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insight by wfx

Welcome to Wordwide FX's new enterprise!

Insight by WFX is a synthesis of our passion for languages and the financial markets. Here you will find technical and fundamental analyses from our clients, media partners and contributors in different languages, as well as discussions on languages and translation. And of course we will keep you updated on what is happening inside Wordwide FX Financial Translations. Hope you enjoy it! Greetings from the Wordwide FX team!

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13/04/2018

The English language is the world’s Achilles heel

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via The Conversation

English has achieved prime status by becoming the most widely spoken language in the world – if one disregards proficiency – ahead of Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. English is spoken in 101 countries, while Arabic is spoken in 60, French in 51, Chinese in 33, and Spanish in 31. From one small island, English has gone on to acquire lingua franca status in international business, worldwide diplomacy, and science.

But the success of English – or indeed any language – as a “universal” language comes with a hefty price, in terms of vulnerability. Problems arise when English is a second language to either speakers, listeners, or both. No matter how proficient they are, their own understanding of English, and their first (or “native”) language can change what they believe is being said.

When someone uses their second language, they seem to operate slightly differently than when they function in their native language. This phenomenon has been referred to as the “foreign language effect”. Research from our group has shown that native speakers of Chinese, for example, tended to take more risks in a gambling game when they received positive feedback in their native language (wins), when compared to negative feedback (losses). But this trend disappeared – that is, they became less impulsive – when the same positive feedback was given to them in English. It was as if they are more rational in their second language. 

While reduced impulsiveness when dealing in a second language can be seen as a positive thing, the picture is potentially much darker when it comes to human interactions. In a second language, research has found that speakers are also likely to be less emotional and show less empathy and consideration for the emotional state of others.

For instance, we showed that Chinese-English bilinguals exposed to negative words in English unconsciously filtered out the mental impact of these words. And Polish-English bilinguals who are normally affected by sad statements in their native Polish appeared to be much less disturbed by the same statements in English.

In another recent study by our group, we found that second language use can even affect one’s inclination to believe the truth. Especially when conversations touch on culture and intimate beliefs.

Since second language speakers of English are a huge majority in the world today, native English speakers will frequently interact with non-native speakers in English, more so than any other language. And in an exchange between a native and a foreign speaker, the research suggests that the foreign speaker is more likely to be emotionally detached and can even show different moral judgements.

And there is more. While English provides a phenomenal opportunity for global communication, its prominence means that native speakers of English have low awareness of language diversity. This is a problem because there is good evidence that differences between languages go hand-in-hand with differences in conceptualisation of the world and even perception of it. 

In 2009, we were able to show that native speakers of Greek, who have two words for dark blue and light blue in their language, see the contrast between light and dark blue as more salient than native speakers of English. This effect was not simply due to the different environment in which people are brought up in either, because the native speakers of English showed similar sensitivity to blue contrasts and green contrasts, the latter being very common in the UK. 

On the one hand, operating in a second language is not the same as operating in a native language. But, on the other, language diversity has a big impact on perception and conceptions. This is bound to have implications on how information is accessed, how it is interpreted, and how it is used by second language speakers when they interact with others.

We can come to the conclusion that a balanced exchange of ideas, as well as consideration for others’ emotional states and beliefs, requires a proficient knowledge of each other’s native language. In other words, we need truly bilingual exchanges, in which all involved know the language of the other. So, it is just as important for English native speakers to be able to converse with others in their languages.

The US and the UK could do much more to engage in rectifying the world’s language balance, and foster mass learning of foreign languages. Unfortunately, the best way to achieve near-native foreign language proficiency is through immersion, by visiting other countries and interacting with local speakers of the language. Doing so might also have the effect of bridging some current political divides.

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10/04/2018

Right and wrong ways to spread languages around the globe

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via The Economist

Emmanuel Macron’s plan to boost French-speaking puts means before motive

REMARKABLY, a French president had never addressed the Académie Française before. The French have a soft spot for authority, and the mighty presidency (atypical for Europe) and the academy (founded to guarantee the purity of the French language) are both symbols of that. So when Emmanuel Macron told the academicians—modestly known as les immortels—of his ambitions to revitalise French around the world, it was a very French affair indeed.

In some ways Mr Macron constitutes a break with Gallic tradition. He speaks English not only well but gladly, in contrast to his predecessors, François Hollande (whose ropy English was the butt of jokes) and Jacques Chirac (who often pointedly refused to talk in English, though he could). But in the best French tradition, Mr Macron spoke with passion about French and confidence in its future. He announced more money for the Alliance Française, for example, to teach the language, and more support for teaching French to refugees who have arrived in France. His aim is to see French go from being the world’s fifth-most-spoken language to its third.

It is very French to think that this can be accomplished by determined state action. Yet people don’t learn a language because somebody has built a fancy new school nearby. These days there are plenty of language-learning options, especially online. The cost of learning a language is mainly measured not in money but in time. You have to give someone a reason to do the work, before even bothering with the means and opportunity.

Think about the rivals to French. One is English. Americans and Britons might think foreigners learn English because their culture is appealing. But if that was ever true, it no longer is. Foreigners learn English simply because there are already a lot of people to speak it with—a majority of them, today, outside the chief Anglophone countries. A Swede learns English to do business in Brazil. This is why, despite the irony, English will probably still dominate the European Union after Brexit.

Or consider Chinese, a language of booming interest to foreign learners. It is in a way the opposite of English: the vast majority of its speakers live in just one country. But what a country. China’s economy will soon be the world’s largest, and its people still do not speak very good English. Learning Chinese is an obvious way to exploit an unrivalled economic opportunity.

Finally, take German. In the 19th century it was a posh language of science and scholarship, expected of all educated Europeans. Early Zionists pondered making it the national language of the Jewish state. But two wars, horrific atrocities and four decades of division wrecked its image. However, it has recovered. As Germany’s economy roared back from a long post-reunification slump, German-learning increased by 4% between 2010 and 2015 (a lot, in historical terms). Perhaps more surprisingly, a country once considered stolid and conservative has developed a reputation for cool. Berlin is seen as the hippest capital in Europe. German is both useful and attractive.

French could combine all these attributes. Like English, it is found around the world. Like Chinese, it is economically important: French-speaking countries account for 8.4% of global GDP. And like Germany recently, France has long had cultural cachet. How, then, to revive the optimism for the language itself?

Much of the work will be done outside France, and by growth in Africa in particular. Mr Macron knows this; after an initial announcement, in Burkina Faso, that he wanted to give new vigour to the French-speaking world, he was seen as neocolonialist. His speech at the Academy was better, conceding that French had “emancipated itself from France”. He told the Academy that it was high time French schools began teaching literature written in French outside France.

By one projection, in 2050 there will be 700m French-speakers—80% of them in Africa. To keep that forecast on track and keep Africans speaking French—not switching to English, as Rwanda did—France would be wise to continue this approach of fraternité rather than autorité with its African friends, by helping those countries develop economically. And the best thing Mr Macron could do at home is release the talents of the French people. Reforms that get the French economy growing as Germany’s has done would do more than all the shiny new French-teaching schools in the world.

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14/03/2018

The History of Appalachian English: Why We Talk Differently

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via Appalachian Magazine 

“Where are you from?”  An annoying question asked in a condescending tone I have been forced to endure nearly my entire life.  Whether I travel north into Yankeedom or south into Dixie, it seems that the way I (and everyone I grew up with) talk just seems oddly out of place.

We don’t have a Yankee accent, but we also don’t really speak with a southern drawl. Ours is an accent that is entirely unique and though it’s often the subject of scorn and ridicule, the Appalachian dialect is an ancient connection to our rich heritage and deserves to be safeguarded and honored.

The language we speak is known as Appalachian-English and actually serves as one of the oldest varieties of English spoken in this nation.

But why do we speak it and where did this dialect come from?

Like nearly all things related to Appalachia, there is no one clear answer to this question; however, extensive research has been conducted on this very topic for the better part of a century in order to determine why so many of us pronounce words such as “wire,” “fire,” “tire,” and “retired” as “war,” “far,” “tar,” and “retard” respectively.

Appalachian-English also places an “-er” sound at an end of a word with a long “o”.  For example, “hollow”— a small, sheltered valley— is pronounced like “holler”.  Other examples are “potato” (pronounced “tader”), “tomato” (pronounced “mader”), and “tobacco” (pronounced “backer”).

H retention occurs at the beginning of certain words as well. “It”, in particular, is pronounced “hit” at the beginning of a sentence and also when emphasized. The word “ain’t” is pronounced “hain’t”.

The noun “grease” is pronounced with an “s,” but this consonant turns into a “z” in the adjective and in the verb “to grease.”

And then of course there is the unending and longstanding feud regarding what is the proper way to pronounce the region itself, “Appalachia”.  People who live in the Appalachian dialect area pronounce the word with a short “a” sound (as in “latch”) in the third syllable, while those who live outside of the Appalachian dialect area or at its outer edges tend to pronounce it with a long “a” sound (as in “lay”).

Of course on this subject, we all know it’s “App-ah-latch-uh”… or I’ll throw an apple-atch’a!

But why is it that we speak so uniquely?

The predominate theory is that the existence of Appalachian-English is the result of the isolation the mountains beyond the Blue Ridge ensured — making our dialect one of the most ancient and protected dialects in the nation.

While our high-browed relatives who moved to the big city and lost their accent may frown upon our words and pronunciations, it is believed that the Appalachian dialect is a remnant of Elizabethan English.

An evidence of this is the use of words such as “afeared”, a Shakespearean word that is largely forgotten by most English speakers outside of the Appalachian region.

Other ancient phrases include the use of “might could” for “might be able to”, the use of “‘un” with pronouns and adjectives (e.g., young’un), the use of “done” as a helping verb (e.g., “we done finished it”), and the use of words such as airish, brickle, swan, and bottom land all of which were common in Southern and Central England in 17th and 18th centuries.

Interestingly, Appalachian-English has virtually no Native American influences (with the exception being place names, e.g., “Appalachia”, “Tennessee”, “Kanawha”, etc.) while so many other regional dialects in the nation do contain heavy influences from Native Americans.  This is noteworthy, as it showcases something we know and realize today — the people who settled this region are not easily influenced by the accents and languages of others, even if they become displaced, Appalachian-English is a hard dialect to lose.

Further evidence of this reality may be found in several areas in the State of Texas.

Nearly two centuries ago, the sons of Virginia’s Appalachian region (Stephen F. Austin & Sam Houston), as well as men of Tennessee (Davy Crocket) and Kentucky (James Bowie) made the decision to leave the mountains and head into the land of Tejas — eventually forming a new Republic, built by the blood and sweat of Appalachia’s sons.

Despite being some 1,200 miles apart, Appalachian-English is still alive and well in multiple Texas localities.  There, in the Lonestar State, you’ll hear phrases such as “Like’t’a”, proving that you may take the man out of Appalachia, but you won’t be able to take the Appalachia out of the man.

 

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24/08/2017

The Earliest Surviving Secular English Song (c. 1225 AD)

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via Realofhistory.com

Miri it is while sumer ilast with fugheles song, oc nu

neheth windes blast and weder strong. ei ei what this

niht is long. and ich with wel michel wrong, soregh and

murn and fast.

Merry it is while summer lasts with the song of birds;

but now draws near the wind’s blast and harsh weather.

Alas, Alas! How long this night is! And I, most unjustly,

sorrow and mourn and fast

 

These lines are the lyrics to might be the earliest surviving secular English song, dating from the first half of 13th century (circa 1225 AD). Known as Mirie it is while sumer ilast (‘Merry it is while summer lasts’), the preservation of the song is quite fortuitous since it was composed on a paper that was kept inside an unrelated historical manuscript.

The manuscript in question here pertains to the Book of Psalms, originally written in Latin on parchment, dating from the latter half of 12th century AD. However after a few decades of its composition, an anonymous writer (probably not the original scribe) added a flyleaf – a blank page, at the beginning of the manuscript. This particular page contained handwritten compositions of two French songs, along with a verse (in Middle English) of what is now considered as the earliest surviving secular English song – Mirie it is while sumer ilast. This ‘rudimentary’ music has been recreated and performed on a medieval harp by Ian Pittaway. There is another version by Ensemble Belladonna (below).


Another famous specimen Sumer is icumen in (more widely known as the Cuckoo Song or Summer Canon), is also counted among the earliest surviving songs in English. Possibly composed circa 1260 AD, the song (also written in Middle English, Wessex dialect) is now given the distinction of being the oldest known piece of six-part polyphonic music in English. The following musical arrangement was performed by the Hilliard Ensemble.

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07/12/2016

The World’s Most Efficient Languages

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Via The Atlantic.com

By John McWhorter

How much do you really need to say to put a sentence together?

Just as fish presumably don’t know they’re wet, many English speakers don’t know that the way their language works is just one of endless ways it could have come out. It’s easy to think that what one’s native language puts words to, and how, reflects the fundamentals of reality.

But languages are strikingly different in the level of detail they require a speaker to provide in order to put a sentence together. In English, for example, here’s a simple sentence that comes to my mind for rather specific reasons related to having small children: “The father said ‘Come here!’” This statement specifies that there is a father, that he conducted the action of speaking in the past, and that he indicated the child should approach him at the location “here.” What else would a language need to do?

Well, for a German speaker, more. In “Der Vater sagte ‘Komm her!’”, although it just seems like a variation on the English sentence, more is happening. “Der,” the word for “the,” is a choice among other possibilities: It’s the one used for masculine nouns only. If the sentence were about a mother, it would have to use the feminine die, or if about a girl, the neuter das (for reasons unnecessary to broach here!). The word for “said,” sagte, is marked with a suffix for the third-person singular; if it were “you said,” then it would be sagtest—in English, those forms don’t vary in the past tense. Then, her for “here” means “to here”: In German one must become what feels to an English speaker rather Shakespearean and say “hither” when that’s what is meant. “Here” in the sense of just sitting “here” is a different word, hier.

This German sentence, then, requires you to pay more attention to the genders of people and things, to whether it’s me, you, her, him, us, y’all, or them driving the action. It also requires specifying not just where someone is but whether that person is moving closer or farther away. German is, overall, busier than English, and yet Germans feel their way of putting things is as normal as English speakers feel their way is.

Other languages occupy still other places on the linguistic axis of “busyness,” from prolix to laconic, and it’s surprising what a language can do without. In Mandarin Chinese, a way of saying “The father said ‘Come here!’” is “Fùqīn shuō ‘Guò lái zhè lǐ!’” Just as in English, there is no marker for the father’s gender, nor does the form of the word shuō for “said” indicate whether the speaker is me, you, or him. The word for “here,” zhè lǐ, can mean either “right here” or “to here,” just like in English. But Mandarin is even more telegraphic. There is no definite article like “the.” The word for “said” lacks not only a suffix for person, but is also not marked for tense; it just means “say.” It is assumed that context will indicate that this event happened in the past. Much of learning Mandarin involves getting a sense of how much one can not say in an acceptable sentence.

Moreover, anyone who has sampled Chinese, or Persian, or Finnish, knows that a language can get along just fine with the same word for “he” and “she.”* And whereas Mandarin can mark tense but often doesn’t, in the Maybrat language of New Guinea, there’s pretty much no way to mark it at all—context takes care of it and no one bats an eye.
If there were a prize for the busiest language, then a language like Kabardian, also known as Circassian and spoken in the Caucasus, would win. In the simple sentence “The men saw me,” the word for “saw” is sǝq’ayǝƛaaɣwǝaɣhaś (pronounced roughly “suck-a-LAGH-a-HESH”). This seems like a majestic monster of a word, and yet despite its air of “supercalifragilisticexpealidocious,” the word for “saw” is every bit as ordinary for Karbadian-speakers as English-speakers’ “saw” is for them. It’s just that Karbadian-speakers have to pack so much more into their version. In sǝq’ayǝƛaaɣwǝaɣhaś, other than the part meaning “see,” there is a bit that reiterates that it’s me who was seen, even though the sentence would include a separate word for “me” elsewhere. Then there are other bits that show that the seeing was most significant to “me” rather than to the men or anyone else; that the seeing was done by more than one person (despite the sentence spelling out elsewhere that it was plural “men” who did the seeing); that this event did not happen in the present; that on top of this, the event happened specifically in the past rather than the future; and finally a bit indicating that the speaker really means what he’s saying.

The prize for most economical language could go to certain colloquial dialects of Indonesian that are rarely written but represent the daily reality of Indonesian in millions of mouths. For example, in the Riau dialect spoken in Sumatra, ayam means chicken and makan means eat, but “Ayam makan” doesn’t mean only “The chicken is eating.” Depending on context, “Ayam makan” can mean the “chickens are eating,” “a chicken is eating,” “the chicken is eating,” “the chicken will be eating,” “the chicken eats,” “the chicken has eaten,” “someone is eating the chicken,” “someone is eating for the chicken,” “someone is eating with the chicken,” “the chicken that is eating,” “where the chicken is eating,” and “when the chicken is eating.” If chickens and eating are à propos, the assumption is that everybody in the conversation knows what’s what. Thus for a wide variety of situations the equivalent of “chicken eat” will do—and does.

So does the contrast between Riau Indonesian’s “chicken eat” and Kabardian’s “they saw me and it affected me, not now, and I really mean it” mean that each language gives its speakers a different way of looking at the world? It’s an intriguing idea, first formulated by anthropologist and linguist Edward Sapir and amateur linguist (and fire inspector!) Benjamin Whorf. If it were correct, an English-speaker would generally think about the past more than a Chinese-speaker would, while Germans would think more about movement than Americans or Brits.

Experiments have shown that this is often true to a faint, flickering degree a psychologist can detect in the artifice of experimental conditions. But does this mean a different way of experiencing life? Is a Kabardian shopkeeper in the Caucasus more exquisitely attuned to the nuances of experience than a Riau Indonesian-speaking fisherman in Sumatra? If that Kabardian shopkeeper’s jam-packed verbs mean that he vibrates in tune to the jots and tittles of life, then doesn’t one have to say that the Riau Indonesian speaker, whose grammar directs his attention to so few details, is something of a limp string on the guitar? We would run into similarly hopeless comparisons around the world. The Zulu speaker would be hypervigilant given the complexities of his language, the Samoan speaker inattendant given the less obsessively complicated nature of hers.

If thought and culture aren’t why some languages pile it on while others take it light, then what is the reason? Part of the answer is unsatisfying but powerful: chance. Time and repetition wear words out, and what wears away is often a nugget of meaning. This happens in some languages more than others. Think of the French song “Alouette, gentille alouette …” (“lark, nice lark”) in which one sings “ahh-loo-eh-tuh.” In running speech the word has long been pronounced just “ah-loo-ett” with no -uh at the end. That –uh in the song today is a leftover from the way the word actually was once pronounced normally, and it indicated the word’s feminine gender to the listener. Today, beyond marginal contexts like that song, only the final e in the spelling of alouette indicates its gender; hearing it in a sentence we’d have to rely on the definite article la alone to know that the word is feminine.
In a language where final sounds take the accent, such sounds tend to hold on longer because they are so loud and clear—you’re less likely to mumble it and people listening are more likely to hear it. In Hebrew, “Thank you very much,” is “Toda raba,” pronounced “toe-DAH rah-BAH.” The sounds at the end of the word mark gender in Hebrew, too, and they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon because they are enunciated with force.

When a language seems especially telegraphic, usually another factor has come into play: Enough adults learned it at a certain stage in its history that, given the difficulty of learning a new language after childhood, it became a kind of stripped-down “schoolroom” version of itself. Because all languages, are, to some extent, busier than they need to be, this streamlining leaves the language thoroughly complex and nuanced, just lighter on the bric-a-brac that so many languages pant under. Even today, Indonesian is a first language to only one in four of its speakers; the language has been used for many centuries as a lingua franca in a vast region, imposed on speakers of several hundred languages. This means that while other languages can be like overgrown lawns, Indonesian’s grammar has been regularly mowed, such that especially the colloquial forms are tidier. Lots of adult learning over long periods of time is also why, for example, the colloquial forms of Arabic like Egyptian and Moroccan are somewhat less elaborated than Modern Standard Arabic—they were imposed on new people as Islam spread after the seventh century.

In contrast, one cannot help suspecting that not too many adults have been tackling the likes of sǝq’ayǝƛaaɣwǝaɣhaś. Kabardian has been left to its own devices, and my, has it hoarded a lot of them. This is, as languages go, normal, even if Kabardian is rather extreme. By contrast, only a few languages have been taken up as vehicles of empire and imposed on millions of unsuspecting and underqualified adults. Long-dominant Mandarin, then, is less “busy” than Cantonese and Taiwanese, which have been imposed on fewer people. English came out the way it did because Vikings, who in the first millennium forged something of an empire of their own in northern and western Europe, imposed themselves on the Old English of the people they invaded and, as it were, mowed it. German, meanwhile, stayed “normal.”

Even if languages’ differences in busyness can’t be taken as windows on psychological alertness, the differences remain awesome. In a Native American language of California called Atsugewi (now extinct), if a tree was burned and we found the ashes in a creek afterward, we would have said that soot w’oqhputíc’ta into the creek. W’oqhputíc’ta is a conglomeration of bits that mean “it moved like dirt, in a falling fashion, into liquid, and for real.” In English, we would just say “flowed.”
 

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16/11/2016

One More Year at the Finance Magnates Expo: There and Back Again

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By Wordwide FX Financial Translations

Back home again after two intensive days in London enjoying great conferences and an amazing atmosphere in Europe's financial capital with the best international minds of the FX industry. It's been great to share the event with people we work with on a daily basis, and to put a face to email conversations and Skype chats. It feels really good to see so many enthusiastic professionals giving their very best to turn these two days into the benchmark event for brokers, retail traders, and companies like ours, oriented to services for brokers.  

 

FXPRIMUS, FXEMPIRE, AFX Group, UFX, Saxo Markets, Investing.com, and other clients and specialized media attended one more year the biggest expo in the FX and binary options industry. It was also lots of fun to meet fellow Barcelonians!  We'd like to send special regards to FXStreet's founder Francesc Riverola. 

I hope to see you all again next year!

The Wordwide FX Team

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