IOC – Struggling with bilingualism

As the Olympics progress and after the wonderful opening ceremony full of English and French, French has lapsed behind English in most events.  Strange because in the UK we already have Wales and Scotland not that many miles way from London, where two languages live alive side by side, so why isn’t it happening in London?

Below is a news story from Canada where bilingualism or the lack of bilingualism at the Olympics is being challenged. What do you think?

The International Olympic Committee is grappling with an issue familiar to Canadians; bilingualism.

The IOC’s officials languages are English and French. During the Games, the language of the host country becomes a third official language.

Not surprisingly, the London Olympics have been conducted predominantly in English. But even British reporters have noticed the almost total absence of French. Not heard much said about this out aloud though

French has been spoken only a handful of times at IOC press conferences since the Games began and it is rarely if ever heard at venues. Nearly all of the Olympic signage is bilingual, but organizers, volunteers and staff communicate exclusively in English.

By contrast, when the Winter Olympics were held in Vancouver in 2010, French got largely equal billing beside English. However, that had more to do with Canada’s official bilingualism policies than the IOC’s

In fact, English appears to have become the working language of the IOC and the Olympics.

Take badminton for example. The sport is hugely popular in Asia and most of the fans and reporters attending the competition in London are from Asian countries. But when the Badminton World Federation held a press conference last week to announce that eight players had been expelled from the Games for purposely losing matches, the entire briefing was conducted in English. Even though many reporters from China and elsewhere struggled to be understood they stuck to English for their questions. All of the answers were given in English. No other language was spoken.

Basketball games feel almost like NBA outings, with rap music, flashy lights and loud announcers. But not much French. Same at beach volleyball, archery, triathlon and judo.

There has been a smattering of French at the Olympic stadium during track and field events. But even there, English is far more dominant.

The IOC’s Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Fellim was asked about the lack of French on Sunday and he acknowledged it is not always front and centre.

“It depends the sport,” he said when asked about the use of French at venues. He added that French is supposed to be used during the opening ceremonies and medal presentations. “But sometimes describing something in a sport, it doesn’t bring anything to say it in every language.”

Is Your National Anthem long enough?

As the Olympics forge ahead I am loving that when school starts again many of the children will have a broader view of the world and their flags…maybe we will see top trumps games along the lines of the various countries information e.g. no of people, total olympic medals, colours on the flag, verses in the national anthem.

How many others can you think of? Put your ideas in the comments box.

Thinking of the National anthems how many will the children now recognise?  Bilingual and multilingual  may even recognise their own or be pleased to hear one from a previous country they have visited and felt they belonged to. This makes this news story from Racing all the more interesting and begs the question is your National anthem long enough?

After victory at Germany’s Grand Prix, Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton complained that the British national anthem should be longer. Does he have a point?

Up on the podium Lewis Hamilton put on his hat, took it off, shuffled from leg to leg, stuck his hands up in the air and before he knew it his national anthem was over, the applause began and he was given his trophy.

One verse of the God Save the Queen was played in under 44 seconds, ignoring two other verses and one unofficial verse.

That isn’t enough for Hamilton. “It’s like, is that it?” he grumbled in a radio interview after winning.

He wants it to be longer, in the interest of fairness. “When I’m standing there and it is Felipe’s [Massa] one it’s like 10 minutes long.” That’s a little exaggerated – when Massa won the Bahrain F1 in 2008 he was up on the podium for one minute 58 seconds but only 55 seconds of that was the Brazilian national anthem. It then melded into the Italian national anthem, for his team, Ferrari. As Lewis’s team, McLaren, is British, F1 didn’t repeat the anthem.

The problem comes with finding a suitable place to cut an anthem. While God Save The Queen has relatively short verses which can be repeated to lengthen, others have a verse and chorus with no natural place to end the song early on. This creates the disparity at sporting events.

The F1 driver is not alone in thinking the national anthem should be longer. Composer Phillip Sheppard agrees. He’s recently recorded a version for the Olympics which lasts one minute 25 seconds. He did this by playing two verses.

For Sheppard, one verse doesn’t let the song get into its stride.

“I’ve made the first an introductory verse. Stylistically I’ve made it so that it feels that by the second verse it is outrageously triumphant, because I’m assuming we’ll have a lot of podium time in the Olympics and I think we want to make the most of it.”

The composer has arranged and recorded 205 national anthems in preparation for the 2012 Olympics.

But unlike Hamilton, Sheppard is not concerned with fairness. There was a very practical reason behind the length. The anthem will be used at the gold medal ceremonies where the victorious country’s flag is raised. It takes at least a minute to allow a flag to ascend gracefully. And then there is a maximum of thirty seconds before “people get bored”, he says.

Sheppard fitted every competing nation’s anthem between 60 and 90 seconds.

This means Brazilians would miss out on more than 20 seconds of celebration on the podium. And the world’s newest national anthem – South Sudan’s – would be sliced by at least 27 seconds.

Mini operas

Other anthems need to be cut down by a whole lot more. Michael Bristow, who compiled the book National Anthems of the World says the majority of anthems are at least double the length of time of the British anthem.

He notes that Uruguay and Chile’s national anthems are well over five minutes, with Uruguay being the World’s longest at 105 bars. This seems to be a feature of the region.

“With some of the South American anthems they are almost like mini operas, they are very long,” says Bristow. “So most of them have a chorus as well as a verse so you have a situation where you would have a verse, and obviously it’s not complete if you don’t have a chorus which follows on straight away.”

He adds if the unofficial version of Greece’s national anthem were played in full, he estimates it would take over three hours to listen to, as it has 158 verses.

Cut Short

Others aren’t so drawn out – Uganda’s anthem is listed by Bristow as the shortest at eight bars. Sheppard had to repeat it three times to reach a minute.

Bristow points out that Hamilton and others wanting more than a verse should count themselves lucky as he says protocol dictates that junior royals only get half of that.

Meanwhile, Sheppard suggests that Lewis Hamilton might want to look to the national anthem of Monaco, the spiritual home of many racing drivers, which he says is very “upbeat”. However, the Olympic version is 10 seconds shorter than God Save the Queen

Bilingualism alive and well at the 2012 Olympics.

It never ceases to amaze me when out and about that some people, often in positions of importance, seem to miss the whole point of bilingualism altogether and just focus on ‘they must learn English’ …. whoever ‘they’ are.

No notice is taken of any prior learning and often in education then use their trump card what if they don’t write …..Tamil, Portuguese, Chinese… and think that this lets them off the hook with everything else and along their merry way they go continuing to do what they have always done and not embracing change or any other ideas.

It was therefore great to see the  2012 Olympic opening ceremony bilingualised as is the Eurovision Song contest languages are spoken alongside each other and everyone is included.  Critics are quick to point out that other languages are more common or should have been used but again it goes back to complacency and not willing to embrace change and finding the one area that it doesn’t work and hanging your hat on that. What I feel is more important is that everyone is able to communicate and be part of it together rather than being the one person in the corner who is looking on. Sadly some of my educational colleagues do not feel the same and some have argued ‘I only have 1, 2 with EAL,ELL’ and are quite happy for that child or those children to just sit and the teacher waits until they catch up  whilst teaching using often out of date methodologies.

Perhaps with the constant use of the flags and this bilingualism being televised they will start to think differently and embrace what those who speak Welsh and Gaelic and many other languages already know it is a strength not a weakness and should be nurtured.

Win a free copy of a Daydream Education Subject Suite (worth over £199) – UK

Craig at Day Dream is so enthusiastic about their products that I thought I would share this to all of you especially as their resources in my opinion are excellent… and if you could get it free even better.

For all of you language experts out there are language  Modern Languages, English and Welsh posters and pocket books available.  I love the pocket books a brilliant concept.

See below on how to enter.

The summer so far has been a bit of a washout, nevertheless, we’re all feeling very sporty here at Daydream Education with the all important sporting events just days away. So in preparation for a few game filled weeks, we are reflecting on the best things about this great event.

Join us on Twitter @DaydreamEdu or Facebook and share your favourite things about the big games for a chance to win a free copy of a Daydream Education Subject Suite (worth over £199).

How To Enter

Find @DaydreamEdu on Twitter and tweet us your answer plus #bestthingaboutsport or alternatively, you can share your answers as a comment on our Facebook page to enter the competition instead.

Send us as many answers as you like by the end of July and we’ll announce the winner in August.

We’re also offering some of our free resources to our favourite runner up answers, so make sure you join in the fun!

Important things to remember:

• Please keep your entries to 20 words or less

• The competition ends in August 2012

• Only UK residents can enter

• If you are using Twitter, please use the hashtag – #bestthingaboutsport

• We will announce the winner via Facebook, Twitter and email

And please, remember to share this competition with your colleagues.

Olympics – Bilingual Countries Information

Just a quick post to say if you are thinking of doing something really radical and bilingual what about sign language? The Primary sign team that I wrote about recently have some free olympic countries information with really easy signs to learn.  Who is up for the challenge?

Find it here at :

ICT Resource for Migrants – Worldwide

Has anyone seen this resource?

EMASUK – have a range of resources to support English as an additional language from a resource vault which teachers can download from 24/7, to talking technologies including Talking Tutor, Text Tutor and the award winning Two Can Talk. Their most recent offering is a hand held unit which can be carried around easily and speaks out in a choice of 25 langauges.  See a video here to show their award winning bilingual book called Pip.

They also do bilingual books that support the first days in a new school, Maths and exam preparation. I found it at

Olympics languages

Time is ticking away and it will not be long now before the Olympics arrive in Britain.  Have you seen the link on the Olymipc site where you can find out what lanaguegs the competitors speak.  Click the link below to have a look.