect French, adding that the government needs to provide more educational tools to foster language development.

Source: Bloc to promote bill on French-language proficiency for new citizens

How does technology keep up with ever-evolving language on race and identity? We asked people who write dictionaries

Interesting:

The Rolodex of terms that can describe identity seems to expand and change on a steady basis. So, how do dictionaries both physical and online keep up? Sometimes they don’t.

The term “BIPOC” meaning Black, Indigenous and people of colour, has become the topic of many explainers since June, when this year’s racial reckoning began after George Floyd’s death. According to the New York Times, BIPOC was first used on social media by a Toronto-based account in 2013. Yet the date stamp on Merriam-Webster’s entry for “BIPOC” is just Sept. 3, 2020, and Google has yet to generate its own dictionary landing at the top of search.

It took some time for the word “racialized” to move from academic papers to colloquial use. Even as it has become more common, it’s a toss up if it can be typed out free of a crimson spell check flag depending on the online browser or platform being used.

And according to Merriam Webster’s online time traveller tool, which shows the year words were first recorded, “genderqueer” first appeared in 1995, but when typed into the messaging app Slack, it generates a red underline.

Kory Stamper is a New Jersey-based lexicographer and author of the book “Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries.” Stamper said that the challenge is that many English-speaking countries have set up the dictionary as an authority on language, which is not the case.

“As a lexicographer, you’re always way behind. You’re basically behind (language), picking up the crumbs, so that you can follow where it’s heading,” she said. Dictionaries record a snapshot of language at a particular time, she adds.

Even for words that are age-old but in need of updating, it’s still a process. Stamper once had to update the definition for “god” which hadn’t been updated in 60 years when she was an associate editor at Merriam-Webster. It took her four months.

For a term like “BIPOC” to enter the dictionary, it has to come across a lexicographer’s desk, have a good amount of printed uses, and is ultimately a subjective decision of that worker and the dictionary, if it’s widely used enough to make the cut. And from there, a lot of thought consideration and research is required to make sure that the definition crafted is nuanced and does the word justice.

But just because a word hasn’t made it through this process, doesn’t mean it’s not a real word or accepted term.

“Just because a word is not in the dictionary, does not mean it is not a word,” Stamper said. “That just means that a lexicographer has not found enough evidence or the production cycle has not moved quickly enough (for it to be entered).” If two people are having a conversation, and they understand the meaning of the words they are using, they are using real words, she said.

Still Stamper thinks about what out-of-date tech and dictionaries can mean for people who aren’t native English speakers.

Once, she typed out “person of colour” and got a grammar suggestion which recommended “coloured person,” a phrase that has long gone out of fashion and leans more offensive, in North America today.

Stamper said that while she and a good amount of people are aware that “people of colour” isn’t grammatically incorrect, and is a fixed phrase, she still thinks of people who may be learning English as a foreign language and may be heavily reliant on these prompts. “Would I have enough knowledge of the nuances of the language to know?”

As for the spell check inconsistencies, Vancouver-based software engineer Dawn Chandler notes that tech companies don’t all refer to the same dictionaries or data sets to operate these tools. Nor do they publicly share exactly what those algorithms are.

There would always be a chance of a lag or bias depending on where the data is being collected from, Chandler said. “Dictionaries are written to record and reflect the language people use.” Still, she said, “they can’t capture languages in every region, in every subculture.”

Kola Tubosun is a linguist currently based in the U.K. who created an online dictionary of Yoruba names after noticing that computers often red-underlined common Yoruba names, and also disregarded tonal accents necessary to write them correctly. He advocates for Nigerian languages to be more accessible and recognized through tech. He’s noticed, for example, that in Nigeria, ATMs are usually only in English, which ends up discouraging Nigerians who only speak local dialects from using banks.

Tubosun does note that media in North America, whether publications or dictionaries, do pay attention to new words, new ways of speaking, the language, the interpretation.

One instance he’s noticed where there can be tech and dictionary gaps in English, are in cultural colloquialisms. A phrase like “see you next tomorrow” which is commonly used in Nigerian culture and means “the day after tomorrow” made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2020. But with or without the dictionary recognition, it is still a phrase with a fixed meaning.

“There are many levels in which words get adopted and accepted,” he said.

Angelyn Francis is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering inequity and inequality. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach her via email: afrancis@thestar.ca

Source: How does technology keep up with ever-evolving language on race and identity? We asked people who write dictionaries

Big gender gap in students attitudes and engagement in global and multicultural issues

New interesting element to the OECD’s PISA assessment. Detailed review on my to do list to see if interesting immigrant/non-immigrant comparisons:

Schools and education systems are failing to give boys and girls across the world the same opportunities to learn and apply their knowledge of global and multicultural issues, according to a new report on the first OECD PISA assessment of the knowledge, skills and attitudes of students to engage with other people and cultures.

Are Students Ready to Thrive in an Interconnected World? focused on students’ knowledge of issues of local and global significance, including public health, economic and environmental issues, as well as their intercultural knowledge, skills and attitudes. Students from 27 countries and economies took the test. Students, teachers, parents and school principals from around 66 countries and economies completed a questionnaire*.

The results reveal a gender gap in access to opportunities to learn global competence as well as in students’ global and intercultural skills and attitudes. On average across OECD countries, boys were more likely than girls to report taking part in activities where they are expected to express and discuss their views, while girls were more likely than boys to report taking part in activities related to intercultural understanding and communication.

Boys, for example, were more likely to learn about the interconnectedness of countries’ economies, look for news on the Internet or watch the news together during class. They were also more likely to be asked by teachers to give their opinion about international news, take part in classroom discussions about world events and analyse global issues with their classmates.

In contrast, girls were more likely than boys to report that they learn how to solve conflicts with their peers in the classroom, learn about different cultures and learn how people from different cultures can have different perspectives on some issues. These gender differences could reflect personal interests and self-efficacy but could also reflect how girls and boys are socialised at home and at school, according to the report.

“Education is key to helping young people navigate today’s increasingly complex and interconnected world,” said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills. “The schools and education systems that are most successful in fostering global knowledge, skills and attitudes among young people are those that offer a curriculum that values openness to the world, provide a positive and inclusive learning environment and offer opportunities to relate to people from other cultures.”

The findings reveal the key role teachers play in promoting and integrating intercultural understanding into their classroom practices and lessons. Most teachers reported that they are confident in their ability to teach in multicultural settings. But the lack of adequate professional development opportunities in this field is a major challenge. Few teachers reported having received training on teaching in multicultural or multilingual settings.

More than 90% of students attended schools where principals reported positive multicultural beliefs among their teachers. Yet students who perceive discrimination by their teachers towards immigrants and people from other cultural backgrounds, for example, exhibited similar negative attitudes. This highlights the key role of teachers and school principals in countering or perpetuating discrimination by acting as role models.

The report found a strong link between students learning activities at school and having more positive intercultural attitudes. Also, speaking two or more languages was positively associated with awareness of global issues, interest in learning about other cultures, respect for people from other cultures and positive attitudes towards immigrants.

On average across OECD countries, 50% of students reported learning two or more languages at school, 38% reported learning one foreign language and only 12% reported not learning any foreign language at school. The largest share of students (more than 20%) who reported not learning any foreign language at school were observed in Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia and Scotland. By contrast, in 42 countries, more than 90% of students reported that they learn at least one foreign language at school.

Source: Big gender gap in students attitudes and engagement in global and multicultural issues

The Consequences Of Dehumanizing Language In Politics

Of note:

United States politicians are no strangers to using unkind language against their opponents. It’s a trend that dates back to at least 1800 when, during the presidential campaign, Thomas Jefferson hired James Callender to slime John Adams. But Alexander Theodoridis, who teaches political science at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, says that today’s partisanship can lend itself to particularly dehumanizing language not only between political opponents, but also between regular Americans who belong to opposite political parties.

Theodoridis told NPR’s Weekend Edition that “dehumanizing language,” which includes people referring to others as animals, can lead to people believing that those who disagree with them don’t deserve the same treatment or respect as those who agree with them.

“That is often where things lead,” he said. “As either a justification post hoc for treating somebody differently or, in some cases, a precursor to treating a group differently.”

One fear is that this kind of dehumanization leads to violence. Another is that it leads people to believe in conspiracy theories that further demonize the people they disagree with. Theodoridis says while both Democrats and Republicans use this kind of language, Republicans tend to believe conspiracy theories like QAnon more easily.

“I think part of that is just the composition of the parties,” Theodoridis said. “One feature of the sorting that has happened in terms of who is a Democrat and who is a Republican, there is this sort of diploma divide, and I think that’s a factor.”

In an interview with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Theodoridis reflects on the political polarization of this moment, the dehumanizing language that has risen up and where we go from here.

Interview Highlights

How do you capture how dehumanizing language has seeped down from politicians to the body politic in your studies?

One of the measures we use literally shows people a “ascent of man” picture, which is basically the image where you have where you go from sort of a stooped ape-like figure up to a standing human. And we ask them, how evolved do you think these groups are? And we ask them, Democrats and Republicans, how evolved?

And what we find is around 80% of people rate their own side higher than they rate the other side. And almost 70% of people rate their own side more than 10 points higher than the other side. And the average is in the 30s, like 35-point difference. So this is a pretty substantial gap.

And the fear is that our use of language, or how we talk, can lead to action, or in this case, violence.

I don’t want to be alarmist. I don’t think that we’re very close to widespread political violence, largely because I think most people in this country are still fairly happy and are not concerned enough with politics on a day-to-day basis to take to the streets and do awful things.

But we asked people to give a [prison] sentence to somebody who had attacked a senator from one party or the other, randomizing the party of the senator and those who dehumanize more give a more lenient sentence. Right. So they view it as less of an offense when you attack the other side than when you attack their own side.

Other social scientists we have spoken to wonder if the genie can actually be put back in the bottle. I will say, as someone who has covered countries where there is deep polarization outside of the United States, it is hard to roll that back.

My thoughts on this are actually somewhat pessimistic. We long for a period in our history in the latter part of the last century where polarization along party lines, not necessarily along other lines, but along partisan lines, was not very pronounced. Your race, religion, education level, didn’t necessarily predict your partisanship the way that it does today. And because all those identities are aligned, it becomes this sort of superordinate, super powerful identity.

So then where should we go from here? Because what I hear over and over again from voters is that they are tired of this partisanship and yet they are part of this partisanship.

That’s right. So I really do think the focus should be, first of all, on just trying to lower the temperature and I think that falls largely on elites, on elected officials. I think we should hold them to a higher standard and the media should hold them to a higher standard in terms of not stoking these fires in ways that can be dangerous.

But beyond that, I think we should really look for ways to make it so that our government can work effectively under polarization, because I think this is a much more natural state of affairs than the kind of odd period historically that we have recently emerged from where the parties weren’t really aligned with ideology and all sorts of characteristics.

Source: The Consequences Of Dehumanizing Language In Politics

Why the World Should Care About Language in Inner Mongolia

Yet another example of Chinese government repression and attempts at cultural genocide:

On August 26 China passed a law to sideline teaching in the Mongolian language in the region of Inner Mongolia (also referred to as Southern Mongolia). This measure, which sparked immediate protests, will create irreparable losses not just for ethnic Mongolians, but also for many cultures around the world.

What is at stake here is not just the spoken language, but an 800-year-old script with a multicultural lineage that emanated from the golden era of the Silk Route.

Mongolian, as a language, is still widely spoken in independent Mongolia, but the “Mongolian script” was largely lost after the Russians introduced Cyrillic in the 1940s, when Stalin sought to control the country as a buffer against China. This makes the Inner Mongolians, who are currently under Chinese rule, the last custodians of the script. For academics, historians, linguists, and cultural aficionados, the Mongolian script holds the key to historical links between cultures that were forged during the Silk Route era and earlier. Understanding this connection might help people realize that this is not Mongolia’s fight alone.

For decades, China’s ongoing efforts to assimilate its minorities had it cracking down harshly on the religions, and languages of Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Mongolians. These are all largely nomadic cultures that were propagators of multicultural exchanges at the height of the Silk Route era.

Like the Tibetans and the Uyghurs, who have been struggling against Chinese hegemony, Mongolians have been protesting since August, but punitive measures taken by the Chinese government leave Mongolians with little choice but to concede.

“This is the final blow to our culture,” said Enghebatu Togochog, director of the Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center.  “The world should know that it is not simply a language issue. This strikes at the very heart and existence of our national identity. If we lose our language we lose everything. We’ve already lost political autonomy, our nomadic way of life, and our environment. This is cultural genocide.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, in the independent state of the Mongolian People’s Republic (MPR), a democratic revolution in 1990 pushed for a switch from Russian Cyrillic to the old Mongolian script. That idea, however, received little interest and gained no traction. Parents saw it as a hindrance to their children’s future prospects at the time. But the recent protests in the Inner Mongolian region have made Mongolians in the MPR realize what they failed to in 1990. The significance and threat to their cultural, intellectual, and literary heritage is now being viewed through a new lens.

“Public opinion in MPR has changed drastically since China’s crackdown on Inner Mongolia,” said Otgonsuren Jargaliin, an outer Mongolian teacher, linguist, and environmental activist. “Mongolians now see the urgent need to preserve and protect this ancient script and not take it for granted. They now appreciate that 80 years of Cyrillic is not on par with 800 years of a writing that is our lineage and ancestry.”

She pointed out that as recently as last week MPR National Television was now carrying subtitles not only in Cyrillic, but also in the old Mongolian script, which was a new development.

The Mongolian Script

The story of the Mongolian script starts with Genghis Khan. In 1204 he appointed the Uyghur scholar Tatatunga to develop a unifying script after he established his empire. The new Mongolian script was adapted from an old Uyghur script.

The Uyghurs today are Turkic-speaking Muslims, descended from the Uyghur Khaganate, a nomadic kingdom in Mongolia, which was predominantly Manichaean and then later Buddhist. It lasted from 744 to 840 CE. It was while they were Manicheans that the Uyghurs adopted their script from the Sogdians. By the 16 century, however, the Uyghurs had transitioned to the Arabic script and were no longer using their own.

The Sogdians, meanwhile, were the remnant traders of the ancient Achaemenid Persian Empire, who capitalized on economic opportunities along the Silk Route from the fourth to ninth centuries. Like many Silk Route traders, they exported not just material goods but fashion, culture, religion, arts, and language. Their script had its roots in Aramaic.

The Uyghurs replaced the Sogdians as custodians of the script from the eighth to the beginning of the 13th century, when Genghis Khan introduced it to his new empire, the largest contiguous one the world had ever seen. As the lingua franca of the Mongolian Empire, the script was used widely connecting east with west, the Pacific to the Mediterranean.

The history of the script, therefore, offers a well documented evolution of a writing that originated from the ancient Mesopotamian civilization, and traveled across time and cultures through the Silk Route. The script’s history tells us how people from vast geographical backgrounds were connected, often not out of choice, but nevertheless linked through trade and travel. It shows us how our ancestries and heritages are all interlinked and interconnected.

The indigenous nomadic tribes from different cultures, along with traders from different regions and countries, brought a broader understanding of a socio-cultural world through their free movement along the Silk Route. Unlike China’s nationalistic ideology, they were not confined to a specific religion, nationality, ethnicity, language, or geographical boundary. This was what promoted cultural connectivity and created an era of great cultural exchange.

Today China is trying to recreate its idea of a Silk Route through its “One Belt, One Road” foreign policy and economic strategy, also known as the Belt and Road Initiative. But what China fails to recognize is that the success of the original Silk Route was due to its recognition and acceptance of the many cultures it spanned and encountered. Cultural legacies were embraced and valued rather than wiped out along the way in the name of uniformity. The Belt and Road Initiative can’t replicate the success of the Silk Route if it persecutes the very people and cultures, like the Mongolians, that made the original routes last for centuries.

The irony is that, in trying to recreate the Silk Road through its nationalistic lens, China may once again end up with something that is just another “Made in China” imitation.

Source: Why the World Should Care About Language in Inner Mongolia

No English, no visa: Australia to block visa for partners if they don’t speak English

Draconian:

Australians who fall in love with non-English speaking foreigners will be barred from bringing their partners into the country to be married if they do not speak English.

In Tuesday’s federal budget the government said it would introduce an English language test for both the person being sponsored for a visa to move to Australia to marry their partner and their sponsor if they are non-English speaking permanent residents.

“These changes will help support English language acquisition and enhance social cohesion and economic participation outcomes,” the budget papers said.

The measure is estimated to save the government $4.9 million over the forward estimates.

Chelsea Sonkar, 30, from Canberra, has applied for a partner visa for her husband Sanjay Sonkar, 30, from Varanasi, India.

She has been raising their one-year-old son alone for the past year while working and studying because Sanjay was caught in India when the borders closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mrs Sonkar said the government was sending a clear but ugly message about the type of husband or wife that they deemed suitable for Australians.

“My instinctive reaction was that the government has a preference for the type of spouse that they want to include in the Australian community,” she said.

“It sends a very strong message that spouses coming from poorer backgrounds are not welcome.

Mrs Sonkar is confident Mr Sonkar would pass an oral language test because he works as a tourist guide and converses in several languages conversationally. But she is worried that if the test is written he will be at a disadvantage because he dropped out of school when he was 16 to support his family after his father became ill.

“To think that small instance could potentially cost him, he’s just doing the best he can and he’s a good man,” she said.

Mrs Sonkar said the new requirement was in addition to the minimum $8000 visa application fee, the more than two years it takes the department to process partner visas plus the extensive paperwork required to prove that a relationship is genuine.

“I felt angry because now there’s another hurdle that we have to jump through when we’re doing everything we can,” she said.

The changes were criticised by the Opposition’s spokesman for multicultural affairs, Andrew Giles.

“English proficiency isn’t a test of someone’s love,” Mr Giles said.

“These changes arrived without any warning, consultation or explanation and take us back to the 1950s. Why would Australia’s government seek to do something like this, instead of keeping partners together?”

Amelia Elliot, who runs an online support and lobbying group for Australians trying to obtain visas for their partners, said the change was “pure discrimination.”

“It dictates that we cannot love who we love, and that instead we must marry according to what is dictated by budget policy. This government treats multi-national couples as second-class citizens and it must stop.”

Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge did not respond to requests for comment.

Source: https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/no-english-no-visa-australia-to-block-visa-for-partners-if-they-don-t-speak-english-20201007-p562o3.html