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French language eyes ‘le comeback’ as Britain leaves Europe

BRUSSELS: Once upon a time speaking French was easy in Brussels, but things have changed. Bruno Le Maire, France’s finance minister, felt that keenly during a recent panel event with European steel-makers after several hours of speaking English with EU counterparts. “Maybe one in French if possible, otherwise I will run the risk of being criticised,” Le Maire, who speaks perfect English, said as he scanned the audience for questions. But raised hands quickly dropped away, leaving just one from a journalist, who…

Caribbean bloc condemns Trump’s ‘repulsive’ language

GEORGETOWN: The 15-nation Caribbean Community on Saturday condemned US President Donald Trump's use of "repulsive language" to reportedly describe Haiti and African nations. CARICOM "is deeply disturbed by reports about the use of derogatory and repulsive language by the President of the United States in respect of our member state, Haiti, and other developing countries," the bloc's Guyana-based headquarters said in a statement. "CARICOM condemns in the strongest terms, the unenlightened views reportedly expressed." At…

Language of persecuted Rohingya poised to go digital

TEKNAF, BANGLADESH: For decades the Rohingya have been denied recognition in Myanmar but the persecuted minority is close to securing a crucial symbol of their identity -- their own unique digital alphabet. The language of the stateless Muslim people has been included in the planned upgrade to the Unicode Standard, the global coding system that turns written script into digital characters and numbers. It would allow the Rohingya to write emails, send texts and post on social media in their own language -- a major step…

BBC name change stirs language row in Afghanistan

KABUL: The BBC is facing an angry reaction in Afghanistan after it changed the name of one of its local language Facebook pages to BBC Dari, the official name of the Afghan version of Persian or Farsi but one rejected by many local Persian speakers. The Facebook page and other social media sites were bombarded by criticisms of the change. Many Persian speakers say the name Dari has been imposed historically by the traditionally dominant Pashto ethnic group as an implicit denial of Afghanistan’s place in the wider…

Baby bats learn language from peers: study

Baby bats learn language from peers in their colony, and will adopt the group's dialect, or accent, instead of their mother's, researchers said on Tuesday. The difference is similar to speaking with a London accent versus a Scottish accent, said the report in the journal PLOS Biology. The findings shed new light on crowd-learning of language, a skill thought to belong to mainly to humans and just a few other mammals. It also shows that bats are different from songbirds, which tend to learn songs by mimicking one of…