Archive for the ‘Languages’ Category

The worth of foreign languages in Paris

October 14, 2017
171014mandarin

Some mandarin-related data from Paris

So, we extend our previous study in London to consider indeed.fr and Paris. The table below shows results tabulated as previously for London

171014t1

Jobs in Paris involving foreign languages

So, there were 1364 postings mentioning ‘polonais’ with a total estimated yearly salary of 29.35 million Euro and an average salary of 29,185 Euro.  ‘Overall here’ refers to the 12 language names listed while ‘Overall jobs’ is all the postings on the site.

We can also express this in terms of percentages referred to ‘overall jobs’, as below:

171014t2

Data from Paris in percentage terms

Here, we see that 0.52% of the overall job postings mentioned ‘polonais’, and they had an average salary that was 13.1% higher than for the ‘Overall jobs’.  35% of postings appeared to mention a foreign language and for 30% that language was English.  We can compare this with data from London in the same format:

171014t3

Data from London in percentage terms

There is a great difference in the worth of Polish (probably genuine) and of Turkish–probably due to small numbers, and you get very different results with [la langue] turque.  Italian and Japanese subtract value in both capitals, while Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese add value in the two of them.

Overall, the language-related jobs have a salary premium of 4.6% in Paris as against 17.3% in London.

The clearest conclusions are:

i)  there are far more jobs possibly requiring a foreign language (English!) in Paris than in London;

ii)  there seems to be a far higher premium for foreign languages in London than in Paris.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Greek at Madingley Hall

October 13, 2017
madingleyhallslideshow1_0

Picture from Madingley site

Janet Watson has written:

Cambridge University’s Institute for Continuing Education offers weekend residential courses in Classical Greek for Beginners’, Intermediate and Advanced levels, and will meet three times this academic year at Madingley Hall, just outside Cambridge. There will be a course for absolute beginners at the weekend of November 3-5, with the opportunity to progress through the basics of Greek grammar over subsequent weekends. For further information on all levels, see:

http://www.ice.cam.ac.uk/courses/search/subject/languages

We gave an overview of the Madingley experience in relation to New Testament Greek:

This course took place over the weekend, from Friday evening to Sunday lunchtime. There were 7 teaching sessions of 90 minutes each: one on Saturday evening, four on Saturday and two on Sunday. Six of these sessions consisted of the students in turn reading two or three verses aloud and translating them, while in the after-dinner talk on Saturday the lecturer gave a talk on ‘Acts and the Classical World’. […]Participants were very enthusiastic about the course (and about Madingley Hall in general) and several had already been on many previous years’ editions of the same course.

We have also shared our experiences regarding Greek Lyric Poetry, Odyssey XI, Agamemnon (Part 1) and Agamemnon (Part 2).

Hopefully this information will help interested readers work out what it’s all about…

Ukraine and Wales

October 10, 2017
ukrwel1

Picture from ‘Voice of Ukraine in Wales’ FB page

Reading Laada Bilaniuk’s book on the language question in Ukraine while holidaying in Wales has led me to musing on the similarities (and contrasts) between the two nations.

Geography

Ukraine is a large country with a large population.  Wales is a small country with a small population.

Location

Ukraine is located to the west of Russia.  If foreigners have any idea about Ukraine, they think it is or ought to be part of Russia.  Wales is located to the west of England.  If foreigners have any idea about Wales, they think it is or ought to be part of England.

History

The Welsh may be considered the successors of the first historically-identifiable inhabitants of Britain who where later displaced by invading Germanic tribes from the east.  (Human beings of course inhabited Britain long before the Indo-European languages came into existence, but who exactly they were in terms of for instance language is hard to say.)  Ukraine may be considered the successor to the original Kievan state (founded to be sure by Germanic invaders) while in Russia the succession was interrupted by Mongol-Tatar invaders from the East.

Wales is essentially an agrarian country but in the 19th century large deposits of coal and iron were discovered which led to the industrialisation of the South-East of the country.  Ukraine is essentially an agrarian country but in the 19th century large deposits of coal and iron were discovered which led to the industrialisation of the South-East of the country.

Language

Since the 19th century, Welsh has traditionally been spoken in the North and West of the country and in the villages, while English has been spoken in the South and East and in the large towns.  Since the 19th century, Ukrainian has traditionally been spoken in the North and West of the country and in the villages, while Russian has been spoken in the South and East and in the large towns.

Prior to the 19th century, Welsh was abandoned by the upper classes in favour of English and so became a language of village-dwellers.  As such, there was no standard form and considerable dialect differences emerged or persisted, making it difficult to form a standard language.

Prior to the 19th century, Ukrainian was abandoned by the upper classes in favour of Polish or Russian and so became a language of village-dwellers.  As such, there was no standard form and considerable dialect differences emerged or persisted, making it difficult to form a standard language.

During the 20th century, socialist leaders in Wales downplayed the importance of Welsh while relying on English as a language of international progress.  During the 20th century, Bolshevik leaders in Russia downplayed the importance of Ukrainian while hoping that Russian would be the language of international progress, or if not that then of revolution in one country.

The position of Welsh in the school system has generally been subservient at best, though in the 21st century it has been made compulsory in  schools in Wales, although in the vast majority of cases instruction is basically in English .  It is now possible to study most arts subjects in a university somewhere in Wales.  The position of Ukrainian in the school system has generally been subservient to Russian, though in the 21st century it has been made compulsory for Ukrainian schools to work exclusively in Ukrainian .  It will probably soon be compulsory for all university education everywhere in Ukraine to be in Ukrainian.

However,  Welsh is the only member of the Celtic language group to remain in significant everyday use, which group has a large number of fascinating typological and morphological features.  As well has synchronic dialectal variation, it is also subject to diachronic/register dissimilation with a literary standard based on William Morgan’s 16th century Bible translation marked (for instance) by use of simple verbs rather than the periphrastic forms favoured by modern colloquial Welsh.  As such, and excepting only Basque, its survival and promotion is the most important task facing language policy  in Europe.  Contrariwise, Ukrainian has been considered as a debased form of Russian or at least as belonging to an East Slavic group and as such closely allied to Russian.  In any case, Russian and Ukrainian can hardly have diverged any time significantly before 1000 CE.

Capital

The Conservative government of the 1950s established the Welsh capital in Cardiff, an industrial city near the border with England, rather than the more obviously traditional candidate of Caernarfon.  The post-Revolution Bolshevik government established the Ukrainian capital in Kharkiv, an industrial city near the border with Russia, rather than in the traditional site of Kiev.

Economy

With iron and coal having lost importance, Wales suffers from a lack of modern industries to supplement its traditional agrarian economy.  With iron and coal losing importance, Ukraine suffers from a lack of modern industries to supplement its traditional agrarian economy.

Sport

On 9 October 2017, the Welsh football team lost 1-0 at home to the Republic of Ireland, thus losing their chance to reach the World Cup finals.  On 9 October 2017, the Ukrainian football team lost 2-0 at home to the Republic of Ireland, thus losing their chance to reach the World Cup finals.

 

Indeed accounting for the value of languages

October 6, 2017
171006data

Data as at 2240 on 6 October

So we continue our previous attempts to find some value in foreign languages with the help of Indeed.  We say that the typical undifferentiated graduate may well end up as an accountant, and ask what value may be added if they know a foreign language.  This approach also has the advantage that ‘accountant’ actually means something (unlike ‘consultant’) and it means something outside the UK (unlike ‘solicitor’).

171006table

Accountant salaries, with and without languages

The table above shows results for numbers of jobs and average pay, where ‘German’ means postings that mention both ‘Accountant’ and ‘German’ and so on.

We see that:

i) a rather small proportion of the accountant jobs mention languages (about 4% for the languages mentioned here);

ii)  for some languages–Arabic, Turkish–accountant jobs are scarce;

iii)  as previously,  Dutch, German and Spanish are worth money;

iv)  as previously,  Polish and Japanese are not worth money.

What to read in English?

October 4, 2017
171004books2

Concision against contemporaneity

We are sometimes asked what books (novels) it is worth reading in English by those studying or teaching the language.

We once shared our thoughts on this subject with students in Perm, and on the basis of ten years’ book club experience.  The criteria employed were:

Interest:  you ought to want to read the book for its own sake

Accuracy:  please use the English language precisely and don’t just spread words over the page

Britishness:  rather than American-ness, translations or indeed science fiction.  It should show language in use to describe something recognisably British

Contemporaneity:  and not language and mores of the 19th century

Concision:  it gives you a feeling of achievement to say ‘I have read X [a short book]’ rather than ‘I have read some of Y [a long book’.

We give below the books recommended on that occasion, together with some further comments.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis; Лев, колдунья и платяной шкаф)

Both a children’s fantasy story and a work of Christian apologetics, this book gets a great deal into a very few words.  It is also one of those books that everyone has read as children and so forms part of the general stock of common knowledge and allusions.  The last time I read it, I was struck by how much it was infused by the spirit of English medieval literature–which was Lewis’s academic speciality–commingling the Christian and the pagan-fantastical.

Stump (Niall Griffiths)

Describes the lives of ex-drug-addicts and small-time criminals with wonderful precision and focus.  A rather different world from the one you often meet in novels.  At his best, Griffiths makes you feel what it would be like to live with no skin and no defences.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Mark Haddon) Что случилось с собакой ночью/Марк Хэддон)

The world as seen through the eyes of a boy with…autistic spectrum disorder…or a predilection for mathematics.  Very precise language and also defamiliarisation–he sees and experiences things but doesn’t know what they mean or why they happen, in the same way that a foreigner doesn’t.  You also get some value out of your familiarity with the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Restless (William Boyd)

Describes a relatively unknown aspect of WWII–the struggle to bring the USA in or keep it out.  Again, the language is very clear and the descriptions of what one would do or need to do in various extreme situations very precise.  You can amuse yourself wondering where the heroine’s surname comes from.

Skin Lane (Neil Bartlett)

It is 1967 and Mr F goes every day from his flat in South London to work as a furrier in the city.  Then he begins to dream of a naked young man.  At the end, he has become Mr Freeman and this book is pure literary magic.

Troubles (J. G. Farrell)

I’m not so sure about this one now.  It’s rather long, and there were an awful lot of novels in the 1970s that offered various metaphors for the collapse of British Rule (in Ireland in this case).

Brooklyn (Colm Toibin)

A young woman goes from Ireland to America and back in the early 1950s.  Very economical evocations of ordinary life, together with tactful application of symbolic realism, and he gets the words right!  Then again, the background of drearily prospectless lower middle class life in the back of beyond, alleviated by the prospect of emigration, was all too familiar to me.

The Night Watch (Sarah Waters; Ночной дозор, Сара Уотерс)

Combines hyper-realistic descriptions of women’s lives during and after wartime with reverse chronology and a truly terrifying backstreet abortion, and also ensures you get god value from your knowledge of Shakespeare.  In many ways, an instantiation of what the contemporary English novel is.

 

How popular is Russian in the UK?

October 2, 2017

171002russnumb

The table above gives the numbers of people studying for examinations at various levels.  The school examination numbers refer to the numbers of entries as given on the JCQ site while the ‘Degree’ figures refer to first-year full-time students doing first degrees, as on the HESA site.  Here, in the ‘Degree’ column, we have assigned all of ‘Russian and East European Studies’ to Russian and all of ‘Modern Middle Eastern Studies’ to Arabic.

The table below gives the same data expressed in terms of ranks.

171002russrank

We see that Russian ranks between 5th and 9th, depending on the particular stage we are looking at.

From a slightly different angle,  British Council report Language Trends 2014 gives the percentage of schools in the state and independent sector where particular languages are taught at any level (including non-examination/extra-curricular) as below:

171002anylevel

Taking account of proportion of the total school population in independent schools, we might estimate that about 7% of children attend schools with some provision for Russian.

We can then ask what the position Russian ought to hold. A British Council report on Languages for the Future dating from 2013 gives as below in  terms of importance for Britain:

britcosum

So Russian may be about as popular as it ought to be.  We will not venture an opinion as to whether the same holds for the popularity of Russia.

My Middle Liddell is broken…

October 1, 2017

IMG_2149[1]

Like its owner, this book has seen better days

This Middle Liddell which I bought nearly-new for £ 4.50 down the Elephant some 20 years or so ago seems to be nearing the end of its useful life.  So what to do?

Learning the bloody words instead is a noble aim but requires mental exertion.

Using my large LSJ instead requires physical exertion.

Buying a new one would cost money but it’s out of print now.  Bastards.

Buying a crappy reprint is a waste of money.

The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek costs money.  It is based upon

Montanari’s Vocabolario della lingua greca which costs more money and is rumoured on the Internet to be based on LSJ but not as good.  Also I don’t know what Turtleback is–Copertina rigida would be much more reassuring.  Internet rumour claims additionally that in Italy you’re not allowed to use it after high school–it has to be LSJ.

Robert Beekes’s Etymological Dictionary of Greek is an etymological dictionary not a dictionary dictionary and costs money even in paperback where it will hardly do for everyday reference.  But tempting.  Very tempting.

The Cambridge Greek Lexicon may be an established star of video clips and fundraising drives but does not as yet exist.  Maybe it will.  After 2020.  Maybe.  It will cost money.

Sellotape could be the practical solution.

IMG_2150[1]

Sellotape…looking good….

Important languages, Indeed!

September 30, 2017
arabindeed

Data for Arabic as at 2240 on 30/09/2017

We try another approach to assessing the relative value of modern foreign languages.  The Indeed site allows one to search for job postings according to particular keywords in a particular location and gives a summary in terms of numbers and estimated salaries as illustrated above.

So we can compare these results postings containing the names of various languages such as ‘Arabic’, ‘German’ and so on in London, using in the first case key languages identified by the British Council as we discussed earlier.  This gives results as below, ordered in terms of average salary, which is just the total estimated salary associated with relevant postings divided by the number of postings.

170930postings

In this table, ‘Overall here’ combines the 12 languages listed while ‘Overall jobs’ reports on all the jobs returned for London at the time of the study.

There are many interesting points here–there does seem to be some value to Dutch, as pointed out by the British Council.  The results for Mandarin are as ever clouded by what you call the language–‘Chinese’ gives a healthier average salary (£27,395) and rather fewer postings (1879).  The low average salary for Polish is presumably down to the kind of work Poles do in London while ‘Italian’ may be referring to restaurants rather than the language, thus depressing the average salary assigned to the term.  The explanation for Japanese might be that all professional-level jobs are filled by native speakers recruited from Japan, leaving only low-paid roles for others.

In general, we see that about 9% of postings mention one of the British Council’s priority languages, and this will overestimate the number of posts.  If as often happens an advert mentions ‘knowledge of French, German, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese) then it will get counted 5 times.  While there are of course other foreign languages, the representation of foreign languages in the London jobs market can be no more than 10%.

We can tabulate the overall results here with those derived from some other search terms as below:

170930compare

The two points here are that the intuitive ordering of subjects and academic qualifications is reproduced and that languages seem to add less value than an unspecified degree.

Why did I tear myself away from you before it was time?

September 29, 2017

iliad6

So now I’m worrying about the remark in Barbara Graziosi’s edition of Iliad 6 that Mandel’shtam describes the encounter between Hector and Andromache from Andromache’s point of view in the following line:

‘Why did I tear myself away from you before it was time?’ (the translation is by Nina Kossman).

We can perhaps believe that Andromache did the tearing:

ἄλοχος δὲ φίλη οἶκον δὲ βεβήκει
ἐντροπαλιζομένη, θαλερὸν κατὰ δάκρυ χέουσα. [Il 6.495-6]

though she was of course just doing what Hector told her to:

ἀλλ᾽ εἰς οἶκον ἰοῦσα τὰ σ᾽ αὐτῆς ἔργα κόμιζε
ἱστόν τ᾽ ἠλακάτην τε, καὶ ἀμφιπόλοισι κέλευε
ἔργον ἐποίχεσθαι: πόλεμος δ᾽ ἄνδρεσσι μελήσει
πᾶσι, μάλιστα δ᾽ ἐμοί, τοὶ Ἰλίῳ ἐγγεγάασιν.  [Il. 6 490-4]

so who was really doing the tearing is not so clear to us.

But in the Russian original the speaker has to be a man: Зачем преждевременно я от тебя оторвался! and the same holds true in Italian translation:  Perché mi sono separato da te prima che fosse tempo?

It could just be a misprint [Andromache ~ Hector], or more interestingly it’s what Andromache thought Hector should have thought, which would be atypical either for Mandel’shtam or for lyric poetry in general.

Rather than a misprint, the mistake is surely the idea that the poem is about Troy rather than about Mandel’shtam’s own experience. Mikhail Gasparov investigates this point rather systematically and concludes that the speaker cannot be any Greek or Trojan, not even Paris in relation to Oenone.

So perhaps it was a misprint, but the intended meaning was wrong as well…

 

Are languages important?

September 27, 2017

Never mind which languages, the question is are any foreign languages important in the English-speaking world?  After all, if you live in some non-Anglophone country you probably need English both for foreign travel and for doing business with the rest of the world, while for an English-speaker the only real need is when you have to sell stuff to foreigners.  And that’s stuff as in stuff, since the English language may be part of the attraction of services like education.

The CBI Skills Survey for 2017 suggests that employers are not satisfied with graduates’ foreign language skills:

cbi_gradsat

but also do not regard them as particularly important:

cbi_gradfac

…unless of course they come under ‘Degree Subject’…

Available surveys do not really show any particular premium for graduates in foreign languages.  A survey with rather unclear methodology looks at average [mean] starting graduate salaries as at October 2016, with some results we have summarised:

170927t3

So it appears that starting salaries for what appear to be language-based degrees are a little above the average for humanities and a little below the overall average.  By way of comparison, the highest and lowest salaries are shown below:

170927t4

A more systematic exercise (but with less detailed subject classifications) published by DfE gives median earnings in 2014/15 for those graduating in 2008/09.  As before, we would be hard-pressed to claim a particular premium for Languages:

170927t5

Finally, what looks like a very thorough study by the IFS is more interested in various factors such as socio-economic background, prior attainment and institution status but gives some rather discrepant information for males and females:

ifs_mal

ifs_fem.png

So ‘Lang Lit’ (which must be basically English in terms of numbers) looks like a pretty good deal for women but not for men.

We conclude that there is no real excess demand for graduates in modern foreign languages demonstrated by either employer preferences or salaries achieved…