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2014 Federal Plain Language Report Card

January 29, 2015 Comments off

2014 Federal Plain Language Report Card
Source: Center for Plain Language

Each year, the Center for Plain Language evaluates how effectively federal departments comply with letter and the spirit of the Plain Writing Act of 2010. In 2014, each department received 3 grades:

  • Compliance
  • Writing
  • Information Design

MPI Releases Detailed Data Profiles of Unauthorized Immigrants and Estimates of Deferred Action Populations for Top U.S. Counties

January 16, 2015 Comments off

MPI Releases Detailed Data Profiles of Unauthorized Immigrants and Estimates of Deferred Action Populations for Top U.S. Counties
Source: Migration Policy Institute

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) today released data profiles of unauthorized immigrants in the 94 U.S. counties with the largest such populations, including detailed information on population size, countries of origin, recency of arrival, educational enrollment and attainment, health insurance coverage, poverty levels and potential eligibility for the two deferred action programs launched by the Obama administration.

The profiles for the 94 counties, which are home to approximately two-thirds of the 11.4 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, are the latest addition to a unique data tool that offers detailed information on this population at national and state levels, including those potentially eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or the recently announced Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program. Using an innovative MPI methodology that takes U.S. Census Bureau data and imputes legal status for noncitizens, the tool also provides estimates of the age, gender, parental and marital status, top languages spoken, labor force participation and home ownership rates for unauthorized immigrants.

The county profiles reveal that the top five counties with the largest populations potentially eligible for relief from deportation through DACA or DAPA — Los Angeles, CA; Harris, TX; Orange, CA; Cook, IL; and Dallas, TX — account for 1.1 million people, over one-fifth of the total potentially eligible population nationwide, which MPI estimates at 5.2 million.

U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Release Joint Guidance to Ensure English Learner Students Have Equal Access to High-Quality Education

January 8, 2015 Comments off

U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Release Joint Guidance to Ensure English Learner Students Have Equal Access to High-Quality Education
Source: U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice

The U.S. Departments of Education (ED) and Justice (DOJ) today released joint guidance reminding states, school districts and schools of their obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students have equal access to a high-quality education and the opportunity to achieve their full academic potential.

The guidance explains schools’ obligations to:

  • identify English learner students in a timely, valid and reliable manner;
  • offer all English learner students an educationally sound language assistance program;
  • provide qualified staff and sufficient resources for instructing English learner students;
  • ensure English learner students have equitable access to school programs and activities;
  • avoid unnecessary segregation of English learner students from other students;
  • monitor students’ progress in learning English and doing grade-level classwork;
  • remedy any academic deficits English learner students incurred while in a language assistance program;
  • move students out of language assistance programs when they are proficient in English and monitor those students to ensure they were not prematurely removed;
  • evaluate the effectiveness of English learner programs; and
  • provide limited English proficient parents with information about school programs, services, and activities in a language they understand.

Almost 5 million students in the United States are English learners—about 9 percent of all public school students. From 2002 to 2011, the percentage of English learners in public schools increased in 40 states and the District of Columbia, and currently three out of every four public schools enroll English learner students.

The ecology of religious beliefs

January 5, 2015 Comments off

The ecology of religious beliefs
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Although ecological forces are known to shape the expression of sociality across a broad range of biological taxa, their role in shaping human behavior is currently disputed. Both comparative and experimental evidence indicate that beliefs in moralizing high gods promote cooperation among humans, a behavioral attribute known to correlate with environmental harshness in nonhuman animals. Here we combine fine-grained bioclimatic data with the latest statistical tools from ecology and the social sciences to evaluate the potential effects of environmental forces, language history, and culture on the global distribution of belief in moralizing high gods (n = 583 societies). After simultaneously accounting for potential nonindependence among societies because of shared ancestry and cultural diffusion, we find that these beliefs are more prevalent among societies that inhabit poorer environments and are more prone to ecological duress. In addition, we find that these beliefs are more likely in politically complex societies that recognize rights to movable property. Overall, our multimodel inference approach predicts the global distribution of beliefs in moralizing high gods with an accuracy of 91%, and estimates the relative importance of different potential mechanisms by which this spatial pattern may have arisen. The emerging picture is neither one of pure cultural transmission nor of simple ecological determinism, but rather a complex mixture of social, cultural, and environmental influences. Our methods and findings provide a blueprint for how the increasing wealth of ecological, linguistic, and historical data can be leveraged to understand the forces that have shaped the behavior of our own species.

Links that speak: The global language network and its association with global fame

December 23, 2014 Comments off

Links that speak: The global language network and its association with global fame
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Languages vary enormously in global importance because of historical, demographic, political, and technological forces. However, beyond simple measures of population and economic power, there has been no rigorous quantitative way to define the global influence of languages. Here we use the structure of the networks connecting multilingual speakers and translated texts, as expressed in book translations, multiple language editions of Wikipedia, and Twitter, to provide a concept of language importance that goes beyond simple economic or demographic measures. We find that the structure of these three global language networks (GLNs) is centered on English as a global hub and around a handful of intermediate hub languages, which include Spanish, German, French, Russian, Portuguese, and Chinese. We validate the measure of a language’s centrality in the three GLNs by showing that it exhibits a strong correlation with two independent measures of the number of famous people born in the countries associated with that language. These results suggest that the position of a language in the GLN contributes to the visibility of its speakers and the global popularity of the cultural content they produce.

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.

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.

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