Reuters Africa picked up on a little tidbit from a dubiously scientific survey by HSBC International Bank on the “expatriate experience abroad”: Apparently Germany is the number one country in the world for expats to find “love”, with a quarter (24%) of expats located in Germany marrying a local. Germany also came out as the spot where most expatriates (75%, according to the survey) “learned” the language of the host country.
Now, I say dubiously scientific here because I’ve always been suspicious of this whole “expatriate” idea. Not to mention its cutesy shortened form, “expat”. What makes an expat an expat, rather than an immigrant (or shall we say, to make it equallly cute, an “immy”)? HSBC did not set out to define, among the 2,155 persons they surveyed, what an “expatriate” was other than “an individual who relocates to another country”.
Imagine the moment, when the responsible editor of the “Max Planck Research” magazine learned, that the chinese symbols on the cover of its latest issue were an advertisment for some kind of strip club. That was not intended by the publication of the old and respected German research institute - as can be read in an apology to the readers: “Prior to publication, the editorial office had consulted a German sinologist for a translation of the relevant text. The sinologist concluded that the text in question depicted classical Chinese characters in a non-controversial context. To our sincere regret, however, it has now emerged that the text contains deeper levels of meaning, which are not immediately accessible to a non-native speaker.” The cover replacement (see above on the right) is the title of a centuries old book from a swiss jesuit.
More then 200 Million high school students in China study English while about 25,000 of their U.S. counterparts study Chinese language according to a Report from a Northwestern University graduate journalism student. It is not only global competition in economic terms which suffers under the unwillingness of more then the half of US high school students to learn a foreign language – but, according to some, it’s also a national security risk. A language professor was cited as saying: “As the U.S. helps piece together the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, the former intelligence agent said he suspects there will be a greater need for Urdu, spoken in Pakistan; Hindi, spoken in India; and possibly Pashto, spoken in Afghanistan or Dari, spoken in eastern Iran and western Afghanistan.”
The Marines, at least, are taking language learning from a security point of view: Working together with the monolith of language learning software – Rosetta Stone – which won a $1.2 million contract for courses, the soldiers can learn about 30 languages in 150-200 hour courses through the MarineNet distant learning portal.
Babbel.com, our humble sponsor, recently acquired and joined forces with the online social networking site Friendsabroad.com. We caught up with Friendsabroad founder Simon Murdoch to talk a bit about this phenomenon of online language learning and the internet biz in the wake of the crunch.
Babbel Blog: Please talk about Doyouspeak.com and Friendsabroad.com. What are they, how long have they been around and how did you come up with them?
Simon Murdoch: My personal background is in the internet business, and I’ve been a VC investor and and an angel investor in the internet businesses. Then around 2004 I decided I wanted to get involved in language and technology, so I actually set up Friendsabroad in 2004. The idea was for it to be a pure language exchange, and helping people to connect, to talk to each other with emails, and then text chats, and then we added a skype integration of sorts. Doyouspeak is a separate website that we launched in the beginning of this year, January 2008, which is more purely targeted at English, it’s an online English school. So a completely different model than the Friendsabroad system.