Friday, February 07, 2003
Japanese Language Study Growing in Popularity in India
Glad to see my brown brothers are also entering into the study of this fascinating language, though I have to admit I'm surprised to see any growth at all. Japan's immigration policies are far more strict than those of the US, and with the cost of living so high it's not a popular destination for students from poor countries seeking inexpensive technical training, especially as the Japanese government has begun to cut budgets for scholarships to foreign students from Asian countries. Furthermore, as far as I understand it most Japanese companies who are doing any outsourcing at all prefer China. Thanks to SWK of yellowworld.org for the link. Asia Times reports:
"We have classes to prepare our students for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test conducted by the Japan Foundation, which is part of the Ministry of Education of the government of Japan. This is the benchmark for Japanese language qualification worldwide. As the only recognized center for the test in south India, we had around 1,500 students taking the test last year," says P T Kannan, director, language teaching, at ABK-AOTS Dosokai.
There are an estimated 12 language institutions in South India of various levels, providing teaching and translation services that generate approximately Rs 1 million (US$21,000) a year. Japanese language courses cost in the range of $80, which is a not inconsiderable sum in India.
In addition, 2001 marked the first sitting of the JLPT in Bangladesh, which attracted 60 students, though none attempted the Level (I) examination which foreigners planning to work in Japan often taken, and only four attempted the Level (II) examination required for entrance into Japanese universities. (The levels are numbered in reverse order of difficulty; (I) indicates near-fluency while (IV) is aimed at students who have completed a 150-contact-hour course, usually through a yearlong introductory course at university).
However, unlike in China where two-thirds of students took either Level (I) or (II), obviously indicating a professional purpose, even in India with the largest number of examinees, the vast majority (four-fifths) in India attempted the easier levels, which probably aren't very useful as job-seeking qualifications (except possibly in hospitality), and indicate more of a hobbyist interest in the language, a rather surprising trend for a poor country. Statistics for all South Asian countries in which a sitting of the examination was offered:
Sri Lanka's dramatic drop in 2001 was likely due to their ongoing civil war; between 1999 and 2000 their total testtaker pool grew from 826 to 930, a growth rate of 12.6%. As I wrote previously, Japanese study has also been growing in popularity in East and Southeast Asian countries, though also not as fast as the popularity of English study. 2002 statistics are not yet available, though I can tell you I met 3 guys from Pakistan at the sitting of the 2002 Level (I) examination in Hong Kong. For further information, see JLPT Communication Square for 2001 and 2000 JLPT statistics, or ETS for TOEFL statistics for the past decade.
Thursday, February 06, 2003
Template Work in Progress
I'm messing with the template right now instead of coding my graduation project. It should stop looking funny in a few minutes.
Edit: I've saved a few of the most useful features, but essentially the old template is gone, as I found its ugliness to be completely unredeemable. Hopefully this makes things a lot more readable and aesthetically pleasing. Furthermore, past posts are now available archived either by topic or by date. Now, no blogging for me at least for a few days, I have yet another meeting with my advisor on Monday. I'd forgotten how addictive this can be ...
CIA Seeks Out Chinese-Americans to Spy on China
In an interesting counterpoint to the story of Mr. Yai, recently arrested on charges of acting as an agent of North Korea inside the US without registering with the government, the BBC reports that the CIA is seeking out Chinese-Americans to work as spies and intelligence analysts.
The CIA - along with the FBI and other agencies - has been criticised for not having enough agents who can fit in with Arab or Asian societies.
Unfortunately, there's a rather limited supply of Chinese-Americans who can both pull off the task of effortlessly blending into mainland society and who would consider working for the CIA. The lack of Chinese-language education at an early age would appear to be impeding the normal operation of US intelligence agencies --- there's a distinct lack of native-born Americans who speak good Chinese. The most useful response to this kind of advertisement will probably come from Taiwanese student immigrants, who would require the least investment in additional language training. History has given the United States the unusual coincidence of 22 million people whose security interests in Asia are aligned to a certain degree with ours and who speak the language of our most important strategic and commercial counterpoint (yes, I'm deliberately straining to avoid the word "rival" here).
By and large, history has not given us any such equally valuable coincidence in the Arab world, except among some stateless groups such as the Kurds or Egypt's Coptic minority. This means that most intelligence work in the Middle East relies on post-puberty-trained speakers, with predictable results:
Around six days ago the phone lines of the Iraqi air defense units were “attacked”. When you picked up the phone in some of the command units you didn’t get a dial tone but a male voice speaking in broken Arabic. What it said is close to what the infamous email said, don’t use chemical or biological weapons, don’t offer resistance, and don’t obey commands to attack civilian areas and so on. This went on for a couple of hours.
If there were no Taiwan, US intelligence work in China would be similarly forced to rely on second language speakers of Chinese and a few dissidents who left China and hoped to work against the Communist government from the outside. Just a thought.
South Korean Immigrant Arrested in LA on Charges Relating to National Security
UPI was the first with the story. Washington Times reports:
John Joungwoong "Joung" Yai, 59, faced an initial court appearance Wednesday afternoon on charges he failed to register as an official agent of the Pyongyang government, which could lead to a 20-year prison sentence for the former merchant and restaurant investor.
His brother's wife chimes in with her own perspective:
Yai's sister-in-law, Young Ro, told reporters Tuesday night that Yai "loved America" and didn't appear to have the English proficiency or computer skills needed to be a successful spy. "I don't believe he would do that at all," she told the Times. "I don't think he's that smart."
The Washington Post reports on the growth of Chinese and Korean language schools catering to the children of immigrants:
"We have to teach them from the very beginning," said Choon T. Hong, principal of the Korean language school that meets every Friday night at Bethel Korean Presbyterian Church in Ellicott City. About 250 students are enrolled for the spring semester. "The children who are born in the U.S., they don't think they are Korean," Hong said. "But they are Korean, because of their parents, because of the way they look. . . . I'm trying to give them an identity as a Korean-American who can understand both cultures, who can speak both languages."
Pastor Hong, please don't worry about giving them an identity as "Korean-Americans." That'll develop quite well enough on its own once they hit high school. But understanding both cultures and speaking both languages? This is a ridiculously overambitious goal for a program with 3 contact hours a week.
Children may be language sponges, but they also have a surprising tendency to forget what they don't use, and immigrant parents need to rid themselves of the ridiculous idea that sending our kids to church for 3 hours on Friday night is going to result in anything more valuable than a chance for to spend a quiet evening alone or out on the town. There is no way anyone is going to learn anything from a weekly language class. I took Spanish every weekday of the schoolyear for 9 years and I could barely follow the World Cup commentary on Univision (which I was was forced to watch instead of ESPN because my housemates and I were too cheap to get cable).
Though there are those blame the inauthenticity of Chinese food in the Midwest on the limited palates of Ice People, and see in the menus of Wong's Kitchens and Peking Gardens the horrors of cultural imperialism, Taiwan's Presidential Office Deputy Secretary General Joseph Wu sees a different reason. In an interview with the Taipei Times, He asserts that even in St. Louis, the main driving force behind menu changes at the restaurant he worked at were Chinese immigrant and student customers, not local whites, and that as a result, many chefs were forced to make dishes from outside of their regional specialties:
Having been brought up in a home where the kitchen was the sole preserve of women, Wu had never done any cooking before he went to Missouri in 1979 to start on a masters degree. But in order to ensure he had enough money for his second year of studies, Wu applied for work at the Yen Ching Chinese Restaurant in May 1980.
"Although it was supposedly a northern Chinese restaurant, the owners and most of the chefs were either from Taiwan or Hong Kong," Wu said. "And in order to cater to the tastes of local Chinese, many of whom were immigrants or students from Taiwan, there were plenty of southern seafood dishes on the menu, so what it offered was actually mixed cuisine."
Monday, February 03, 2003
The End of Discriminatory Admissions in Malaysia?
Don't count on it. Though Steve Sailer (who links to this article) seems more confident, there's a gaping hole in the new system. In Malaysia, there's three ways to qualify for a higher education course. The first is by examination: you study two years for the STPM (Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia), the Malaysian Higher School Certificate Examination which has been acknowledged to be even more difficult than the British A-levels. You submit your results to your preferred varsity, sit, wait, and hope. The second option is to take a two-year diploma course at a local private college. However, those born into the right skin color and raised in the right culture can take a far easier route: matriculation centers. Matriculation graduates sit for a mere one year course, after which they take perfunctory examination that is not even as hard as the A-levels, let alone the STPM, and have their grades treated the same - an A on Matrikulasi is worth the same as an A on STPM. But does it represent the same level of preparation? Of course not. As DAP National Chairman Lim Kit Siang stated in a speech at the DAP's educational forum last year:
In May last year, Utusan Malaysia carried an article about a study by Universiti Utara Malaysia (Bidin Yatim, Sharipah Soaad Syed Yahaya and Nor Azilah Ngah, 1997) on the performance of matriculation holders in the first year of university compared to STPM holders. The study found that matriculation students on the whole could not maintain their high CGPA after their first semester.
In otherwords, this is the Malaysian equivalent of saying Blacks and Latinos get 200 extra points tacked on to their SAT scores. Malaysia isn't ahead of the US on the elimination of affirmative action - they're not even keeping pace with us. Granted, however, Dr. M has only had a recent change of heart on the matter, and immediately took a big step in the right direction, while George W. Bush's continually expresses his convictions about the wrongness of affirmative action without doing anything about it.
As long as higher education admissions committees continue to treat matriculation students as equivalent to STPM holders when the evidence shows their academic preparation is nowhere near the same level, the basic injustice of the system continues unimpeded. Opening up 10% of seats at matriculation centers to non-bumiputra, throwing us scraps from the table, as it were, doesn't change this fact. Is this what's necessary to hold the country together? We'll be watching anxiously. (I'll feel seriously embarassed if Chinese students apply in any significant numbers for seats in matriculation centers, but it won't surprise me when they do and when MCA starts defending their right to do so. The Indians are the ones who need them and deserve them after years of discrimination --- under NEP/NDP, university intakes consistently measured as little as 4% Indian.)
The most significant long term effect of Mr. Musa's plans may be to slow the outflow of non-bumiputra students to overseas universities in Singapore and Taiwan. Though the most able will continue to go far afield to the USA or the UK for the best education possible, the middle ranked students, who would previously have been forced by discrimination to go overseas for university, as often to Sinophone countries as to Anglophone ones, may now find they can stay at home and pay far lower costs. Under the old system, many families simply sacrificed all, including the educational opportunities of all their other offspring, in order to pay private tuition at an overseas university for one of their children. With more inexpensive educational places available inside the country, maybe more families will be able to give all their children a shot at the top.