In our January 2010 diary we report on the European Commission’s revelation that language related services amount to one of the biggest earning sectors in the region, but more needs to be done to raise awareness of these skills and resources.
Business generated by Europe’s translation providers and other language teaching services is estimated to have been worth $12bn in 2008, according to research published by the EU last month.
The report, commissioned by the EU’s translation service, said that the language industry is growing faster than any other sector in Europe, with expansion estimated to continue at 10%. But researchers warn that because the industry is so diverse, spread across activities ranging from in-company translation, software development and subtitling of films and television programmes, its impact is often overlooked.
One indication that this could change comes from evidence that investment companies are showing growing interest in the sector, the report’s writers say. They point to evidence from eastern Europe where a small number of players are dominating translating services.
The report also highlights a growing acceptance of machine translation tools. This is in response to a shortage of human translators and improved accuracy of computer-assisted translation.
The translation and interpreting sector dominates the language industry, with an estimated value of $8bn in 2008, while language teaching was the next biggest sector, estimated to be worth $2.3bn.
Singapore set to test foreign workers’ English skills
Foreigners seeking visas to work in Singapore’s service sector will have to sit a test of English from later this year as part of a government campaign to raise English standards.
Details of the test have yet to be revealed but Lee Yi Shyan, minister for manpower, told the Straits Times newspaper that the move was aimed at raising English language skills in the retail, food and beverage and hotels sectors. It comes after prime minister Lee Hsien Loong decried foreigners in service jobs who could not distinguish between phrases such as “chilli” or “no chilli”.
The government will also offer employers the opportunity to reduce a levy on foreign employees from $170 to $100 if they can prove that new staff are proficient in English.
Malaysia speeds return of Bahasa
Bahasa Malay will replace English as the medium of instruction in maths and science classes in Malaysia’s schools in 2011, a year earlier than scheduled, said education minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. The government had the resources to implement the policy sooner than planned, he said.
Muhyiddin said that English language standards had not benefitted from the use of the language for teaching. “[Students’] proficiency in the language currently should not just be average and drastic measures are needed to address this problem,” Muhyiddin told the Bernama news agency last month.
He said foreign teachers would be recruited to act as “master teachers” to improve standards of English language tuition alongside new textbooks and language labs.
Dutch eyes in Sweden’s schools anger unions
Sweden’s schools inspectorate has called in a Dutch education consultancy to review English language teaching at 30 secondary school, angering Swedish teaching unions.
A team of inspectors from Cito, the international assessment and testing company based in the Netherlands, will assess English language teaching for 11- to 16-year-olds under a contract worth $700,000.
Teaching unions expressed surprise at the decision. “I question how a Dutch firm can study a Swedish school. What requirements do they have to judge Swedish schools?” Metta Fjelkner, chair of the National Union of Teachers, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.