Apprendimento delle lingue meglio se precoce – sostiene un rapporto della CfBT

26 06 2012

Un numero sempre crescente di studenti in tutto il mondo sta imparando una lingua straniera in età precoce: addirittura a partire dai tre anni di età. Almeno 11 paesi hanno abbassato l’età in cui i bambini cominciano l’apprendimento di una seconda lingua. Spagna e Belgio hanno abbassato l’età dell’inizio dell’apprendimento di una seconda lingua straniera a tre anni. La scuola St Paul in Brighton, Gran Bretagna,  ha introdotto le lezioni di spagnolo per i bambini di tre anni.

Un recente rapporto della CfBT curato da Teresa Tinsley  e Therese Confort  rivela che dei 21 paesi dell’Organizzazione per la Cooperazione Economica e lo Sviluppo l’ Inghilterra dedica meno tempo per l’ insegnamento delle lingue tra i nove e gli 11 anni.

Solo il 3 per cento del  curriculum è dedicato al tema rispetto al 25 per cento del Lussemburgo ed al 13 per cento della Grecia.

Tra i paesi in cui l’apprendimento delle lingue è ancora volontario nelle scuole primarie vi sono, secondo il rapporto: Inghilterra, Galles, Irlanda del Nord, Australia, Irlanda e Stati Uniti.

L’insegnamento delle lingue straniere è  in declino negli Stati Uniti. Nel 2008 il Dipartimento dell’ Educazione degli Stati Uniti ha riferito che la percentuale delle scuole elementari che offrono l’insegnamento della lingua straniera era sceso a un quarto di tutte le scuole elementari. Il governo guidato da Obama ha cercato di rimediare a questo, ma la politica dell’istruzione negli Stati Uniti è fortemente decentrata. ” I Paesi di lingua inglese dedicano il minor tempo di apprendimento alle lingue straniere”, sostienee il rapporto. Essi sono, aggiunge poi , “in ritardo rispetto al resto del mondo”.

Oltre a dedicare la minor quantità di tempo al soggetto,  i paesi anglofoni mostrano anche le più basse aspettative dei loro allievi.
Infatti nel rapporto  si sostiene che : “ Nei paesi di lingua inglese non c’è una lingua che tutti vogliono imparare”.

Infatti nel  Regno Unito  si è per lungo tempo sostenuto che imparare un’altra lingua non fosse necessario perché l’inglese era la lingua universale del business. Tuttavia, la relazione conclude: “L’ipotesi che gli inglesi non abbiano bisogno di imparare altre lingue, perché gli altri apprendono l’inglese, è dannosa per la nostra economia”.

Il rapporto non determina  l’età ottimale per l’apprendimento di una lingua straniera, ma sostiene che un inizio precoce è essenziale.

Il fascino di un antico dizionario francese on line

18 06 2012

Special Languages

12 06 2012

In general, a special language is a sort of mode of expression (words, expressions, technical terms, etc..)  in a specialist field, in particular (but not limited to) technical or scientific. In this sense, the special language has affinities with the professional jargons  ( jargon of the trade, of the web), which represents an evolution, although it is distinguished by the greater precision and in some cases (e.g. the language of mathematics or physics) for the explicit formalization. Special language is a language used in a subject field and characterized by the use of specific linguistic means of expression.

The concept of  special language is that it represents a way to express a technical sector and, in general, it is  difficult to understand for the layman while it is very common to the speaker. The expression itself is explained in dictionaries, as: “language used in certain specialized areas and characterized by a technical terminology that often differs from the common vocabulary meanings or uses it in detail” . In such a paraphrase  it seems difficult to avoid tautological formulations (… … used in industry sectors) and vague (… determined … often …). There are “fields”, eg. : hydraulics, probability theory, the volcanoes, but also broader areas, such as areas of sport, medicine, law, cited  under sector language. The medical sector, for example, includes all that pertains to many medical disciplines (medicine language): the language of the medical sector, therefore, corresponds to the sum of the languages of the various medical fields namely, all they shared. However, given the dynamics of research and continuous formation of new disciplines, the jargons of the various branches tend to be rather disjoint sets. On the other hand, the medical  law intersects in forensic medicine and sports medicine, both composed in turn by sub-disciplines such as forensic toxicology, trauma care and other sports.

As for the types of special languages  it may be roughly  possible to distinguish three broad categories. The first appears in the communication on practical activities, aimed at producing goods or materials in areas such as, for example: agriculture, embroidery, microelectronics, or the provision of services in areas such as transport and  computer. The second is connected to the communication of orders primarily theoretical and scientific framework of the humanities and social sciences (such as history, philosophy, linguistics, etc..). The third has in common with the second  the feature of the scientific theory with reference to the natural and exact sciences like mathematics, physics, biology.

The jargons are also characterized by vertical articulation . At high levels a jargon usually puts the technical language theory, used in connection with the formal registers, especially in texts such as scientific treatises. At low levels lies the specific language and practical application, used in written texts such as instruction manuals, and often together with  informal spoken texts such as technical conversation in the workshop or laboratory. Conversely the special language of advertising, is what distinguishes professional experts (advertising, graphic) from the mode of use by applicants in advertisements ( advertising and language).

The picture is further complicated when considering areas such as education, military, religion. Both the internal communications of the institutions, and external, have a  plurality of special languages. In technical language centers, linked to the main function of the institution, are added as a constant fact the administrative  one( legal-administrative language) and others, usually more peripheral. In the school sector, eg., the specialized language of pedagogy is added to those for individual subjects.

There are also disciplines such as cosmology, physics and science, while historic, or mineralogy, interrelated in terms of the objects of study with the geology and petrology, on a methodological level with physics and chemistry, on the application with the gemology and ceramics. The increasing specialization of activities and knowledge, therefore the division of labor and technological progress is accompanied by  an extension of the areas relevant sectors. We have therefore also interdisciplinary connections between subjects traditionally distant, as archeology and astronomy and neurology and the economy, from which they develop archaeoastronomy and neuroeconomics. With the new branches of autonomous and areas multidisciplinary correlate jargons compounds.

This raises the question whether the special languages are to be represented primarily as a whole entity opposed to common language, or should be addressed primarily as distinct entities that, secondarily, share, as opposed to common language, a set of traits . What is certain is that the special languages, albeit difficult to determine, are constitutive components of the fields as necessary for the conceptual development and communication in general. For all these reasons it seems appropriate to speak of special languages in the plural, and give the concept a mainly heuristic value.


From a systemic point of view, languages are a type of sectoral  diphasic varieties (variety; diphasic variation), used in connection with thematic scope, and the common language is the variety  not marked on this axis of variation. As a general feature the special language indicates the nature of the technical vocabulary, intrinsically different from the expressions of a common language. These kind of the languages are also called sectoral sub-codes . Many words are formed, in fact, from Latin or Greek bases ( formative elements), or are mediated by other languages like English or French (as, for example: arachnophobia in psychology, computer science buffer), giving place  in technical terms (also called technicalities). But not all words are of such technical origin  ( Crisis, hobbies, etc..). Conversely,  not  a few technicalities are hereditary, ie expressions of the language are also taking common technical meanings, as happened for the time in physics  (Galileo, Einstein, science language), statistics, musicology or force in various disciplines. There is a formal criterion to distinguish a priori between technicality and common word. On the semantic level between the common meaning of an expression and its value as a technical term, there are scalar relations within which are at least the following types:

(A) high degree of semantic similarity between the two meanings (Distance geometry);

(B) share a semantic feature ( Connected mathematics);

(C) complete absence of shared semantic features ( Perfect in botany).

In the systems perspective, a constitutive feature of jargons is monosemy: monosemy when you have a technical term that belongs to a sub-code and has a single meaning. This is known also for uniqueness in the relationship between technicality and meaning. When such a particular meaning in turn  can not be expressed using a single technicality, thus excluding the existence of synonyms, one speaks of biuniqueness.

While the common word can only provide a paraphrase on the value assumed in the use, in many specialized areas it is a rather a constant need to fix the relationship between metalinguistic statements through the technicalities and what they mean. It occurs in particular when possible,  in the intensional definition of Aristotelian logic: the statement that contains the definition consists of the categories of proximate genus and specific difference.
The terminology in the strict sense represents therefore, often in hierarchical structures, precisely the sort of a conceptual framework. Sometimes even the terminology is meant by the set of terms unique to a specific language (eg. dimethylarsinate in chemistry, anadiplosis in rhetoric, etc..). In areas such as biology and chemistry there are also classifications, closed sets of terms  cover very large areas in a systematic discipline. Among the entities whose terms make up the lexicon  there is not necessarily a defined ratio in a rigorous manner; it is sufficient just training to the existence of an element of differentiation portrayable in accordance with rules established . Sometimes the term is used synonymously with the nomenclature of terminology, sometimes as hyponym, in reference to concrete objects alone, discipline or sense of ‘standardized terminology’.

The specialized lexicography has the task of describing the full range of technicalities, those applicants in communication with specialized technical value but not formally defined, the frequent synonyms (eg.: equilateral, equiangular, regular geometry), the technicalities  of the standardized terminology . Prescriptive, however, is the production of terminology standards by national and international organizations, to facilitate communication and to counteract the effects of exponential growth of special vocabulary.

The existence of nomenclature or terminology of technical definitions and built in patterns of word formation to their single discipline is considered the standard by which to discern the systemic approach the so-called special languages within the category of specialized language. Interconnections with the common language, however, remain narrow , even outside of lexical transfers from the common language to specialized language (specialized use of common words as the time) and back (figurative or extended use of technical terms:  the definition of depression in psychology and the meaning of ” just temporary discouragement ” that it can have in spoken language. Thus, to avoid vicious circles in which the definition appears a technical term not defined elsewhere, at least at the highest hierarchical level it occurs necessarily an expression of the common language . Larger then is the semantic extension of a term and the more they tend to lower the accuracy and increase intensional conflicting definitions. 

The cognitive functions of the specialized communication lead us to consider the technical competence of the interlocutors as a mental representation of knowledge systems . In this perspective it is clear that the barriers of communication, brought back a lot of criticism in the use of linguistic technicalities and  are not adequately explained by experts . A precondition for the proper functioning of the communication is a level of general education which will enable stakeholders to understand secular knowledge to their complex nature.

Did you know?

6 06 2012

The European Commission’s Translation Directorate has 1,750 translators who translated 2.1 million pages in 2011.