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CA — Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages – Annual Report

November 12, 2014 Comments off

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages – Annual Report
Source: Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

Discusses the activities of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. It informs parliamentarians and Canadians about the status of official languages in Canada and contains recommendations to ensure full compliance with the provisions of the Official Languages Act. Examines Canada’s official languages in terms of political leadership, leadership in public administration, services to the public, language in the federal workplace, and promotion of linguistic duality.

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The cultural side of science communication

October 6, 2014 Comments off

The cultural side of science communication
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The main proposition of this paper is that science communication necessarily involves and includes cultural orientations. There is a substantial body of work showing that cultural differences in values and epistemological frameworks are paralleled with cultural differences reflected in artifacts and public representations. One dimension of cultural difference is the psychological distance between humans and the rest of nature. Another is perspective taking and attention to context and relationships. As an example of distance, most (Western) images of ecosystems do not include human beings, and European American discourse tends to position human beings as being apart from nature. Native American discourse, in contrast, tends to describe humans beings as a part of nature. We trace the correspondences between cultural properties of media, focusing on children’s books, and cultural differences in biological cognition. Finally, implications for both science communication and science education are outlined.

Investing in English Skills: The Limited English Proficient Workforce in U.S. Metropolitan Areas

September 25, 2014 Comments off

Investing in English Skills: The Limited English Proficient Workforce in U.S. Metropolitan Areas
Source: Brookings Institution

An analysis of the labor market characteristics of the working-age limited English proficient (LEP) population in the United States and its largest metropolitan areas reveals that:

Nearly one in 10 working-age U.S. adults—19.2 million persons aged 16 to 64—is considered limited English proficient. Two-thirds of this population speaks Spanish, but speakers of Asian and Pacific Island languages are most likely to be LEP. The vast majority of working-age LEP adults are immigrants, and those who entered the United States more recently are more likely to be LEP.

Working-age LEP adults earn 25 to 40 percent less than their English proficient counterparts. While less educated overall than English proficient adults, most LEP adults have a high school diploma, and 15 percent hold a college degree. LEP workers concentrate in low-paying jobs and different industries than other workers.

Most LEP adults reside in large metropolitan areas, but their numbers are growing fastest in smaller metro areas. Eighty-two percent of the working-age LEP population lives in 89 large metropolitan areas, and 10 metro areas account for half of this population. Large immigrant gateways and agricultural/border metro areas in California and Texas have the largest LEP shares of their working-age populations. Smaller metro areas such as Cape Coral, Indianapolis, and Omaha experienced the fastest growth in LEP population between 2000 and 2012. Los Angeles was the only metro area to experience a decline.

Educational attainment and the native languages of LEP adults vary considerably across metro areas. The share who have completed high school ranges from 33 percent in Bakersfield to 85 percent in Jacksonville. Spanish is the most commonly spoken non-English language among LEP adults in 81 of the 89 large metro areas, but the share varies from a low of 5 percent in Honolulu to 99 percent in McAllen.

Most working-age LEP people are in the labor force. A majority across all 89 large metro areas is working or looking for work, and in 19 metro areas, at least 70 percent are employed. Workers proficient in English earn anywhere from 17 percent to 135 percent more than LEP workers depending on their metro location.

Circumlocution in Diagnostic Medical Queries

July 9, 2014 Comments off

Circumlocution in Diagnostic Medical Queries
Source: Microsoft Research

Circumlocution is when many words are used to describe what could be said with fewer, e.g., “a machine that takes moisture out of the air” instead of “dehumidifier”. Web search is a perfect backdrop for circumlocution where people struggle to name what they seek. In some domains, not knowing the correct term can have a significant impact on the search results that are retrieved. We study the medical domain, where professional medical terms are not commonly known and where the consequence of not knowing the correct term can impact the accuracy of surfaced information, as well as escalation of anxiety, and ultimately the medical care sought. Given a free-form colloquial health search query, our objective is to find the underlying professional medical term. The problem is complicated by the fact that people issue quite varied queries to describe what they have. Machine-learning algorithms can be brought to bear on the problem, but there are two key complexities: creating high-quality training data and identifying predictive features. To our knowledge, no prior work has been able to crack this important problem due to the lack of training data. We give novel solutions and demonstrate their efficacy via extensive experiments, greatly improving over the prior art.

CIA — Style Manual & Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications (8th Ed; 2011)

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Style Manual & Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications (PDF)
Source: Central Intelligence Agency (via National Security Counselors)

Good intelligence depends in large measure on clear, concise writing. The information CIA gathers and the analysis it produces mean little if we cannot convey them effectively. The Directorate of Intelligence and the Agency as a whole have always understood that. Both have been home, from their earliest days, to people who enjoy writing and excel at it.

The Style Manual and Writers Guide for Intelligence Publications is an essential reference for the officers of our Directorate. Now in its eight edition, it reflected an enduring commitment to the highest standards of care and precision.

This guide is designed to be helpful and convenient, sensible in organization, and logical in content. It contains, among other changes, a revised list of accepted acronyms and new tips on word usage. The world is not static. Nor is the language we employ to assess it.

Your Morals Depend on Language

June 25, 2014 Comments off

Your Morals Depend on Language
Source: PLoS ONE

Should you sacrifice one man to save five? Whatever your answer, it should not depend on whether you were asked the question in your native language or a foreign tongue so long as you understood the problem. And yet here we report evidence that people using a foreign language make substantially more utilitarian decisions when faced with such moral dilemmas. We argue that this stems from the reduced emotional response elicited by the foreign language, consequently reducing the impact of intuitive emotional concerns. In general, we suggest that the increased psychological distance of using a foreign language induces utilitarianism. This shows that moral judgments can be heavily affected by an orthogonal property to moral principles, and importantly, one that is relevant to hundreds of millions of individuals on a daily basis.

Close to Half of New Immigrants Report High English-Language Speaking Ability, Census Bureau Reports

June 11, 2014 Comments off

Close to Half of New Immigrants Report High English-Language Speaking Ability, Census Bureau Reports
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

In 2012, 44 percent of the foreign-born population age 5 and older who arrived in the United States in 2000 or later reported high English-language speaking ability, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released today. This means they either reported speaking only English at home or reported speaking it “very well” whether or not they did so at home.

About 13 percent did not speak English at all. By comparison, 63 percent of immigrants who arrived prior to 1980 had high English-speaking ability in 2012, while only 6 percent did not speak English at all.

A new report, English-Speaking Ability of the Foreign-Born Population in the United States: 2012, uses statistics from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to focus on the relationships between English-speaking ability and place of birth, level of education and years spent living in the United States.

See also: Foreign-Born Population of the United States: 2012

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