For people who love languages
VOLUME 13, NEWSLETTER 2 February 2011
February Feature: Romance Languages
iPhone 4 Coming to Verizon
Assessing Language Proficiency
Interview with Jeremy Bergerson
Spotlight: Ultralingua Business Solutions
About Our Company
View Our Products
Product Support
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February Feature: Romance Languages

With February now upon us and Valentine’s Day fast approaching, Ultralingua is offering a hand to lovers of language with a discount on the languages of love. Looking to woo with a French poem or an Italian ballad this month? We want to make sure you know exactly what it is you’re saying when you write that valentine this February, so double check those words of love with one of Ultralingua’s reference tools. This month, Ultralingua is offering our Romance languages products -- Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian -- at a 20% discount. Use the coupon code ROMANCE20 to save from now until February 28th.

Romance languages comprise all the Indo-European languages that descend from Latin. The six most widely spoken standardized Romance languages are Spanish/Castilian (~500mil), French (~250mil), Portuguese (~240mil), Italian, Romanian, and Catalan. Other Romance, or Romanic, languages include Corsican, Emiliano-Romagnolo, Lombard, Occitan, Gascon, Piedmontese, Aromanian, Sardinian, Sicilian, Venetian, Galician, Asturian, Neapolitan, Romansch, and Friulin.

Ultralingua offers dictionary products for the four most widely spoken Romance languages, all of which can be found in the links below. Act soon to save 20% on Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian products this month with coupon code ROMANCE20. This discount is valid now through February 28th.

This offer is ONLY valid for Mac, Windows, PalmOS, Windows Mobile Smartphone, and Windows Mobile Pocket PC products purchased from Ultralingua’s website until February 28, 2011.

iPhone 4 Coming to Verizon

After months of rumor and speculation, it’s finally official. The iPhone 4 will be available from Verizon starting February 10, 2011. This is big news to current and future iPhone owners alike; the carrier you choose impacts your smartphone experience significantly, and the choice can be a hard one to make without knowing the differences. We’ll explain some of the things to look out for below to help you sort through the clutter. Share your thoughts on this topic with other users on Facebook here.

Verizon iPhone 4

Upfront costs for purchasing an iPhone from Verizon and AT&T are virtually the same. No matter which carrier you choose, you’ll pay $199 USD for the 16GB model and $299 for the 32GB version. Monthly service costs and what they include will vary by carrier, however, so you should choose the best plan for your needs.

At the time of this writing (January 2011) Verizon has yet to announce data plan costs for the iPhone 4, so we’ll use other Verizon smartphone data plans for our comparison. Verizon charges $15 for 150MB data, $29.99 for unlimited, and $49.99 for unlimited data with tethering. Data plans appear slightly cheaper with AT&T, as AT&T customers pay $15 for 200MB, $25 for 2GB, and $45 for 2GB plus tethering. AT&T data plans are capped at 2GB, however, while Verizon offers unlimited options.

The important thing to keep in mind when choosing a data plan, much like when choosing a dictionary app, are your individual needs as a smartphone user. According to AT&T, 98 percent of its customers consume less than 2GB of data bandwidth per month, and 65 percent actually use less than 200MB. For some users, the convenience of having an unlimited plan and not having to worry about surprise charges justifies the higher monthly charge. Think about what you’ll be using your phone for and choose your level of service accordingly.

The iPhones available from Verizon and AT&T are almost identical, so we suspect that very few users will look to device differences when making a decision.

Both carriers offer services the other doesn’t, so you need to weigh your options. While Verizon iPhone users will not be able to browse the web and talk on the phone at the same time, AT&T users will have less extensive Wi-Fi hotspot functionality than Verizon users. Neither of these use cases is common for most users, but if they are important to you, you’ll want to explore these differences further.

It can be confusing sorting through all the numbers the carriers use to communicate about their networks, but most of it comes down to network speed and reliability. AT&T phones are theoretically capable of faster download speeds than Verizon (3Mbps opposed to 1.4Mbps), but the Verizon network offers more coverage in the United States than AT&T. In the end, service will come down to what coverage both carriers offer in your area.

If you frequently travel outside the United States, which we know many of you do, the AT&T iPhone is a safer bet for now. AT&T iPhones are more likely to work globally, while the Verizon iPhone will only work in some 40 nations across the world which have limited network support.

What this means for Ultralingua users
Apps from Ultralingua will continue to work as intended no matter which carrier you go with. You can switch carriers confidently. Your Ultralingua apps will transfer to your new device easily, and all Verizon and AT&T users will continue to get great updates at the same time. Apps from other developers which require a data plan to function may be impacted by the service provided by your carrier, so we can’t make any promises there – but if you choose the data plan that is right for you, no problems should arise.

Assessing Language Proficiency

We recently posted an article link on our Twitter page regarding the increased demand for language skills in the workplace. As language learners, enthusiasts, and aficionados you have probably been asked to describe your level of language proficiency to a potential employer. At the very least, you will have to include your proficiencies in your résumé and reliably update them as you study more languages or begin learning a new one. The question is: how do you describe your skills?

Communicating your proficiency level with a language is difficult. Despite the large number of individuals who have had some degree of education in a non-native language, there exists no explicit standard for the general populace that accurately assesses and describes proficiency. What do “proficient,” “conversational,” “fluent,” and “near fluent” mean to peers or employers when you describe your skills with a language that way? We’ve all used them, but what do they mean?

These words have no standard definition when it comes to language proficiency, and when they are used on résumés they might simply be adjectives. “Conversational” carries with it a different connotation for each employer, grant-writer, and university admissions department and confusion inevitably follows. In important applications such as these, your language skills can be one of your strongest assets. The last thing you want is to cause confusion or to inaccurately describe your abilities.

Because of these linguistic discrepancies, endeavors are being made to establish a standard measurement to describe the achievements of language learners. Europass, an initiative of the European Commission, has developed one such system, called The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR).

The CEFR is a language self-assessment grid developed to provide a method of assessing and teaching which applies to all languages in Europe. This table explains how each level is evaluated in terms of “Understanding,” “Speaking,” and “Writing” abilities on a letter scale from rudimentary to extensive expertise.

The CEFR is becoming widely accepted as the European standard for grading the language proficiency of an individual. In 2001, a European Union Council Resolution recommended using the CEFR to set up other systems of language ability validation.

This assessment grid aims to be the definitive system used to better describe language levels, and it is a useful tool to reference when it comes to things like résumés. Citing a proficiency description from a widely recognized and carefully constructed grading system like the CEFR can make a distinctly positive impression on a potential employer. At the very least, it’s better than describing your language skills using empty phrases like "nearly fluent," "mostly proficient," "intermediate" or "on the way to a level of native."

Check out the CEFR grid now to discover where your language skills currently stand.

Interview with Jeremy Bergerson

In order to maintain the highest level of quality, Ultralingua employs a team of dictionary editors for our many language products. We asked one of our newer editors, Jeremy Bergerson, about his interest in language and etymology, his experiences teaching German at the collegiate level, and how he came to be a part of the Ultralingua team.

Ultralingua: Where did your interest in language begin? When did you know you wanted to spend your life studying languages?
Jeremy Bergerson: I was always interested in language as a child, but I first became interested in foreign languages after my family went to France for the Bicentenaire in 1989. While there, I found that I could repeat the French I was hearing and people were impressed with my quick uptake. When I started school that fall, I took a year-long foreign language course that gave us all an introduction to Spanish, French, and German. I liked German, because I kept noticing word and sound correspondences between German and English, which I found endlessly fascinating. In high school, I took German at the University of Minnesota, and when I went there as an undergrad, I was introduced to Germanic Philology and started studying what I had noticed in junior high, though now I knew it was a real discipline and my appetite was whetted. I realized this was for me.

UL: You’ve taught college-level German and German translation at several colleges and universities. What did you enjoy most about your teaching positions? Where was your favorite place to teach and why?
JB: I've loved teaching everywhere I've been, but the Germanic-American Institute in St. Paul, MN was particularly rewarding, because it was all adult learners who had a deep interest in German and were motivated to learn. The University of Minnesota was great, because in the midst of large class sizes, there would always be a few students who really got it and were inspired by German. Helping them along was a true pleasure. The chance to help people is what's best about teaching, so when I taught German translation to grad students at Cal-Berkeley, I was tickled pink. German scholarship has touched every academic field, and almost all grad students can benefit from knowledge of it. Teaching my peers to see how nimble German is, how its range of expression is so efficient, was great because I felt like I was doing a service to the scholarly world.

UL: What made you want to become an Ultralingua dictionary editor initially, and what do you most enjoy about the position now that you are part of the team?
JB: I was recruited by Josh Miedema, who has been an excellent partner in this ongoing project. He told me about what Ultralingua does, and being myself a lexicographically-minded type of guy, I was intrigued by the prospects of dictionary apps in the ever-growing age of the app. As with teaching, I love the idea that doing something well in the world of foreign languages has an impact on the world. Ask anyone who speaks a foreign language: when you learn one, your life is permanently changed.

UL: How does your expertise in etymology impact your work at Ultralingua? Can the study of etymology be an asset to the language learning process?
JB: I wouldn't say that my etymological background has a direct impact, because that would only really apply if I were writing an etymological dictionary. But I do think that when someone specializes in comparative linguistic work, knowing cognate forms in different languages gives you an all-around broader perspective. It can help you decode things more quickly, and it can help you make associations faster, thereby enabling quicker language learning. Plus, it's super interesting.

UL: What do you plan to do after you complete your Ph.D. in German and Dutch with the University of California-Berkeley?
JB: I am going to look for work in the private sector, perhaps in other technological enterprises along with my work at Ultralingua. Germany and the Netherlands have some of the best-performing economies in the world, and there is a strong demand for language experts all over the country. Maybe I'll work as a bicycle mechanic again while I'm looking for the right job, I'm not really sure yet. First, I have to finish writing my doctoral dissertation!

UL: How do you spend your time when you aren’t working with Ultralingua?
JB: Winter cycling has been my passion of late, but then again, cycling's a passion in the spring, summer and fall too, so the winter has little to do with it. Working in my family's garden, planting and managing their fruit trees, and cooking the vegetables that I grow are all part of my horticultural interests. Lately, I've been following a lot of cricket, but I'm sure that once the professional bicycle racing and baseball seasons start up, my attentions will be all cycling and baseball related. Above all, though, I love spending time with friends and loved ones. Preferably over food, of course.

Please join us in welcoming another language enthusiast to the Ultralingua team!

Spotlight: Ultralingua Business Solutions

Our customers and newsletter subscribers are already familiar with Ultralingua’s world class language applications, but did you know that the same technology that powers these amazing apps is also hard at work behind the scenes in software from other developers? The engines behind it all, called APIs (application programming interface), currently power a number of popular applications, including the massive hit Proloquo2go from Assistiveware, the bilingual online dictionaries used by tens of thousands of children via the education portal, netTrekker, and the prolific education and assistive technology provider, Texthelp Systems, just to name a few!

Ultralingua has been working with business, government, and academic partners for over a decade and our client list continues to grow. The Canadian Revenue Agency harnesses the power of our grammar and spell checking API, Grammatica, to promote proper communication in both English and French throughout their networks, while the World Association of Nuclear Operators facilitates bilingual communication among field workers with Ultralingua dictionaries preloaded onto field equipment!

Ultralingua is building the bridge between languages and technology in order to meet the language needs of the 21st century. We look forward to continuing the work we’ve started with our partners to create innovative solutions to interesting linguistic challenges.

In the next few newsletters, we will be shining the spotlight on some of our partners and highlighting their inventive use of the Ultralingua and Grammatica APIs. Stay tuned to learn more about these fascinating organizations and the creative solutions they have created.

If you’d like to learn more about the solutions we provide, we invite you to visit the Business Solutions section of the Ultralingua website. To speak directly with us or to make a business inquiry, contact us at business@ultralingua.com. We would love to hear from you!


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