The Commisceo Global Blog - Perfect for Culture Vultures

Whether a press release, a case study of cultural difference, some tips on working abroad or some lessons in cross-communication, we try our best to satiate your inner culture vulture.

Language Aptitude Tests for Foreign Doctors


With the well publicized case of Dr Daniel Ubani earlier this year has come the question as to how many other EU GPs practicing in the UK are ‘lost in translation’. Dr Ubani had “unlawfully killed” UK patient David Gray in 2008 after mistakenly giving him a large overdose of diamorphine.

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Expats in Spain filling job gaps

Ex-pats living in Spain are being recruited and trained to work as remote telemarketing staff for English businesses because there is a shortage of suitable candidates in the UK.

Call centre staffing company Sensée has hired 10 sun-soaked British workers as telesales agents for Sense On Hold (SOH), a UK-based company providing marketing to callers while they are waiting on hold. The agents will never meet their new bosses at SOH, as all elements of recruitment and training take place online.

The move reflects the growing number of employers using mobile workers for traditional, office-based jobs.

Read more> Expats 
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Migrants' safety getting lost in translation

Many employers are risking migrant workers' wellbeing by not providing adequate health and safety training warned the Institute of Occupational Health and safety (IOSH).

It said many non-English speaking migrant workers are especially at risk as H&S training is usually delivered in English. IOSH recently conducted a pilot study into how H&S training is delivered to migrant workers in the food processing sector.

Half of the 26 companies polled admitted their H&S training did not address how non-English speaking workers were informed, instructed or trained in H&S issues and practices.

"The evidence from the food and drink sector is that too many employers are taking risks with their migrant workers by not offering proper training in H&S issues," said IOSH policy and technical director Richard Jones."Within this sector only 42% of employers provide English lessons to staff."

Read more> Migrants 
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Punjabi is 4th most spoken language in Canada

Punjabi is the fourth most spoken language in Canada after English, French and Chinese, according to an official census.

While English and French are official languages, Chinese, Punjabi, Spanish, Italian and Arabic are the most five most widely-spoken non-official languages in the country. Punjabi is also the 4th most spoken language in the Canadian Parliament.

According to the census by Statistics Canada in 2006, the most widely-spoken non-official language is Chinese (2.6 per cent of Canadians). It is followed by Punjabi (0.8 per cent), Spanish (0.7 per cent), Italian (0.6 per cent) and Arabic (0.5 per cent).

Read more > Canada
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Translation of food labels

Revere's (Massachusetts, USA) diverse community has given rise to a number of ethnic restaurants and grocery stores brimming with international products from countries such as Cambodia, Lebanon, and Thailand.

revere usa


While these restaurants and stores provide a taste of home for immigrants, they may be confusing for residents who want to try new things but cannot read foreign-language packaging.

This was one of the arguments used by City Councilor George Rotondo when he asked, by way of a council motion, that Revere stores that sell products in a foreign language provide an English translation.

"I embrace diversity. I live it," said Rotondo, whose wife is from Colombia and who can speak or read five languages. "Unfortunately, I believe it's unfair that you go to a store and see something there and don't know what it is, and have to rely on someone telling you what it is."

His colleagues on the council last month approved the motion, which then made its way to Mayor Thomas G. Ambrosino's desk. There it met a speedy death.

"The council passed it and the mayor vetoed it," Rotondo said. "He thought it was 'silly'; he wrote that in a letter to me."

"I just thought it was kind of foolish," Ambrosino said in an interview. "First of all, I don't think we have the authority to have private companies translate their products into English. And I don't think it's an effort in which we ought to be expending our efforts."

Read more > Revere 
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Language and Culture are issues for midwives

The UK's population is growing. Part of that increase is fuelled by women from other countries having children here.

And as the Local Government Association (LGA), representing 400 councils in England and Wales, outlines to a House of Lords select committee how migration stretches community services, one midwife tells how the changes affect her.

language and culture in the uk


For midwife Jayne Cozens, going to work these days is also becoming something of a geography lesson.

She has worked in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, for 12 years, and her caseloads are containing increasing numbers of foreign nationals from across the globe.

Language and culture are becoming more of an issue, as Mrs Cozens' job becomes ever more multi-cultural and multi-lingual.

"It can be a challenge explaining to a 17-year-old English girl what an amniocentesis is, let alone to a teenager from abroad who doesn't speak the language," she says.

There are cultural issues, too, which midwives must handle in the course of giving their advice to non-UK nationals.

"Chinese families tend to sleep together in the same room and the same bed.

"Children, new baby, mum and dad are all together. It's what they're used to, so you go to a house and there's a couple of mattresses on the floor.

"But our advice in relation to cot death is for women to not sleep with their babies, so if you have the whole family in together then that presents a problem."

Mrs Cozens said that in the course of her work "you do learn a few words" but that this is not enough to clearly explain the full message.

Read more> Language & Culture
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Expats "get the best of both worlds"

When English people move abroad, almost half (46 percent) miss traditional dishes such as bangers and mash and black pudding.

More than a third (37 percent) miss their favourite TV programmes, such as Only Fools and Horses, according to a major new survey of expats by BUPA International.

But surprisingly, in spite of craving familiar foods and TV programmes, the majority of English expats say they are actually happier abroad.

Findings from research by the world's largest expat health insurer show that three in four English expats now call their new country "home", while a third say they feel healthier since moving abroad, thanks to better weather and an improved quality of life.

Ninety-three percent of the English surveyed also said they would recommend the expatriate life to others, with over half declaring that "they get the best of both worlds".

Read more> Expatriate
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Spouse language skills part of revised migrant scheme

Husbands and wives of work visa applicants will have to prove their English language skills under plans unveiled by the government yesterday.

Home secretary Jacqui Smith announced that foreigners applying for spouse visas will have to undergo language tests.

She also said that criminals with unspent convictions will be refused entry, while the age at which people can come to the UK for marriage will be raised from 18 to 21.

The government is revamping the UK's migration system, introducing a tougher, points-based scheme. This will be introduced in five stages over the next 18 months.

Read more> Language

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English is foreign for 40% of primary school kids

Schools are struggling to cover the cost of providing specialist teachers for thousands of new immigrant pupils, headteachers warned today.

english in primary school




Forty per cent of primary age children in London now speak a language other than English at home and some schools take several new arrivals a week as pupils "appear from nowhere", heads have said.

The National Association of Head Teachers called for schools to be given the "infrastructureî they needed to get pupils whose first language is not English fluent enough to cope with the national curriculum as soon as possible.Read more> Language 
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An expat's view on intercultural communication

Portuguese expat Elizabet Fernandes enjoys the international atmosphere in her multilingual EU company, but finds that people get 'lost in translation’ and inherit one another's linguistic mistakes.

Lost in translation

English is the current working language but too often people ‘get lost in translation’ because the level and the knowledge of language amongst us varies from person to person. We also inherit each other’s linguistic mistakes and end up speaking a kind of ‘Euro-English’. I like to speak as many languages as possible so I prefer to speak Spanish, French or Italian depending on the nationality of my colleagues. Besides, with this job I can also use and develop my skills as a translator and that’s perfect.

Unfortunately it’s too hard to use Dutch on a daily basis as the Dutch immediately respond in English to foreigners even to Flemish people!

Culture games

Although Eurojust is a very multicultural environment it is still not very intercultural. My colleagues often don’t understand each other or tend to ‘over-react’. I have been fighting for intercultural training because it helps you to realise that different people (from different cultures) may react differently in similar situations and to respect that. I followed this training myself in Portugal so I know the impact and the benefits.

Read more: Holland 
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Australia puts migrants to culture test

Migrants hoping to become Australian citizens will soon have to take a test examining their knowledge of the country's history and institutions, and endorse national values including "mateship".

While Australia prides itself on its multicultural heritage, the government wants newcomers to "integrate" more fully. From later this year, prospective citizens will have to demonstrate an understanding of the English language. They will also be obliged to answer 20 questions, from a potential bank of 200. Anyone who gives fewer than 12 correct responses will not receive a passport.

Read more: Australia 
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Union publishes Safety Guide for Migrant Workers

The TUC has published an employers’ guide to help ensure the safety of migrant workers.

The document, Safety and Migrant Workers, warns employers that many migrant staff are more vulnerable than UK employees to illness, injuries or death at work due to a lack of safety training, non-existent or inadequate safety clothing and equipment, and poor English skills.

Problems with language and a poor understanding of the culture in British workplaces means that some ‘rogue employers’ are likely to be cutting corners and risking the health of their migrant workforce.

Read more: Safety and Migrant Workers 
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