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Language learning needs to be protected from becoming a casualty of coronavirus (The i)

When learning a new language, you begin with the words you would normally need every day: words for meeting people, going to cafés and restaurants, asking for the way to the station. Now – in a world where a summer holiday, let alone living abroad, feels like a fading possibility – that rule seems ironic.

While terms like self-isolation and social distancing have become basic vocabulary in English, those classic foreign phrases have evoked a strange sort of wanderlust, tainted by a festering frustration.

With millions of pupils now staying at home until September at the earliest – language degrees and lessons could be among the most disrupted – and foreign travel affected for the foreseeable future, it is vital our ability to talk to the world does not turn into another casualty of coronavirus.

Languages, at their heart, are about people communicating freely with each other, so as school and university subjects, they rely on a level of social proximity that is currently not possible.

Recent posts

Coronavirus leaves universities with no choice but to cancel our exams (The Guardian)

Leaving university is usually a bittersweet experience, but it’s never been this disorientating. As my course shifts online, packing up my room and saying goodbye to my friends and to independence has turned this into one of the most disruptive periods of my life. The same goes for most final-year students I’ve spoken to – both those who study with me at Cambridge and friends finishing elsewhere.

Of course, the degree isn’t actually done. For those of us lucky enough to be able to go back home our thoughts pass to our exams.

Coming from a current finalist like me, a plea for our exams to be cancelled might sound like someone looking for an easy way out. But universities are the ones that have to face up to reality in the middle of a life-changing global emergency. It’s the fairest option we have left.

Having devoted a staggering amount of the last four years to my studies, to lose out on the satisfaction of completing them properly would be beyond demoralising. The ideal scenario woul…

Spanish PM Sanchez loses confidence vote, raising prospect of new elections (The Daily Telegraph)

Spain slipped onto a path towards a fourth general election in as many years on Thursday after its acting prime minister Pedro Sánchez failed to secure the parliamentary support he needed to form a new government.

Mr Sánchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE), which won a snap poll in April but fell substantially short of a majority, was engaged in a back and forth with further-left Unidas Podemos over a possible coalition until hours before the decisive confidence vote in Congress.

With the parties opposed on which ministerial posts should be granted to the potential junior partner led by former communist Pablo Iglesias, Unidas Podemos abstained, whilst the conservative People’s Party (PP), liberal Ciudadanos and far-right Vox voted against Mr. Sánchez.

The caretaker head of government, who swept to power in June 2018 through a confidence vote aided by Unidas Podemos, has two months to regain its backing for a coalition or another minority administration, or Spain will return to the ballot box…

Barcelona's Sagrada Familia finally gets building permit after 137 years (The Daily Telegraph)

After 137 years, 10 architects, and millions of euros of administrative costs, Barcelona’s modernist masterpiece the Sagrada Família has finally been granted a building permit.

In what has been satirised as the ultimate tale of sluggish bureaucracy, Barcelona City Hall gave the belated go-ahead for the construction of the basilica on Friday, following a provisional agreement last October.

The Sagrada Família Foundation said that the licence would allow it to “continue to build Antoni Gaudí’s project”, expected to be completed in 2026, coinciding with the centenary of the death of its main designer.

The cathedral now has legal approval for ongoing works to restore and expand the existing structure, with a budget of 374 million euros (£332.5 million). The licence itself cost 4.6 million euros (£4.1 million).

The construction board will also have to pay 36 million euros (£32 million) over 10 years to cover public costs incurred by its activity.

Perhaps the world’s most famous unfinished …

Analysis: Spanish socialists set to confront EU’s populist right wing (The Independent)

Progressive parties around Europe are pinning their hopes on Spain to confront the populist right in the EU parliament after the Socialist Party (PSOE) prevailed in a “Super Sunday” of polls dominated by domestic division over Catalonia.

Although insurgent challenges loom large in Brussels and Barcelona – not least from exiled and jailed Catalan leaders who were elected MEPs – Spain’s Socialist prime minister Pedro Sanchez translated his recent general election success into a hat-trick of overwhelming victories at the European, regional and local levels.

In Europe, Mr Sanchez – often seen as Emmanuel Macron’s Mediterranean, market-sceptic counterpart – is set to lead the talks over key institutional roles on behalf of the social-democratic parties after PSOE won 32.8 per cent of the vote, the largest share of any of its continental partners, apart from the Portuguese socialists.

“We are going to be the biggest social democrat delegation, and that’s a source of pride for us. It’s an op…

Spain's ruling party appears poised to win election (The Independent)

One of Spain’s most competitive and polarised election campaigns since its transition to democracy came to an end on Friday, with the ruling Socialist Party (PSOE) predicted to win enough seats in Sunday’s snap poll to stay in power and keep out the threat from the far right.

Five parties are each on course to win more than 30 of the 350 seats in Spain’s congress – all of whom, in addition to a smaller Catalan nationalist group, have conflicting and potentially irreconcilable views on key issues, such as Catalonia, high levels of unemployment and immigration, and recent feminist trends.

The result could mean a return to political gridlock, particularly as latest polls suggest that neither a feasible left-leaning nor right-leaning bloc may end up with sufficient MPs to assemble a government on its own, without making painful concessions to the other side, or reopening the Catalan independence question.

“Broadly speaking, the outcome is already decided,” Juan Rodríguez Teruel, a senior …

Former Santander lawyer loses custody of her children for 'working too much' (The Daily Telegraph)

A successful female lawyer has vowed to take the Spanish state to court after losing custody of her children for allegedly working too much.

Elena del Pilar Ramallo Miñán, a solicitor formerly of Santander Bank, was ruled to have “spent too much time away from the conjugal home” when she had child-sharing responsibilities for her two daughters, aged seven and 13, revoked on International Women’s Day in 2018.

Ms Ramallo, from Galicia, northwest Spain, is to argue that the verdict “clashes head-on” with women’s rights to personal and professional fulfilment, and that the hearing gave unfair weight to the word of her ex-husband and her mother, the only witness to have been called.

The presiding judge, Carmen López, found that Ms Ramallo spent excessive time on business trips and conferences, rather than at home with her children, on the basis of testimony from their maternal grandmother, who had been on difficult terms with the mother for many years.

Ms Ramallo criticised the verdict as …

Euthanasia comes to the fore in Spanish election campaign after 70-year-old's arrest for helping wife die (The Daily Telegraph)

The debate over euthanasia has become a prominent issue in the Spanish general election campaign after a 70-year-old man was arrested for helping his terminally-ill wife to end her life.

Ángel Hernández spent Thursday night, his first without María José Carrasco, in a Madrid police cell after confessing to administering a lethal drug dose to the long-term multiple sclerosis sufferer, who was 61.

The widower has since appeared in court and been granted release subject to further enquiries, but not without rekindling a controversy about the right to die in the traditionally Catholic country.

“The police told me ‘it’s the law’, but they would have done the same thing themselves. Yes, it’s the law, but it is wrong and it should have been resolved a long time ago,” Mr Hernández told El País newspaper.

“I could have done it secretly,” he added. “I argued about that with my wife, who was a legal secretary and knew what could happen to me. But I convinced her that it was important for this to…

Fears of rising tide of racism after vicious attacks on migrant children in Catalonia (The Independent)

In February 2017, a tide of blue flags flowed through the old Gothic centre of Barcelona towards its Mediterranean coast.

Carried by a crowd at least 160,000 strong, they were coloured to symbolise the sea, which was claiming the lives of thousands of Syrian and North African refugees trying to make it to Europe.

United behind a banner proudly proclaiming “We want to welcome you”, it was one of the biggest pro-immigration marches the world has seen.

Many taking part were outraged that Spain had pledged to accept 17,000 refugees as the crisis peaked, yet by that point, the conservative government in Madrid had only taken in a little more than 700 – and only a third of the 1,250 places provisioned for Catalonia had been filled.

“The social impact of the protest was incalculable,” recalls rally organiser Ruben Wagensberg in an interview with The Independent. He is now a member for the Republican Left of Catalonia in the regional parliament.

“Now, unfortunately, our progress is being je…

Wives of Catalan leaders on trial speak out: 'All we can do is keep supporting them' (The Independent)

Barcelona and Madrid are roughly as far apart as Glasgow and London, and yet you could be forgiven for thinking the distance was even greater.

For the loved ones of the 12 Catalan separatists on trial at the Supreme Court in Madrid, this distance is both a painful metaphor and proof of what they insist is an unjust and “politically motivated” response by the central government to the Catalans’ failed drive for independence after the unsanctioned referendum in 2017.
Yet it is in Madrid – the capital of a country they do not consider their own and condemn as a “dictatorship” – where the future of those on trial will be decided.
“It sums up the disparity between Spain and Catalonia on every level,” Txell Bonet tells The Independent, near her home in the Gracia district of Barcelona.
Her partner is Jordi Cuixart, the president of Omnium, a grassroots activist group committed to Catalan independence, who along with most of the accused parties is charged with rebellion and faces up to 17 ye…

Goodbye My Friends: On Going on a Year Abroad

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

My first-ever supervisor savaged me for starting something I wrote with such a basic quote, but never has a cliché meant so much to so few.

Although this is still only my second year at Cambridge, it already feels like some sort of ending, even if it is just a season finale. So I guess Gary Oldman was right about one thing…

Telling you I haven’t really enjoyed the last few weeks hardly makes for original content, but the thing is, I thought I loved Exam Term. Last year, it was all sunshine, lollipops, coffee shops and consolidated friendships. We watched enough Love Island to get a degree in mugginess, and was it even dinner if it wasn’t outdoors?

To be fair, this year has shaped up to be pretty similar, and yet it isn’t the same with the concept of leaving the country low-key creeping up on you like a midnight coursework deadline.

My Year Abroad begins in August. Having f…

As a young Jew at Cambridge, university is where I have felt most vulnerable (The Times)

One night at the student bar, when conversation bounced on to the dejecting subject of diversity at our university (ie the lack thereof), I decided to announce that, as a Jew, I’m “technically” BME. I can’t think why I did so — it must have been the narcissism — and when my best friends laughed I laughed with them. White, male, privately educated, from northwest London — lord, I even support Chelsea — how could I belong to any type of minority group, ethnic or otherwise?

At the time I thought they had a point. Despite my Georgian, Israeli, German, Polish, Ukrainian and Russian heritage (I swear there’s some Martian in there somewhere) and despite the fact that my mum came to the UK only 25 years ago as a refugee on religious grounds, I’m a Londoner through and through. The recent scandal highlighting antisemitism among extremists on the left and the right of British politics, however, leaves me feeling more vulnerable.

I’d never make a claim to represent all Jewish students more than …