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December 27 2013

Dishing on Sino-American Relations

Chinese food culture constitutes a significant part in the Chinese language. Below is a part of an online fictional story on a conversation between Obama and Xi Jinping on Sino American relation explained and translated by Mary Ann O'Donnell:

With respect to the importance of Sino-American relations, we will eat deeply and throughly, because we haven’t any principle to eat. The way of the world is that big fish eat little fish, but Cold War thinking is no longer appetizing, and cooperating for mutual benefit is the only way to eat with gusto. Only if China and the United States join hands will the benefits be eaten together. There are those who eat at our table and secretly help others; they eat from the rice bowl of harming Sino-American relations.

December 22 2013

Innovation: A Spell Checker for Bambara Language

screen capture of Bambara spell checker via Fasokan

screen capture of Bambara spell checker via Fasokan

Fasokan in Mali reports on the creation of an app to help spell check texts in Bambara [fr] :

Il est disponible sur les traitements de texte et outils bureautiques libres et gratuit : Open Office, Libre Office, Néo Office, et sur les ordinateurs Windows, Mac, et Linux. Qu’est-ce qui a rendu ceci possible ? D’abord l’énorme travail fait par les linguistes qui ont publié des dictionnaires et des grammaires ces dernières années : ces dictionnaires sont maintenant disponibles sur ordinateur [..] Ces linguistes ont rencontré des informaticiens, tous ces gens là ont eu des rêves..

The spell checker is available on open source word processors and office software such as: Open Office, Libre Office, Neo Office, and on Windows, Mac, and Linux computers. What made ​​this possible? First, there was the enormous amount of work done by linguists who published dictionaries and grammar books that are now available online [..] These linguists came together with IT engineers with a dream of building a Bambara spell checker..

December 16 2013

Do You Speak Nouchi? Ivorian Politicians Would Like to Know

What is Nouchi [fr]? Let's start with what it is not: it is not Creole and it is not a dialect. Nouchi is a coded language that originated in the 70′s on the streets of Abidjan, the capital city of Côte d'Ivoire. It's a mix of French language and West African idioms. The purpose of the coded language was to protect communication between street hustlers away from the police forces. The language has grown and evolve so rapidly that many Ivorian politicians have incorporated [fr] some of the most popular expressions in their speeches. Here is a video of the Ivorian president Ouattara speaking Nouchi [fr]:

Blogger Behem from Abidjan lists the top 10 most-used expressions in Nouchi. Here are his top two [fr] :

1) Ya Foye : Foye signifiant Rien en Malinké, Ya Foye veut tout simplement dire « Il n’y Rien » dans le sens de « Rien à Signaler » « Tout va bien ». [..]
2) Etre enjaillé : Etre enjaillé de quelque chose signifie « Aimer » cette chose. On peut être enjaillé d’une musique, d’une petite go (Jeune demoiselle), d’une situation.

1) Ya Foye: Foye means Nothing in Malinke language,  Ya Foye simply means “There is nothing new”,  “Nothing to report” or “Everything is fine.” [..]
2) Being enjaillé: Being enjaillé with something means “being love” with something. One can be “enjaillé” with a music, a Go (a young lady in Nouchi) or a situation.

December 15 2013

The Art of Fake Sign-Language Interpretation at Mandela's Memorial Service

Firstly, the event, Nelson Mandela's memorial service, was one of the biggest gatherings of world leaders. Then there was the booing of South Africa's president Jacob Zuma, and Obama, Cameron, Schmidt ‘selfie’ at the service. And finally, the fake deaf sign-language interpreter!

Yes, Thamsanqa Jantjie, the Mandela memorial interpreter was fake. He was not using any recognizable sign language. Writing on Limping Chicken, a deaf news blog, Professor Graham Turner, Chair of Translation & Interpreting Studies at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh pointed out that:

He didn’t use South African Sign Language. In fact, he didn’t use any language. What he produced there was 100% authentic gibberish.

Thamsanqa Jantjie has claimed to have suffered from a schizophrenic episode that made him see angels and hear voices.

And then allegations surfaced that the ‘interpreter’ who stood a few meters away from world's leaders faced a murder charge in 2003.

The South African government has apologised for any offense caused by the sign-language interpreter.

Blogging on Thought Leader, South Africa writer Sarah Bitten pointed out that the fake interpreter showed the world that in South Africa you do not have to have any ability whatsoever to get a job:

In South Africa, the signing man told the world, you don’t actually have to know what you are doing in order to get a job. You don’t have to have any ability whatsoever, as long as it looks, to most, as though you can go through the motions — whether you are a teacher, a police officer, a bureaucrat, a government official or (as some have suggested) a state president.

There are those who see through you and complain, but they are ignored. Ours is not a culture of accountability. So one gig leads to the next. You’ve done it before so you get to do it again, because everyone in a position of power agrees that the emperor’s new threads are stylish. You stand there and tell us that the appearance of something becomes more important than the substance of it.

Many people wonder what he was saying. Several interpreters have emerged online to interpret him. YouTube user This is Genius posted humorous video below to show what the fake interpreter actually said:

Professor Graham listed 10 lessons from the fake interpreter saga.

1. Using a sign language fluently is not something one can do just by waving one’s hands around. Sign languages are grammatically-structured, rule-governed systems like all other natural human languages. You can’t produce meaningful signing off the cuff and – equally importantly – you can’t understand it spontaneously just by looking.

2. If you can’t sign, but require interpreting, you need reliable processes to help you identify effective provision. Interpreting isn’t a game: it should be run on a professional basis. This time, we saw a spectacular insult to the world’s Deaf people: but no-one died. Worldwide, every day, the result of inadequate interpreting leads to poor schooling, imprisonment, unemployment and health disparities. This must stop.

3. Without proper training, screening and regulation, people can and will take advantage. Even in countries like the UK, where sign language interpreting has become increasingly professionalised since the 1980s, smooth operators (who can talk the talk but not sign the sign) are legion. If you can’t sign, they may appear wholly plausible and be wholly bogus. Don’t guess and you won’t be fooled.

On Twitter, shocked users used the hashtag #fakeinterpreter to share their reactions to the revelation:

Apparently, it was not his first time as this YouTube video from 2012 shows:

December 12 2013

5 Influential People from Madagascar Who You Should Know

In the current polarized political atmosphere of Madagascar (after elections last month, a presidential run-off is scheduled for December 20, 2013), there are very few personalities who are unanimously revered by Malagasy citizens. Take a closer look at five modern figures from Madagascar who have made a difference in the African island country.

Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga, the Scientific Pioneer 

Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga via arom asso

Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga via arom asso CC-BY-2.0

Albert Rakoto Ratsimamanga [fr] is by far the most renowned scientist from Madagascar. He was made famous by his extensive work on better understanding the healing properties of the unique endemic flora of Madagascar. He is credited with about 350 scientific publications on topics ranging from the function of the adrenal gland to natural remedies for diabetes.

He said the following about the interplay between nature and the Malagasy population [fr]:

Nous devons avancer à notre rythme, nous devons avant tout avoir confiance en nous-mêmes et dans les vertus thérapeutiques de la nature. Car la nature et l'homme ne font qu'un.

We need to proceed at our own pace, we need to trust ourselves and the healing virtues of nature. In the end, nature and man are nothing but one and the same entity.

In the following video in French, Ratsimamanga explains the body of his work and his passion for research:

The interview notes :

(Rastimamanga) a mis au service de son pays le fruit de ses connaisances modernes conciliées au savoir empirique des guérisseurs malgaches 

(Ratsimamanga) served his country by combining his modern scientific methodology with the empirical knowledge of Malagasy healers. 

Still, his scientific achievement is only half of his life story. He was also a major contributor to the Malagasy movement for independence from France as the co-founder of the the Association of Malagasy Students (AEOM), one of the pioneer organization in the struggle against colonialism.

Cover of Gisele Rabesahala biography via ocean editions CC-BY

Cover of Gisèle Rabesahala's memoir via ocean editions CC-BY

Gisèle Rabesahala, the Patriot 

Gisèle Rabesahala was one of the leaders of the struggle for Madagascar's independence. She was a journalist and political activist who founded the newspaper Imongo Vaovao. She was also the first Malagasy woman elected in 1958 as a representative for the city council of Antananarivo, the capital city of Madagascar. She died in 2011, and the Internet was flooded with many tributes saluting her memory.   

Gradiloafo blog noted [fr] her many caritative efforts and her political activism: 

Dans le social, Gisèle Rabesahala a été la fondatrice de l'ONG Comité de solidarité de Madagascar ou « Fifanampiana malagasy » qui œuvre, en l'occurrence, dans l'aide aux démunis [..] Militante engagée dès son jeune âge dans la lutte pour la souveraineté du pays, elle était de tous les mouvements de jeunesse solidaires de la libération des pays sous la tutelle coloniale 

In her community work, Gisèle Rabesahala was the founder of the NGO “Fifanampiana Malagasy” [Solidarity for Madagascar], which strives to help the very poor [..] She was a committed activist at an early age in the struggle for sovereignty and was part of all the youth movements for the country's liberation from colonial rule.

Jean-Luc Raharimanana, the Guardian of Memory 

Raharimanana on flickr by Gangeous CC-BY-2.0

Jean-Luc Raharimanana. Photo from Flickr user Gangeous CC-BY-2.0

Jean-Luc Raharimanana is a Malagasy writer. By the age of 20, he had already won the Jean-Joseph Rabearivelo Poetry Prize for his early poems. His writings were recognized for their portrayal of the beauty of nature in its native home, but also its poverty and squalor, especially in the shanty towns. In his work, legends and old superstitions are juxtaposed with contemporary political events.

Catherine Bédarida, a literary critic from France, wrote about Raharimanana and his book “Nour, 1947″ [fr]:

 ”Nour, 1947″ son premier roman, est à la fois livre d'histoire, oratorio, récit poétique, pages battues par les vents, l'océan, le sel, le sang.  1947, c'est l'heure de l'insurrection malgache. La colonie française voit le retour de ses tirailleurs, enrôlés dans la deuxième guerre mondiale, qui rêvent de selibérer à leur tour de l'occupant. La répression fait des milliers de morts. [..] ” Les mots s'en sont allés et nous ont laissés sans mémoire “ : reconstituer la mémoire de Madagascar, telle est l'obsession du narrateur. 

“Nour, 1947″ is his first novel. It is all at once a historical fiction, an oral history, a poem battered by wind, sea, salt and blood. 1947 is the year of the Malagasy insurrection against the colonial period. French colonizers in Madagascar saw the return of the Malagasy legion that battled in France during WWII and now wanted to free their own nation from the settlers. The French repression killed thousands [..] He writes, “Words have come and gone and left us without memory”: this author's obsession is to reconstruct the memory of Madagascar 

Erick Manana, the Cultural Icon
Erick Manana is a singer and a songwriter described once as the “Bob Dylan of Madagascar”. His professional career as a musician began in 1982 as a member of the band Lolo sy ny Tariny. Manana is the recipient of several awards, and he performed at the historic Olympia venue in Paris to celebrate the 35th year of his career in 2013.

Uli Niebergall writes the following about Manana:

Manana's repertoire gracefully alternates between lyric ballads (e.g. “Tany niaviako”) and pop tunes with irresistibly wild and intricate rhythms (e.g. “Izahay tsy maintsy mihira”), and a grateful audience responds enthusiastically to every tone and syllable. Manana's lyrics often deal with the everyday life of Malagasy people. [..] Manana, however, doesn't limit himself to influences from his home country, but displays a distinct eclecticism in his choice of songs by other artists, both geographically and stylistically. For example, in reverence to Air Madagascar flying the distance between Paris and Antananarivo, he has remodeled “Amazing Grace” into a song called “Vorombe tsara dia” (The plane that flies well). He sings a Malagasy version of Leonard Cohen's “Suzanne” which sounds surprisingly fresh.

Here is a video of one of his most celebrated songs, “Izaha tsy maintsy mihira”:

Jacques Rabemananjara, the Political Prisoner  

Jacques Rabemananjara was a Malagasy politician, playwright and poet. Rabemananjara was born in town on the Bay of Antongil, on the Eastern Coast of Madagascar in 1913. Rabemananjara was recognized as the one of the most most prolific authors of the Negritude genre [fr], the literary and ideological movement developed by Francophone black intellectuals that rejected French colonial racism. Senghor, the famed Senegalese writer turned president, is the pioneer of the movement. He was suspected of being involved in the instigation of the failed 1947 Malagasy Uprising against colonial rule, despite the fact that he had urged the rioters to be calm. He was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labour.

Green Integer blog recalled his life's achievements

After leaving school, Rabemananjara became an organizer of the first union of Malagsy civil servants, and co-founded La Revue des Jeunes de Madagascar, a journal which expressed nationalist sentiments at odds with the French rulers, who forced the magazine, after 10 issues, to cease publication. During the war years in France he met members of the negritude group, including Léopold Sédar Senghor and Alioune Diop, who contributed to the African journal Présence Africaine. [..] In 1947, however, Malagasy revolutionaries attacked a French military installation. The authorities retaliated by killing or wounding eighty thousand Malagasies. And, although there is no evidence that his Mouvement democratique de Renovation Malgache party was involved, Rabemananjara was threatened with death, suspected of having organized the uprising. He was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor. His Antsa (Song), published in France in 1956, made him a national hero, and associated him even more closely with Senghor and Cesaire.

Rado, the Poet  

Georges Andriamanantena [mg], better known as Rado, is a renowned Malagasy poet who died five years ago. Yet his work has endured the test of time in Malagasy culture, including the Malagasy blogosphere.

Georges Andriamanantena via his facebook tribute page with permission

Georges Andriamanantena via a Facebook tribute page. Used with permission

Rado is a descendant of the rulers of the village of Amboanana in the Itasy Region, known as the home of the fiercest freedom fighters against French colonization. Tebokaefatra,  a malagasy blogger from Antananarivo,  wrote [mg] about how Rado's origins explained his unwavering patriotism:

“…ilay vohitra kely ao atsimon'Arivonimamo, izay nisehoan'ireo Menalamba sahy nanohitra voalohany indrindra ny Fanjanahantany teto Madagasikara. Araka izany koa dia mba nandova ny ran'ireo tia tanindrazana tsy nanaiky hozogain'ny vahiny.”

…the little village south of Arivonimamo, where the Menalamba, the fiercest and first opponents of colonization in Madagascar, originated. Rado inherited the patriotism of his forebearers who always refused any foreigners’ rule.

He valued his independence: even though he held a well paying job for a time, he resigned from that job and preferred to found his own newspaper called Hehy with his brother Celestin. He published seven books of poems, including Dinitra (1973), ny Voninkazo adaladala (2003) and ny fiteny roa (2008). Many of his poems were set to music by some of the most famous Malagasy artists. Maintikely, Malagasy blogger in Cape Town, RSA,  posted [mg] one of his poems. Here is an excerpt: 

Ho any ianao,kanefa….
Aza ataonao fantany izao fahoriako izao
Fa aoka hiafina aminy
Ny ketoky ny jaly
Nanempaka ny aiko,tanatin'ny longoa
Izay namandrihany ahy…
Ny dinitry ny foko manorika ahy mangina,
Fa sempo-tsasak'alina
Misaina ity anjarako,
Aza ataonao fantany!
Eny e ! Ampy izay.Tongava soa aman-tsara !
Dia akatony mora
Io varavarako io
Fa hitomany aho…
Rado, janoary 1966

You are meeting her, but…
Do not tell her about my suffering,
Let her ignore the bite of pain,
that is tearing up my being,
in the web she trapped me in,
My sweating heart that chokes me silently
at midnight
when I ponder my fate,
Do not let her know !
This is my message. Please do not forget.
And Adieu !
But before you go,
this hand of yours, do not touch anything with it,
until it links to hers…
Yes, that is it. Have a good journey.
And please do close that door
On my tears.
Rado, January 1996.

Mialy Andriamananjara contributed to this post.

December 10 2013

Introducing the Blogosphere of Russia’s North Caucasus

The Caucasus Network, 10 June 2013, photo by Sergey Ponomarev.

The Caucasus Network, 10 June 2013, photo by Sergey Ponomarev.

This is the introduction to an extensive RuNet Echo study of the North Caucasus blogosphere. Explore the complete report and personal stories on The Caucasus Network page.

Mari Bastashevski and Sergey Ponomarev have produced a series of texts and videos to describe the blogosphere of the Russian North Caucasus. While there are existing studies that address the use of social virtual space across all Russia (notably, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society has done valuable work in this field), virtually no information is available about the blogging world of the Russian North Caucasus. How similar are that region’s online dynamics to what exists in other parts of Russia and the world? To what degree does the North Caucasus’ blogosphere really belong to the “RuNet”?


The uniqueness and novelty of this study is that it reflects on differences within the Russian blogosphere between ethnic Russian bloggers and bloggers of North Caucasus. The conditions, themes, and approaches to Internet use and netizen activism vary significantly in comparisons of Russians and North Caucasian bloggers, and among North Caucasian bloggers themselves.

In this study, our researchers have focused on the region’s five key Russian republics: Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Ossetia. The study also addresses the North Caucasus’ most popular blogging mediums: image sharing, micro-blogging, status-updates, journaling, group organization, and independent domain blogging. The methods employed by Bastashevski and Ponomarev are both interactive, including interviews with individual bloggers, and observational, focusing on interpretative text analysis. Ponomarev traveled to the region and met directly with different popular bloggers.

Interactive Research

Bastashevski and Ponomarev identified and interviewed influential and representative bloggers from across the region’s social spectrum, gathering data for storytelling that captures narratives both individual and collective. The interviews consisted of semi-structured, open-ended questions.

Observational Research

The project also includes in-depth content analysis of the North Caucasus’ most popular blogs, studying multiple popular platforms, with particular focus on data collected from LiveJournal. In this section of the research, Bastashevski also spoke to ICT professionals, in order to grasp the industry-insider’s perspective.

While the study in not based in scientific arguments, the project’s focus on individual agency as revealed in personal storytelling gives the work a different kind of merit. Like quantitative work on the RuNet, this project does map the blogosphere of the Russian North Caucasus, but its methodology is qualitative and interpretive.


The blogosphere of the Russian North Caucasus is a hyperactive and rapidly developing community that has changed and expanded dramatically, particularly in the last two years.

Becoming a widespread form of self-expression at the turn of the century (with the arrival of mass Internet culture), blogging entered the North Caucasus’ mainstream shortly after its biggest cities “came online.” Gaining visibility with the earliest Internet cafes, the region’s first netizens were predominantly young men, using the Web for multiplayer computer gaming, text-based chat, and the exchange of multimedia. This trend, while still extremely popular, has shifted largely to 2G and 3G mobile devices. Developing largely by word of mouth, this early Internet-user culture appears to be an import from the Russian heartland.

The linkages between Russian and North Caucasian Internet cultures make sense, given national boundaries and the practicalities of telecommunications, but the blogospheres remain quite distinct. Both communities, of course, share a common language, just as the spread of English has promulgated particular blogging conventions prevalent in Europe and the United States. Indeed, as bloggers in the North Caucasus build their English language skills, it is possible that Anglophone netizen customs could spread to the region.

Bloggers in the North Caucasus regularly note the hostility and racism of the Russian online community (directed at North Caucasians) and make no secret that they would distance themselves from the Russian language blogosphere, if they could write in a different widely read language.

For now, bloggers in the Russian North Caucasus write mainly in Russian—a language they utilize (largely instrumentally) to expand their reach. This choice of language does not mean that the region’s bloggers write in an attempt to dialogue with ethnic Russians. The Russian tongue is simply the best lingua franca available to most bloggers in the North Caucasus, as that area’s native languages are rare indeed outside the region.

One unsurprising consequence of the strained relationship between Russians and the North Caucasian republics’ titular nationalities is a Russian comment culture that is often racist and aggressive towards those who are “dark-skinned.” Russian bloggers commonly resort to chauvinist tropes, and many are now dabbling in English language commentary, just as North Caucasians draw on Russian as a means to access broader audiences.

An overwhelming majority of bloggers in the North Caucasus uses LiveJournal as its main platform. While the region enjoys a thriving (and indeed growing) “echo chamber” of reposted and retweeted material, much of the community’s content is self-authored and original. Most of this material consists of text, but photo-blogging is increasingly popular.

Censorship and self-censorship are prevalent. Typically, the agents of surveillance and censorship are an intermediary set of individuals responsible for managing the region’s blogging platforms—people with vested business interests in the blogosphere’s continued stability. Police and other officials meddle indirectly with netizen content by manipulating these ICT professionals, who in turn intervene against bloggers. Bastashevski has interviewed individuals involved in this process.

General Findings

In terms of size and influence, Dagestan dominates the region’s blogosphere, followed closely by Ingushetia and Chechnya, with Ossetia and Kabardino-Balkaria trailing behind. Bloggers of the region’s online community author most of their own written content, complemented by photographs and various types of syndicated materials.

The blogosphere of the North Caucasus is a tight-knit community. Most of its active members are interested in issues local to the region and lack any real national or global reach. That said, the substance of their concerns and the subjects they address—along with the blogging methods they employ—are not all that different from what one finds in blogospheres worldwide.

Interviews suggest that the North Caucasus’ bloggers would happily interact with other netizens from within the region or around the country, but they assume their activity holds no interest for outsiders.

This study explores how blogging—a medium tailored to borderless exchange—led to such isolation and localization in the North Caucasus. As a survey of the region’s online communities, this material should appeal to anyone who wants to learn something about the North Caucasus. This research engages the region’s bloggers directly, separating it from the analyses of many foreign experts, who often write about the area’s culture and politics without interacting with the individuals there or ever visiting the place.

The study challenges many of the most common and often erroneous stereotypes about the North Caucasus, revealing and unpacking the normality obscured behind the exoticism and imagined differences popular in mainstream work about the region’s culture and netizens.

This is the introduction to an extensive RuNet Echo study of the North Caucasus blogosphere. Explore the complete report and personal stories on The Caucasus Network page.

December 09 2013

Ukraine: Translators Organize on Facebook to Provide Live #Euromaidan Updates

Volunteer translators following the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine have organized on Facebook, setting up pages like Maidan Needs Translators and Euromaidan Translators where urgent news from the protests that require translation to reach a wider international audience are shared and Euro-Maidan As It Is, where translated content is published.

The translators also provide content for counterpart English-language pages Euromaidan in English, Euromaidan Updates in English and Euromaidan News and Analysis [uk, en]. The process is very decentralized with volunteers not only carrying out translations but also suggesting fresh content.

Description on Maidan Needs Translators page reads:

Looking for those who are willing to translate for us and native speakers to proof-read. All help will be appreciated!

The pages that coordinate translations gathered hundreds of likes in just the first two days. Throughout the mass Euromaidan rally of December 8, Facebook volunteers played an important role, offering real-time translations of important news and developments.

Facebook in Guarani: What is Facebook Doing in Paraguay?

Image from Shutterstock. Copyright: 1000 Words.

Image from Shutterstock. Copyright: 1000 Words.

On December 3 in the former train station of Asunción, Facebook, the social network with 1.2 billion users, launched a Guarani language interface. The translation itself was carried out in conjunction with the Secretary of Linguistic Policies of Paraguay (Guarani is a native language that is spoken currently in the country and is the second official language, after Spanish).

Furthermore, with the objective to connect the whole country, a limited time promotion was launched that lets one access the social network for free from any cell phone.

It is the first official move of the gigantic start-up in our country and it comes to our attention: What is Facebook looking for in a market of only 6.9 million inhabitants?

Taking advantage of the presence of Laura Gonzalez Estéfani, Facebook's Director of Latin American Growth, we took a few minutes to chat and asked her:

Is it your first time in Paraguay?

Uy no, es la quinta vez que vengo por este proyecto. Estoy muy emocionada con él.

Ah no, it's the fifth time that I've come for this project. I'm very excited about it.

How has the growth of Facebook in Latin America been in recent years?

El crecimiento ha sido vertiginoso pero natural. Los latinonamericanos son sociales por naturaleza. Creo que los latinos han encontrado en Facebook una herramienta para expresarse mas allá de sus fronteras. Y si a eso añades, que Latinoamerica es “móvil por naturaleza” con una penetración de internet tan alta a través de teléfonos móviles, tienes que este gran crecimiento es algo casi lógico.

Growth has been staggering but natural. Latin Americans are social by nature. I think that Latinos have found in Facebook a tool to express themselves far beyond their borders. And if you consider that Latin America is “mobile by nature” with such a high level of internet penetration on mobile telephones, you will understand that this large growth is almost somewhat logical.

Why Paraguay?

Creemos en que la conectividad y el acceso a internet es un derecho fundamental para acceder a contenido pero también para mantener relaciones humanas. Nos encantaría conectar a todo el mundo y por eso este proyecto nos emociona tanto. Paraguay es el primer país en el que lo estamos probando.

We believe that connectivity and access to the internet is a fundamental right, in order to access content but also to maintain human relationships. We would love to connect the whole world and therefore this project really excites us. Paraguay is the first country in which we are trying it.

At this time, do campaigns or similar projects exist in other countries?

No te lo puedo adelantar, pero tan grande como éste, solo en Paraguay por el momento.

I can't divulge completely, but as big as this, only in Paraguay at the moment.

Where did the idea to launch a Guarani interface come from?

Cuando empezamos a conversar sobre este proyecto surgió la premisa de que “si vamos a conectar a todos los paraguayos, lo tenemos que hacer en su idioma”. Y así nació el proyecto.

When we started to discuss this project it became clear that “if we're going to connect all Paraguayans, we have to do it in their language”. And so the project started.

How many more users do you think you will attract with this campaign?

A todos. Queremos que todos los paraguayos mayores de 13 años tengan acceso a internet y sean usuarios de Facebook.

Everyone. We want all Paraguayans older than 13 to have access to the internet and to be users of Facebook.

How will you ensure that populations without telephones can access Facebook?

La idea es que con cualquier teléfono básico (sea más o menos smart) puedan aprovechar de esta campaña para tener Facebook gratis en todo el país. De todos modos, sé que se está trabajando en campañas especiales para que estos teléfonos sean mas accesibles y con una buena financiación.

The idea is that with any basic telephone (whether or not it's smart), they can take advantage of this campaign to have Facebook, free, throughout the whole country. At any rate, I know that there is work being done in special campaigns so that those telephones are more accessible and well-funded.

After the talk, Laura Gonzalez expressed the interest and willingness of Facebook to continue supporting access to the internet and thus to culture by utilizing these tools in our country.

Could it be an effective solution to close the digital divide? What do you think?

Article originally published in the blog Hallucina [es].

December 07 2013

China to Downplay English Language in Education

A language school in the Tianhe district of Guangzhou. Photo by Jussi Mononen CC: AT-NC-SA.

A language school in the Tianhe district of Guangzhou. Photo by Jussi Mononen CC: AT-NC-SA.

Efforts are underway in parts of China to strip English-language education of some of its importance within the country's school systems, a move that has been widely applauded online. 

The Beijing Municipal Education Commission has introduced a series of reforms to cool down enthusiasm for English in the education system since October 2013. The Commission has reduced the weight of the English ability test from 150 to 100 in the Gaokao, China's national higher education entrance examination. At the same time, the weight of the Chinese ability test will be increased from 150 to 180 in the new scheme that will go into effect in 2016.

English learning for primary school students will also be postponed from first grade to third grade.

The policy changes have been backed by Chinese Communist Party think tanks, such as the Intelligence Research Academy, whose head Zhang Shuhua argued in the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference that English-language studies were “destructive” to education as a whole. Zhang stressed that language studies should be treated as a means for social reform and development rather than an end.

Compared to Beijing, education authorities from other provinces have taken even more radical measures. For example, the Shandong government decided to cancel the English-listening test for Gaokao in 2014, while the Jiangsu government is considering excluding the English ability test altogether from the Gaokao.

These changes have received quite a lot of support from users on China's social web, where there is a tendency to see English and Chinese at odds with each other. For example, in the comment section of a popular local media outlet, Phoenix's special feature report about the policy change, a netizen from Guangxi wrote:



How many Chinese have been hurt by the English education? It should have been abolished long ago. English is a language and should be studied as such. But Chinese students force themselves to remember the English vocabularies as imprinted signs for exam purpose [...] For a period of time, some universities demanded that their students pass the English language examination as a precondition for their degree. Students are forced to spend all their time studying English and so neglect their own field.

Chinese is not only a language, it embodies our country's thousand-year culture. It covers both literature and humanity. Lifting the status of the Chinese language and cutting English from our education will benefit the country as well as the people.

An anonymous article widely circulated online even connected the policy with the official political propaganda of the Chinese Dream:

不立即废除英语高考,中国复兴梦是白日梦!【转】 学英语是是孩子的恶梦,中国人的肿瘤,应该做手术了。
[...] 为了学英语浪费了多少有志之士的心血?这是我国科技发展迟缓的一个重要因素。全民学英语是中国教育的一大失败,高层应当进行反思。

As long as the English test still is part of the Gaokao, the revival of the Chinese Dream is a daydream! [Repost] The English language is the nightmare of children, the tumor of the Chinese people. It's time for surgery [...] How many people have put in hours of work sweating over learning English? This is a factor contributing to the backward development of our country's science and technology. Elementary English education is a failure of the Chinese education system, and upper-ranking authorities should reflect on this.

Some educators are uneasy about such advocacy for radical changes. Educator Ling Zongwei (@凌宗伟1376361860) rebuffed the ideological argument:


How can a nation be revived by rejecting foreign language learning? How can it integrate with the world? I am a bit skeptical about the policy and inclined to believe that the abolition of English-language education and examination is a conspiracy.

Current affairs observer Xu Jianming (@许建民) also found the education campaign disturbing:


The movement calling for the abolition of English-language education and examination is getting stronger and stronger. Students are by nature lazy and don't want to take examinations. During the Cultural Revolution, students were against examinations. They beat up teachers and tore down schools. Everything came so naturally. Eventually they lost their time and their education and were regretful throughout their lives. In the time of economic globalization, the development of India is driven by their popular English education. I do agree that we don't need to make English-language education compulsory, but abolition is another story.

“Grey-pigeon silver-water” (@灰鸽子银水) believed that the policy will result in an educational divide:


According to my experience in teaching high schools in Shandong and Henan provinces, to exclude the English test from the Gaokao would mean to deprive poor children of the right to learn English. Another window in their lives will be closed. In coastal provinces, children from wealthy families are able to pursue tertiary education aboard, or they have the chance to join exchange programs while they are attending local universities. The opportunity to learn English is always there for them.

Indeed, Wang Haitao, vice president of New Oriental Education and Technology Group, a private education institute to train students’ language ability and examination skill, stated [en] that the decision will create new business opportunities for families looking to supplement their children's English language education.

So far, public opinion is in favor of the education reform: 72 percent of approximately 35,000 respondents in an online poll conducted by Sina Survey expressed their support for the changes to the national examination system. However, in another online survey conducted by state-owned broadcaster CCTV, the same percentage of voters want to have mathematics taken off of the Gaokao, believing that it is useless except for counting money:


Math prompts public complaints also, following hot discussion over Beijing's reduction of English-language points on the Gaokao. Many think math curricula are too difficult for students. Do we need to use geometric function in our daily lives when we're buying vegetables? The poll question “should math be taken off of the Gaokao?” received more than 70,000 yes votes from netizens, calling themselves “mathematics exercise machine [calculator]“.

December 06 2013

Top 4 Buzzwords that People in Japan Couldn't Stop Saying in 2013

In 2013, Japan had variety of newly introduced phrases and words. Image by Keiko Tanaka

In 2013, Japan had variety of newly introduced phrases and words. Image by Keiko Tanaka

Among the slew of new and popular words to emerge in Japan this year, only four have risen above the rest to win the honor of the 2013 New Buzzwords Award [ja], an annual distinction handed out by distance learning company U-Can and publishing firm Liberal National. 

In an unprecedented result, the four winners tied for first place out of 50 nominees. They are: 

1. Imadesho!

Meaning “how 'bout now?!”, the phrase was made popular by Hayashi Osamu, a lecturer who teaches modern Japanese at a specialized school known as a cram school, after he used it in the school’s commercial to express it is about time you start studying for exam.

2. O-mo-te-na-shi

Simply the spelling aloud of the Japanese word “omotenashi”, meaning hospitality, this buzzword was introduced to the Japanese language by Christel Takigawa, female news presenter who spoke at the final Olympic bid meeting for Japan. This word is used in the context of hospitality and warm welcomes that are deeply rooted in Japanese society.

3. Jejeje

Meaning “What? What?! WHAT!?”, the phrase entered the public's vocabulary thanks to the 2013 widely popular television drama “Amachan.” This is a dialect that is used by the main character when expressing surprise in the Tohoku region. She tries to become a celebrity idol in Tokyo, and finally returns to Tohoku to help revitalize the area after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

4. Baigaeshi

Also from a popular television drama, “baigaeshi” means “two-fold payback” or “revenge” and is the catchphrase of the main character on “Hanazawa Naoki,” a banker who stands up to his unreasonable boss.

Twitter user Yukihiro Matsumoto commented about the television link between all four of the top words:

With the Buzzwords Award, the fact that all four selected words have some basis in television just goes to show that television’s sphere of influence is larger than before.

Among others that entered into the top ten on the list announced on December 2, 2013 was “hate speech”, a word that was on the lips of many in 2013, a year that saw anti-Korea protesters, angry over the popularity of Korean products on the Japanese market, grow more vocal.

Other words in the top ten included “PM 2.5”, as it is commonly called, or atmospheric pollution in the form of particulate matter, which became a buzzword stoked by fears that neighboring China's pollution is reaching Japan; “Secret Protection Bill,” a controversial bill that would toughen penalties for leaking national secrets; and “Abenomics,” a sort of slogan for the administration of President Shinzo Abe’s economic policies.

Ascii art used to describe gekiokopunpunmaru, a new buzzword used in 2013 to express one's anger

Ascii art used to describe gekiokopunpunmaru, a new buzzword used in 2013 to express one's anger

Net Buzzwords Award

On the other hand, what seemed to garner even more interest was the “Net Buzzword Award [ja],” announced on December 12. The award, which highlights popular words from the Internet, is carried out by Japan's search engine company, and decided by users from 2chan, an online bulletin board, who cast their votes [ja] on what they think were the most well-noted phrases of the year.

The Net Buzzwords Award also awarded the top spot to “Imadesho!”, while “Baigaeshi” took third. In second place was “gekiokopunpunmaru”, a phrase that childishly expresses extreme anger in the form of an onomatopoeia and therefore is fairly difficult to translate into English.

Commenting on the similarities between the Net Buzzword and New Buzzword awards, Twitter user Katsura Igarashi wrote:

The Net Buzzwords Award and the regular Buzzwords Award were pretty much the same. This is the end of the Internet as a refuge .

This post was written by the author in Japanese and was translated by Taylor Cazella

December 03 2013

A Pastebin for Arabic Content on the Web

“Arabic is the seventh most spoken language by Internet users but only three per cent of digital content on the web comprises of Arabic material,” estimate experts. Among the most frequent web usages is sharing text, through Pastebin and similar services. Yet these do not properly support Arabic text. Developed by Egyptian Mostafa Hussein (@moftasa), Nota aims at bridging this gap:

Nota has a single purpose and that is to help people share any amount of Arabic text quickly and easily. Text is presented in a clear, distraction free and beautiful way and is highly accessible. There is no need to sign up or register. It will also remain ad free, free of charge and open source.

Nota's source code is on GitHub.

December 02 2013

Blogging the simple and impossible task of literary translation

flores-azuis British writer, editor and translator Daniel Hahn is blogging his progress as he translates Blue Flowers, a novel by Brazilian writer Carola Saavedra, from Portuguese into English, a process that “is both simple and impossible”:

So over these next couple of months I’m going to try to articulate what for me are the delights and frustrations of the work of translating a novel. I’m going to try to give an insight into the processes that go into that work. I’m going to try to convey what it actually feels like to live inside someone else’s writing so completely and so attentively that in time you feel capable of faking it yourself, and faking it so well – with all its joys and idiosyncrasies – that your writing voice ends up seeming somehow identical to your author’s, and that you seem to be performing a magical transformation whose magic lies in the very fact that nothing is changed at all. (Except – yes, of course – along the way every individual word has been removed and replaced.)

The book opens with a love letter to an unnamed recipient, and the simple start of a letter presents a multitude of unexpected choices. See the whole series to date here.

November 23 2013

Jamaica: Language & Development

Jamaica needs to be declared the bilingual state it is asap.

Annie Paul thinks that “half of Jamaica’s problems stem from its linguistic identity crisis, insisting its mother tongue is English when a huge proportion of the population can only speak Patois.”

November 20 2013

Catalan Independence Debate Explained in 16 Languages

The debut video of The Catalan Project (@Catalan_Project) features Fernando de Castro, “a Catalan from Galicia and Spanish”, presenting the project and explaining why some Catalans want independence from Spain using the 16 languages he is able to speak. Subtitles are available in English, French, German, Spanish and Catalan.

The Catalan Project, an independent and non-profit association, provides an open online platform where “all citizens that work and/or live in Catalonia and that have ideas on how to create a better country” can discuss how a hypothetical independent Catalonia should be. Because “independence is not a goal, it is a starting point”. The project is collecting funds on the crowdfunding site Verkami.

November 04 2013

Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales Praises Catalan Viquipèdia


Jimmy Wales speaking at the Open Science conference on October 24, 2013. Credit: VUBrussel.

During the Open Science conference at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium on October 24, 2013, Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales highlighted Viquipèdia, the Catalan Wikipedia, as a success story. A video on YouTube features the moment when Wales talks about Viquipèdia (transcript by Viquipèdia editor Arnau Duran):

“…in some of our small language Wikipedias, we have very active communities, and there’s maybe only a few people there, but they are very passionate about their mother tongue, and they really want to do the work, and so they work really hard. If we have a look some of the larger minor languages of Europe, like Catalan is a good example. Catalan Wikipedia is far larger than you would have guessed from the number of people who are speaking Catalan. And it is because the Catalan people are quite passionate about their language, which has been historically under threat.”

Earlier this year, Viquipèdia reached the milestone of 400,000 articles, and the Amical Wikimedia, the association that promotes Viquipedia, got a chapter of its own, thus becoming the first Wikimedia chapter of a territory which does not correspond to a state.

October 27 2013

Legendary Indian Playback Singer Manna Dey Dies

Legendary Indian singer Manna Dey, whose original name was Prabodh Chandra Deydied of a heart attack in Bangalore on October 24, 2013. He was 94. Dey recorded more than 4,000 songs during his career spanning from 1942 to 2013, and was famous for his playback work, recording songs for hundreds of movies for actors to lip sync to.

He sang mainly in Hindi and Bengali, and ventured into several other Indian languages. The singer was popular in both India and Bangladesh.

Netizens revisited his memory after his demise.

Venkataramanan Ramasethu, an academician and blogger, remembered him:

A legendary icon and a musical genius on his own right who ruled the bollywood musical arena close to 40 years, at times I felt he was an unsung hero.

Akash Upadhyay posted 10 lesser-known facts about the legendary singer.

Radio jockey, author and blogger Reema Moudgil noted:

So many songs. So many versions of one, exceptional voice.

India Today (@IndiaToday) portrayed Manna Dey's career in numbers:

Writer and blogger Madhulika Liddle in a tribute post for Manna Dey wrote:

That is what I love and admire about Manna Dey: his versatility, his immense range of songs, his ability to imbue his songs with so much emotion—whether that emotion was a deep love for one’s motherland, or pathos, or a rollicking don’t-give-a-damn. This was the man after one of whose songs a restaurant chain (Bhojohorimanna) was named.

An era has gone. Manna Dey, the last of the great male playback singers of the golden years, has passed on. His voice will live on, though, and that will be some consolation. Some.

Manna Dey received the Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian honour in 2005. Image by D Chakrabarty. Copyright Demotix (24/10/2013)

Manna Dey received the Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian honour, in 2005. Image by D Chakrabarty. Copyright Demotix (24/10/2013)

Journalist Abhinay Dey recounted a legendary song of Manna Dey that was popular among Bengalis which narrates the story of seven friends who met regularly at the legendary Coffee House at College Street Kolkata. The Coffee House has a historical significance for being the rendezvous of numerous scholars, editors, artists and writers based in Kolkata:

The song penned by Gauriprasanna Majumdar recounts the Coffee House days of seven friends, who sat over endless cups and cheap charminar cigarettes burning between their lips with dreams to make it big.

But life has taken a toll on them, DSouza is now dead, Amal is dying of cancer, Rama is in an insane asylum betrayed by his lover, Sujata is married to a rich man, Nikhilesh is in Paris and Moidul has gone back to Dhaka. The seventh friend is the unnamed narrator pining for the old carefree days of Coffee House.

There is not a time when I don’t get a lump in my throat listening to this song. The pain in his voice makes you die with DSouza, the guitarist of Grand Hotel, it makes you suffer as Amal, the failed poet, it makes you stare at nothingness like the insane Rama, the love less, failed actor.

He was also popular in Bangladesh. Blogger Professor Hijibijbij at Sachalayatan wrote:

আমার কৈশোর আর তারুণ্যের উদ্দাম দিনগুলিতে অবিচ্ছেদ্য সঙ্গী ছিল মান্না দের গান। সঙ্গী এখনো। কৈশোরের সেই দিনগুলি ছিল অসাধারণ – সারাদিন গান শুনতাম। দিন যেত, আর আমি একের পর এক আবিষ্কার করতাম মান্না দের গাওয়া এক একটি গান। গান তো নয় যেন সুরের জাল দিয়ে গেঁথে তোলা শব্দের মালা, যা অবলীলায় প্রকাশ করে আমার মনের একান্ত অনুভূতিগুলো! বাসার পুরানো ক্যাসেট প্লেয়ারে আমি শুনি মান্না দের গান। একবার শুনি, বারবার শুনি, কিন্তু গান পুরানো হয়না।

Manna Dey's songs were close to me during my adolescent days. They still accompany me. I listened to his songs everyday back then. As the day progressed I discovered more of his songs. Songs like necklaces of words sewn with music, which expressed my intimate feelings. I still listen to his songs in an old cassette player. I listen to them over and over, but they do not grow old.

Bangladeshi Blogger Zuberino (@zuberino) tweeted:

Indian writer and blogger Harini Calamur (@calamur) reported:

Anuradha Warrier, writer and blogger, listed a number of legendary songs of Manna Dey as a tribute.

Bollywood Actor and anchor Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) remembered him:

October 24 2013

Catalan Man Sentenced to Prison after Refusing to Speak Spanish

Carles Mateu, a man who refused to speak in Spanish during a routine traffic test in Valencia, was sentenced to six months in prison and had his driver's license revoked for disobeying authority.


“WE ARE ALL CARLES MATEU / Group supporting the driver sentenced to 6 months in prison in Valencia.” Poster from the group supporting Carles Mateu in the town of Alemenara (Castelló). 

Mateu was driving his car in December 2012 when the Civil Guard, the federal military guard of Spain, stopped him for a routine traffic stop in Castelló (Valencia). But he was detained for three hours by two agents, who accused him of refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test and of not wearing a seat belt nor a reflective vest. Mateu, however, claims that these reports are false and the agents sanctioned him for speaking to them in Valencian, a regional dialect [ca] of Catalan that is spoken in the territory, and refusing to express himself in Spanish.

The Valencian language holds official status in the region along with Spanish, just as in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. According to online news publication La Veu del País Valencià [ca], Mateu felt that the agents were displaying signs of “contempt” toward him and his language, using phrases like “speak to me in Spanish, we are in Spain.”

Mateu was acquitted [ca] in January 2013, but the district attorney appealed and the sentence was revoked. At the same time, Mateu's previous countersuit against the agents’ false accusations was thrown out. The new sentence [ca] issued on September 20, 2013 condemns him to six months in prison and the suspension of his driver's license for a year and a day.

A victim turned into offender

The case has attracted much interest, both civil and political, along the Catalan-speaking territories, given that many view it as one more case of discrimination with linguistic motives, similar to those reported at music festival Arenal Sound last summer. In an interview [ca] with Catalan newspaper El Punt Avui, Mateu explains:

He de dir que vaig reaccionar com qualsevol persona a qui intenten furtar el seu dret a la lliure expressió i vaig reaccionar –ho dic sincerament i amb el cor a la mà– per sota de la pressió a què els dos agents em van sotmetre.

I must say that I reacted just like anyone else whose right to free expression was taken away, and I reacted—I say this sincerely, with my hand to my heart—under the pressure I was subject to by those two agents.


“I, TOO, POSSESS THE FLAW OF SPEAKING VALENCIAN.” Shared image on Twitter from Alícia (@marclia), professor of Catalan at the University of Valencia.

Mateu's lawyer explained to digital newspaper VilaWeb [ca] that the linguistic conflict [ca] is now considered Mateu's strategy for slowing down the breathalyzer test, which converts the victim into the offender.

We are all Carles Mateu

Demonstrations of solidarity have multiplied online. A Facebook page, Jo També Sóc Carles Mateu [ca] (I, too, am Carles Mateu), collects messages of support.

On Twitter, many users showed their discontent with the hashtag #TotSomCarlesMateu (We are all Carles Mateu). Antoni Manyanós [ca] (@amanyanos), professor of geography and history, says:

Valencia, a place where the Spanish regime can condemn you to prison for speaking in Valencian with the Civil Guard #WeAreAllCarlesMateu #Enough

Valencian journalist Amàlia Garrigós (@AmaliaGarrigos [ca/es]) encouraged her followers to sign a petition on [es] for Spanish security guards in the territory to speak in Catalan:

A Valencian driver sentenced for speaking in his own language. Will you sign this petition? I just did! #WeAreAllCarlesMateu

Moreover, a group [ca] supporting Mateu was organized in his town of Almenara, and a petition on [es] has gathered more than 11,500 signatures to demand the sentence be withdrawn.

Political reactions

Carles Mateu's case arrived at the Spanish Parliament thanks to the representatives Joan Baldoví [ca] of the Coalició Compromís (Compromise Coalition), and Joan Tardà [ca], of Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left Party) (ERC). Baldoví said that it would be “barbaric” to send a citizen to prison for speaking his own language, while Tardà formulated many questions for the Ministry of the Interior.

Ramon Tremosa, a member of the European Parliament representing the Catalan moderate right-wing ruling party, Convergència i Unió, reported the case to the European Commission with the support of opposition parties ERC and ICV-EUIA [ca]:

Now we will ask the European Commission about the sentence against Carles Mateu for speaking Catalan. The undersigned: @ciu @Esquerra_ERC i @icveuia #WeAreAllCarlesMateu

Rising awareness to stop language conflict

Josep Escribano, president of El Tempir [cat], a civic association for the language, encouraged [ca] people to report cases of linguistic discrimination to generate social pressure.

Escribano argues [ca] that the language supremacy of Spanish has allowed, over time, for Catalan-speaking people to interiorize their prejudice toward their own language, considering it of an inferior status. But he remains optimistic:

Cada vegada més, la gent que és ferma i que té una lleialtat lingüística, que s'estima el país i que s'estima la llengua, està fent un pas endavant i ho denuncia.

More and more, people who are strong and have a linguistic loyalty, people who love the Catalan nation and love the Catalan language, are taking a step forward and reporting cases of this kind of discrimination.

By making these cases of linguistic discrimination public, citizens receive support from the entities defending the language and from the community, which facilitates the linguistic normalization [ca] and universal linguistic rights of Catalan's use.

Reposted bykrekk krekk

October 18 2013

#1book140: Twitter Book Chat on International Poetry

1book140 - Susan Harris

1book140 – Susan Harris

Join readers of The Atlantic and Global Voices at 3 pm Eastern Time (9pm CEST) on Monday, October 21 for a live Twitter chat with Susan Harris (@SusanHarrisWWB), editor of The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry.

Says Rayna Stamboliyska in a post on The Atlantic:

We have already read The Ecco Anthology back in April, during the 1book140′s poetry month. Edited by Susan Harris and Ilya Kaminsky of Words Without Borders, The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry is back in the spotlight this month as we wish to revive the magic of internationally celebrated poets from the 20th century, rarely—if ever!—translated into English.

The Ecco Anthology invites us to discover and know more of the world. We, at 1book140, invite you, through The Anthology, to discover “a country of words”

Here's how to take part:

Find a copy of The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry and follow us at @1book140. We'll tweet out when the live Q&A begins, and you can send your questions with the hashtag #1book140. Susan will answer with the hashtag so everyone can follow along. After the Q&A, we'll post the answers.

October 11 2013

Re-Imagining Lusophony and Decolonizing the Mind

The Fourth International Congress in Cultural Studies – Colonialisms, Post-colonialisms and Lusophonies has a call for paper submissions open until October 15, 2013:

To demystify, to dehierarchize, to establish a policy of difference, to allow a multiplicity of voices, to constitute so many projects of possible modernities/rationalities within post-modernity, to mobilize, to re-politicize, to imagine other political, social and economical models, this is the task (utopian, of course) that is, for us, essential in the re-imagining of Lusophony.


A postcolonial reflection in a Lusophone context cannot avoid the exercise of criticism to the old dichotomies of periphery/center, cosmopolitanism/rurality, civilized/savage, black/white, north/south, in a context of cultural globalization, transformed by new and revolutionary communication phenomena, which have also globalized marginality.

The congress will take place from April 28 to 30, 2014, in the city of Aveiro, Portugal.

October 09 2013

Teachers’ Strike, Protests on Spanish Balearic Islands Defend Catalan Language

Imatge compartida a Twitter per Jordi Sàlvia (@jordisalvia), amb l'increïble Hulk, el superheroi de còmic, cridant per l'educació pública.

The incredible Hulk protesting for public education. Illustration by Juan Francisco Mota.

After two weeks of an indefinite teachers’ strike on Spain's Balearic Islands, more than 80,000 people have taken to the streets to demand the withdrawal of a new education decree that would trade Catalan-language education in favor a new trilingual model.  

On 29 September, a “wave of green” [es], the colour representing the side defending public schooling in the protests against the cuts, invaded the streets of the Balearic Islands capitals to protest against the regional government, presided by José Ramón Bauzà (People's Party). According to the Balearic Mathematics Society [ca], in Palma more than 80,000 people demanded the withdrawal of the new education law under the motto “Call for quality education”.

It was a continuation of the indefinite teaching strike that started on the Balearic Islands on 16 September, with more than an 80 percent of teachers participating [ca], according to the unions. The controversial decree proposes a tri-lingual education model (TIL), which displaces Catalan as the lingua franca in schools. The protest declares that the government is using trilingualism as a front to weaken the local language.

At a delicate time for public education, threatened by austerity policies and constant cuts [es], imposing the TIL model on the islands, where Catalan is an official language as well as Spanish like in Catalonia and Valencia, was the straw that broke the camel's back.

Over the past few weeks, people from various cities [ca] in Catalan-speaking regions have come together. On Twitter, the hashtag #VagaIndefinidaDocents [#IndefintiteTeachersStrike] has become a global trending topic.

The government's point of view

In the face of the most widespread [es] social protest during the current era of democracy on the islands, the government affirms that the strikers and protesters do not represent the majority [es] of society, and it is adamant in its decision not to retract the decree. Moreover, it is playing down the figures [ca] (while the unions speak of a 90 percent of teachers participating, the education authorities record only 20 percent). The government is also threatening the striking teachers. Antoni Camps [es], member of parliament for the People's Party (PP) and member of the Balearic Parliament's Education Commission, said in an article [es] published by the Spanish newspaper El Mundo:

[…] es conveniente que los docentes que se «apunten» a la huelga sepan que hasta la fecha, a los instigadores de las mismas, léase sindicalistas apoltronados/as, NO se les descontaba de su sueldo los días que hacían huelga, pero este año va a ser diferente. Es decir, que estos señores/as que, únicamente, trabajan los días de huelga, verán recortados sus emolumentos al igual que el resto de «huelguistas». 

It's convenient that the teachers who “show up” for the strike know that, up to now, the instigators of the protests, referring to the lazy trade unionists, are NOT unhappy with their salary on the days that they are on strike, but this year is going to be different. This means that men and women that are only working on strike days will see pay cuts like the rest of the “strikers”.

Images shared by demonstrators showing a spirited protest: 

Spectacular photo of today's protest. Green in Palma. Bauzá, this is the silent majority!!! 

Under the tags #29sTotsSomDocents [#29SeptWeAreAllTeachers], #Bauzádimissió [Bauzáresignation] and  #alesillesencatalà [#onthecatalanislands], among others, show a support on Twitter that rivals what is seen in the streets.

The controversial decree

The TIL establishes a trilingual teaching model where Catalan, Spanish and English are employed equally. This modifies the Catalan Language Immersion model that has been used on the islands for the last three decades.

During Spain's transition to democracy, normalisation of Catalan in schools was promoted on the Balearic Islands, like it was in Catalonia and Valencia. The 1986 Linguistic Normalisation Law [ca] assures the recognition and the progressive use of Catalan as the lingua franca in education and calls on the government to guarantee that this continues.

The trouble started in summer. Three head teachers in Mahon [ca], Menorca were suspended without pay in July because they refused to apply the TIL model. A support campaign [ca] was launched on, and on Twitter the hashtag #TotsSomDirectorsMao [#weareallheadteachersmahon] received expressions of solidarity. On 25 September, the government assented [ca] to reintegrating them, even though they remain expelled. Up to now, this has been the only conciliatory gesture with prospects for the strikers.

The Supreme Court of Justice received the appeals against the TIL from the unions UGT (Workers’ General Union) and STEI [ca] (Union for Educational Workers on the Balearic Islands) in early September. On 6 September, a judge ordained its preventive suspension [ca], but hours later, the Executive approved the model by decree without parliamentary debate, and it was put into effect immediately.

Will cuts and trilingualism reduce school failure? 

The government alleges that its model will contribute to reducing academic failure. Many doubt this claim, such as Jaume Lladó (@datiljlj), a maths teacher, columnist and activist, who explains [ca] in an opinion article in the Catalan newspaper Diari de Balears: 

Quant a la llengua estrangera, també està demostrat que només s'hi poden cursar matèries curriculars quan s'ha arribat a un cert nivell de coneixement. En cas contrari, no s'aprendrà la llengua i, a més a més, s'aprendrà menys de la matèria o matèries en qüestió.

Regarding the foreign language, it is also said that students can only pursue curricular subjects when they have reached a certain level of understanding. On the other hand, students will not learn the language, and what is more, they will learn less of the subject or subjects in question.

If a student has problems understanding a subject in their own language, what advantage can introducing a new foreign language that they don't speak fluently bring?  

Moments of solidarity

There have been many demonstrations of solidarity [ca] within the education community. Teaching platforms, social and cultural entities, institutions and famous people from the rest of the Catalan-speaking regions and Spain have expressed their support for the strikers.

The same citizens have gathered funds to compensate the reduced pay for the teachers on strike. Journalist Joan Canela (@JoanCanela), one of the journalists behind the project Mè [ca], tweeted: 

More than 40,000€ [about 54,000 US dollars] in the resistance funds for the #indefiniteteachersstrike and soon they'll be saying that these are not moments of solidarity — Joan Canela (@JoanCanela) 19 September, 2013

For the moment, and until the government and organisers sit down and negotiate, the strike will continue. 

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