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Noticias Locas

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Screen Shot 2013-08-11 at 12.19.26Have you discovered the Noticias Locas site? As the name suggests, it’s a collection of mad news items that makes a change from politics, crime and sport. Not just good news stories like Martyn Lewis‘ ‘And finally…’ but some absolutely bonkers ideas. Whilst some are of a slightly risqué nature (I’m amused by the kama sutra illustrated by sock monkeys but not sure I’d be thanked for bringing it to the attention of a class!) I think that many could be used in the KS3+ classroom for reading – they’re certainly  “short texts” – and would certainly raise a smile or an eyebrow!

Some examples –

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Si son de esas personas que no pueden parar de tuitear, aún estando de vacaciones, este nuevo hotel, ambientado alrededor de Twitter, en Magaluf, España, es perfecto para ustedes.

La cadena española de hoteles Meliá, tuvo la brillante idea de abrir un hotel en donde, quienes allí se hospedan, interactúen entre ellos y con el personal del establecimiento a través de Twitter.

Gonzalo Echeverría, gerente general del hotel, explica que ¨es un nuevo paso que da nuestro hotel para satisfacer las expectativas de la gente¨, considerando que las nuevas tecnologías ya son parte de la vida cotidiana de muchísimas personas.

Dentro de la comunidad virtual creada dentro del hotel, también se ofrecen juegos y distintos modos de entretenimiento, siempre dentro de las redes sociales.

Así que si quieren conocer mucha gente nueva, pero a través de una pantalla, este hotel es para ustedes.



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Tony ¨Heladera¨ Phoenix-Morrison recorrerá 1.053 millas con una heladera de 42 kilos y medio en la espalda,, desde John O’ Groats hasta Land’s End, en Gran Bretaña.

Esto quiere decir que este hombre de 49 años, con cuatro hijos y dos nietos, correrá el equivalente a 40 maratones, durante 40 días seguidos, acarreando un peso similar al de 40 ladrillos.

Pueden pensar que está loco, pero ésta no es la primera vez que Tony corre distancias enormes con una heladera atada en la espalda. Ya varios lo conocen por las maratones que corrió juntando dinero para misiones solidarias.

Aunque ya lo ha hecho antes, Tony admite que ésta será probablemente ¨la última maratón que corra con la heladera en este país¨, razón por la cual quiere que sea especial. También aclaró que ¨no está asustado en lo absoluto, pero hay algunas montañas y subidas en el recorrido que serán brutales¨.

Ésta última carrera será en beneficio de la fundación Bobby Robson, así que le deseamos a la ¨Heladera¨Phoenix la mejor de las suertes.


And one for cat fans…

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Luego de recaudar más de 100 mil libras en el sitio de financiamiento colectivo Indiegogo, Lauren Pears anunció que el 1 de julio abrirá su esperado ‘Cat café”. Aunque estos bares felinos son muy comunes en Japón, será el primero en Londres, por lo que Pears aprovechará la ansiedad de los miles de colaboradores y cobrará cinco libras por entrar al café, aunque no especificó si habrá tarifas para acariciar a las mascotas.

La ‘loca de los gatos’, que tiene 30 años, dijo que “el plan es tener entre 10 y 15 gatos en el lugar, con un máximo de 40 o 50 personas al mismo tiempo y que la gente disfrute de un café en la compañía de un felino”, y agregó que tiene “más de 300 aplicaciones de interesados en trabajar en el local”. Por otro lado, la emprendedora no realizó comentarios sobre la caja de piedras que necesitará el nuevo café.


I’ll leave you to discover other marvellous news stories such as the unusual chocolates produced by one UK company, the alarm clock that shocks you out of bed and the thieves that stole a goat just to give it a pedicure.

An interesting report on Teaching Languages in schools across Europe was published a few days ago.

Key Data on Teaching Languages at School in Europe 2012 is a joint Eurydice/Eurostat publication, produced in close cooperation with the European Commission. The report is based on four main data sources: Eurydice, Eurostat, the European Survey on Language Competences (ESLC), and the OECD’s PISA 2009 international survey. Eurydice data covers 32 countries (27 Member States, Croatia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Turkey) and takes the reference year 2010/11. [The report] contains 61 indicators and qualitative information describing the context and organisation of foreign language teaching, student participation levels as well as the initial and continuing education of foreign language teachers. In addition to giving a snapshot of the situation today, the report also presents several time series which are helpful in identifying trends in language teaching over recent years and past decades.

You can see the highlights of the report in the document below, or read the full version by clicking on the image on the left.

Some of the key points however are –

1. Students start learning foreign languages from an increasingly early age. It makes me really sad to see the UK block at 11 years old after all the hard work done to make it 7. And you can see that we’re far behind many other countries in Europe.

2. More students learn two foreign languages. Not in the UK though it seems.

3. English by far is the dominating foreign language in Europe. 

4. Very few students learn languages other than English, French, Spanish, German or Russian.

5. Students’ perceptions of the usefulness of a language is a motivating factor for learning – and English is by far seen as the most useful.  Perhaps this, and point 3, explain some of the UK’s language “apathy”? Trips are also pointed out as a motivating factor.

6. Teaching guidelines for foreign languages place equal emphasis on all communication skills – and yet both teachers and students make infrequent use of the target language in the classroom. Interestingly, the UK is not on the graphic for this section – I wonder why?

7. The Common European Reference Framework (CEFR) is becoming a main tool for defining student attainment levels. Also interesting to note that the UK is one of the few countries in Europe (along with Spain, Netherlands, French speaking Belgium and a few others) without an expected level of proficiency in a second language by school leaving age.

8. School reports difficulties filling vacancies for language teachers. I know a few great language teachers who would love a job!!

9. Few countries require teachers to spend an immersion period in the target language country. The UK does have recommendations about this, and also about the content of ITT. However, I think they could go further. You should have to visit regularly as well to keep ‘up to date’. Why not have funded sabbatical periods – even a week would be good – to revitalise your skills every two or three years? And I don’t mean a trip on which you’re supervising children, nor do I mean a week of sunbathing on the Italian riviera. Perhaps shadowing a colleague, or investigating something that interests you. And immersing yourself in a language and culture that you love.

I wonder if anyone who makes decisions about languages has read this report properly? Or have they just seen the ‘English is the most useful’ and thought ‘That’s Ok then’?

Below is a press release from CILT / CfBT – interesting stuff!

CfBT Education Trust to provide curriculum support for languages

International education charity CfBT Education Trust has been selected as the preferred provider of curriculum support for languages in primary and secondary schools in England. The contract from the Department of Education (DfE) runs until March 2013.

Neil McIntosh, Chief Executive of CfBT Education Trust, said: “We are
delighted at the success of our proposal. It marks the beginning of a
renewed emphasis on support for languages in schools. CfBT’s record of
success in school improvement, partnering with CILT’s considerable assets
and expertise, developed over many years of service to the languages
community, has proved a winning combination.

“We aim to work with organisations and individuals across the country who
share our passion and ambition for languages. We are determined to
ensure that the resource provided by the government achieves maximum
impact on schools and learners.”

Kathryn Board, Head of CILT, added: “Both primary and secondary schools
continue to need high quality support. This support is essential to sustain
and develop languages in the curriculum and raise the numbers of young
people taking languages to GCSE and beyond. Our proposal is to develop
new models of mutual support within the new structures for teacher training
and CPD. This will underpin the drive for an improvement in languages.”

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Thanks to Liz Fotheringham last week for telling me about this wonderful site!

As it explains here,

Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator.
Google News automatically groups news tories with similar content and places them based on algorithmic results into clusters. In Newsmap, the size of each cell is determined by the amount of related articles that exist inside each news cluster that the Google News Aggregator presents. In that way users can quickly identify which news stories have been given the most coverage, viewing the map by region, topic or time. Through that process it still accentuates the importance of a given article.

What’s really great is that you can choose the country from which you’d like the headlines – the list includes Spain and Mexico as well as Germany and Austria which allow a comparison of headlines in the smae language. Canada is included as well as France but the headlines are in English!


And there’s a tool bar at the bottom as well where you can choose the type of news that you’d like included.

Here I’ve just selected Sport in this screen shot :-

Another thing I like about this site is that if you hover on a headline, you get the beginning of the article plus a photograph. Just enough to give you more information about the headline, and just enough to be a ‘short text’. The ‘hover’ also tells you how many articles have been written on the same topic, and from which paper that headline came.

Liz mentioned it in the context of KS3 and 4 and using authentic materials for reading. I wholeheartedly agree – and would venture that it might be good to use with KS2 for

  • gist
  • looking for cognates
  • ICU about what’s in the news in other countries
  • comparing languages by using an unknown language eg by choosing Brasil or Netherlands
  • match the headlines
And that’s just a quick think!
I’m having a great time exploring. What do you think you could do with this site?


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I’m currently having a marvellous time playing with my new iPad and finding new apps for it, and my iPhone, so I thought I’d share one I like at the moment.

I’m starting with one that’s great on an iPod Touch or an iPhone – Newshound from Linguascope.

It’s an app that captures the news feed from Yahoo in French, Italian, German, French and English, allows you to browse the headlines, shows the first few sentences so you can decide if you want to read on, then takes you to the Yahoo article if it floats your boat!

I rarely get time to check the headlines online in English let alone Spanish, French or any other language, so having this on my iPhone allows me to check when I have a spare moment.

And if your school is lucky enough to have some iPodTouches, I’d definitely get this onto them.

Best bit – it’s free!

Uploaded on November 21, 2009 by eyesplash Mikul

There has been much debate about the status of Primary Language Learning, beginning when the General Election process led to the rejection of The New Primary Curriculum being added to the Statute books.  Will the entitlement become statutory or will, heaven forbid, PLL be abandoned?

Forums have been buzzing with ideas opinions and worries.

Today, Kate Board, Chief Executive of CILT wrote the following letter to one such fora:-

Dear colleagues

In light of recent discussions on the forum, we thought it important to clarify the current status of languages at Key Stage 2.

Key Stage 2 languages do not currently have the legal status to become statutory in September 2011. However, the entitlement to learn a foreign language in Key Stage 2 still stands, having come into effect this year.

As many of you are aware, reforming the primary curriculum was one of the key provisions removed from the Children Schools and Families Bill during consideration of Lords Amendments in April 2010. The introduction of statutory languages in Key Stage 2 from September 2011 was part of the proposed new primary curriculum and therefore was also removed from the Bill. (For more information, please see the Children Schools and Families Bill

The future shape of the primary curriculum and the statutory status of languages will depend on the policies of the new government. CILT is in close contact with Baroness Coussins, and others in a position of influence through the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages, and we are very grateful to her for raising this issue so prominently. We will continue to work together to encourage this dialogue and to promote the further development of language teaching in the primary school.

Kind regards,

Kate Board

Chief Executive

CILT, the National Centre for Languages

As far as I’m concerned, I passionately believe in Primary Languages and will fight for the continuance of a policy that gives pupils the right and entitlement to learn other languages during their Primary years.

Today sees the beginning of another wonderful offering from Radio Lingua Network as episode 1 of NewsTime Spanish is launched.

Made by a highly talented trio – Mark ‘Mr RadioLingua’ Pentleton, José ‘just say Edmodo and I melt’ Picardo and Chris ‘where’s it to?’ Fuller, this weekly podcast keeps you up to date with news from Spain and Hispanic countries.

In this week’s edition of News Time Spanish we’ll be looking at the major financial reform in Spain as a result of the ongoing issues around Europe. Other stories include:

  • UK elections news
  • Spanish sporting successes
  • Mexican/US immigration issues
  • Health problems in Spain

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and listen for free, whilst a Premium pass will allow you access to transcripts, exercises and a slower version of the audio.

Thanks to the BBC Mundo site for this multilingual greetings clip.

Un saludo diferente. La BBC celebra la llegada del 2010 en todas las lenguas en que su Servicio Mundial transmite programas de radio y publica páginas web.

El siguiente es el orden en que aparecen en el video: inglés, persa, uzbeko, swahili, ucraniano, birmano, ruso, bengalí, dari, árabe, portugués, mandarín, francés, cingalés, pashtún, azeri, serbio, hindi, indonesio, nepalí, kirundi, vietnamita, macedonia, somalí, tamil, kirguís, urdu, albanés, turco, cantonés, hausa y español.

I Love You In 100 Languages by michelleoshen
Attribution License

Just caught up with an article in The Independent on Monday with the headline –

Speak a second language for money happiness….. and sex.

Apparently, in a survey commissioned by Michael Thomas,

Britons who learn a foreign language are richer, happier and are regarded as sexier than those who can only speak English, according to a new study.

An average of £145,000 more earned over a lifetime? Linguists easier to match for dating agencies as they are seen as more intelligent and sexier? Can this be true?

I don’t know but I like the sound of it!

I read the above Tweet and decided to investigate.

It took me to Building Peace, the blog of Reach364, a Captain in the US Airforce and C-17 pilot, and a post that begins with a question –

Why should American military officers learn foreign languages? For that matter, why should Foreign Service Officers or any other representatives of the American government?

And whilst the context of the article is military, considering the situation in Afghanistan and Jordan, the comments Reach makes are relevant to language learning in general, not just in volatile situations.

Acknowledging that advances in technology and translation software mean that people can ‘talk’ to one another without being able to speak the language, Reach makes the following statement –

I still believe learning human languages the old fashioned way is important. Why? This is the crux: foreign language ability is not just about converting information from one format to another. It’s about human relationships.

He talks of language as ‘a way of building relationships, of winning trust.‘ Couldn’t agree more. How many times have I been met with a beaming smile and extra special attention because I spoke in Spanish, French, Catalan, or even when I attempted to speak German in Switzerland? I see it as a mark of respect to attempt to communicate in someone’s language, even if it is a job to get your mouth around the sounds and intonation. I’ve mentioned before that some of my favourite and most rewarding teaching experiences have been when pupils have led, sharing their experiences and language with joy and pride – and been amused by my efforts!

As Nelson Mandela said –

Reach concludes –

Language is extremely hard. We need as many language solutions as we can get, and technology certainly can and should help fill the gap. But no matter how good the technology gets, no matter how prevalent English becomes, old-fashioned speaking of a foreign language still matters.

Certainly with him there.

What do you think?

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