Modern languages

21st March 2003 at 00:00
This article provides a host of compelling arguments to counter the familiar refrain: "I'll never go abroad and anyway everyone speaks English." At the start of Year 7 a few salient extracts will put language learning in context while an in-depth discussion of the issues in Years 9 and 11 might persuade pupils to continue with the subject.

Translation blunders will raise a smile with any age group and help to drive home the message that languages matter. "Fat liver, house fact" (foie gras, fait maison) on a French menu illustrates the importance of good dictionary skills while the following instruction in a Japanese car rental brochure is wonderfully quaint: "When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then tootle him with vigour."

Experimenting with translation software is another source of amusement with a serious purpose. For example, "I'm fed up with your whining" translated into Spanish and back again on http:babelfish.altavista.com comes out as: "Me very of they are tired with its gimoteo."

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