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By Maddy Savage
18 May 2018
Learning the local language might seem an obvious goal for anyone moving abroad. But in an increasingly globalised world, whether this is an effective use of time is increasingly up for debate.

Having an adaptability to different communication styles or socialisation norms are perhaps as much or more important

Growing numbers of multinationals and start-ups are adopting English as their official company language, even if they’re not based in an English-speaking nation. And internationally, millennials seem to have a much higher tolerance for using the global language than older generations, meaning it’s potentially easier to socialise with young locals by speaking English than in the past. The British Council estimates that by 2020, two billion people will be using it, well over a quarter of the world’s population.

Plus, while the idea that millennials are job-hopping much more than their parents is something of a myth, being able to work flexibly in different locations remains a core goal for many. In 2017, the Global Shapers Annual Survey, funded by the World Economic Forum, showed that 81% of respondents aged 18 to 35 from over 180 countries said they were willing to work abroad. The “ability to work and live anywhere” was one of the most important factors they identified in terms of making them feel freer in their society.

  The British Council estimates that by 2020, two billion people will be using it, well over a quarter of the world’s population

But for those people who are up for relocating without a firm intention of staying put, how much point is there in spending your free time immersed in language apps or classes, if you can survive in English?


Caroline Werner's students (Credit: CAROLINE WERNER)
Caroline Werner's students. She says “a lot of people make the mistake of not really feeling the cultural codes” in Scandinavia (Credit: Caroline Werner)
“You don’t immediately get a return on your investment,” argues Sree Kesanakurthi, an IT consultant from India who’s worked in Dubai, Singapore, Stockholm and Brussels. He has largely felt comfortable getting by with the global language, both professionally and socially.

The 31-year-old suggests that anyone moving to a new country for less than two years is better placed to focus on getting ahead at work and “finding like-minded people” to connect with, either through expat clubs or local sports and cultural activities.

“There are so many communities that basically give you the freedom to not be alienated in a country which you don’t know,” he says.

Cultural versus language intelligence

“You can exist quite easily in many locations globally without speaking any of the local language,” agrees David Livermore, author of Leading with Cultural Intelligence: The New Secret to Success.

“I wouldn’t suggest a full fluency in the language is needed for a five-year or less assignment,” he says. “Having an adaptability to different communication styles or socialisation norms are perhaps as much or more important.”

His research, which spans more than 10 years and 30 countries, analyses the concept of cultural intelligence (CQ), which he breaks down into four key areas:

-       Having the drive and interest to work in cross-cultural environments

-       Knowledge of cultural similarities and differences

-       Having a strategy to help monitor, analyse and adjust plans in unfamiliar cultural settings

-       Having the ability to act by choosing the right verbal and nonverbal behaviours, depending on the context

While he accepts that “language has some importance”, he argues that “the ability to cope with, adjust to and persevere is the most important of the four CQ capabilities for expat success”.

“You can think about this as the emotional and cognitive resilience needed to address being outside your home culture,” he argues.

  You can exist quite easily in many locations globally without speaking any of the local language - David Livermore

But some places are clearly harder to adjust to than others: for example, where social and cultural norms differ wildly from an expat’s home nation and where English is not widely spoken among the wider population.

Sima Mahdjoub is French but has lived in nine countries including the UK, Australia and Spain, she has settled in Sweden (Credit: MARTINAXELL)
“There are very big differences around the globe,” argues Eero Vaara, a professor of organisation and management at Aalto University School of Business in Finland with a focus on researching multinational corporations.

Japan is one expat hub he singles out as a place in which young professionals can experience an intense culture shock, thanks to fixed codes of conduct in both work and more informal contexts. These might include etiquette such as bowing, saving face and avoiding conflict, extreme politeness and punctuality, respect for silence and very long working hours.

“If you lack cultural sensitivity and you start trying to collaborate or bring in something new, it won’t work... and there’s clearly a big need to invest in cultural learning,” he argues, while stressing that at the same time expats must be aware that not all locals adhere to national stereotypes.

Food for thought

Ryu Miyamoto, a 53-year-old living in Takarazuka, just outside Osaka, is originally from the US, but adopted his traditional Japanese name soon after he moved there. He says he’s watched many fellow expats struggle to adapt to cultural norms in Japan, returning to their home countries for frequent vacations, or as soon as their initial assignment finishes.

But he describes himself as becoming “culturally fluent” and “pretty ‘Japanised’” within about three years.

“If people hadn't reminded me every day by their behaviour towards me I don't think I would have realized that I wasn't Japanese,” he says.

“Japanese still see foreigners - or ‘gaijin’ as they call them - as some sort of outsider... But the people close to me, they don’t see me as a ‘gaijin’...I think I am a pretty special case.”

Although he had some knowledge of Japanese before arriving and is now fluent, he argues that learning cultural codes, immersing himself in Japanese television and even teaching himself how to cook Japanese food proved just as crucial to his adjustment as the language.

And from a business perspective, Miyamoto argues that adopting a Japanese name also made it easier to build relationships as he set up his own education company.

“If I called people I would say my American name and they wouldn’t comprehend, they would be like ‘oh how do you say that?’. Or they would say ‘no’. But if I said ‘this is Miyamoto’ they’d say ‘oh okay, fine’”.

Ryu Miyamoto (Credit: OPTION2)
Ryu Miyamoto adopted his traditional Japanese name soon after he relocated and describes himself as becoming “culturally fluent” within about three years (Credit: OPTION2)
Unexpected culture shock

One thing that can catch expats unaware is the experience of struggling to gain cultural fluency in nations that, on the surface, might initially seem to require less adjustment.

The Netherlands and the Nordic countries, for example, jostle among each other for the top spot in the annual global English Proficiency Index and don’t have a global reputation as being wildly different to other parts of northern Europe (rather, they are frequently idolised as leaders in efficiency and innovation). This suggests that English-speaking expats - especially those from elsewhere in the Western world - should have less need to pick up the local language or deal with unexpected behavioural norms.

But according to Caroline Werner, the managing director at Settle into Stockholm, a start-up offering culture and language courses geared specifically towards young professionals relocating to the Swedish capital, “a lot of people make the mistake of not really feeling the cultural codes” in Scandinavia.

Her lessons include everything from which topics to avoid bringing up during lunch breaks or dinner parties (it’s generally a taboo to discuss religion, politics or how much money you’re making in Sweden), to deciphering how to make friends and date in a country that avoids small talk and where more than half the population lives alone.

Meanwhile she’s a strong advocate of expats learning at least some of the local language in their host country, even if they’re unlikely to use it again if they move on elsewhere.

“I feel that it is an opportunity, not a waste of time, so you actually get to know people in a way that you wouldn’t have, if you never learned the language,” she argues.

“A lot of Swedes are good at speaking English when it comes to just being polite,” she says. “But if they want to really relax, they are actually not 100% comfortable with English”.

Eero Vaara’s research into language use at multinational corporations backs up the idea that taking the time to learn core local language skills is worthwhile for expats, even those living in countries with strong English proficiency levels. According to his work, it can prove crucial to cracking local power dynamics if they choose to settle in a foreign country or company in future.

“There are these inner circles or parts of organisations, not so much the formal but the informal networks and conversations that are really hard to access,” he says, noting that language skills can play a key role in connecting with these groups both professionally and personally.

For example, if you’re British but hoping to climb the ladder of “a Russian organisation that’s been around for hundreds of years”, learning Russian is likely to add value in the longer term. However “if you’re British and working for a British subsidiary” in Russia, Vaara suggests that while still highly useful, Russian proficiency might be less relevant.

Assimilation or acceptance?

But where to draw the line when it comes to both linguistic and cultural fluency remains a complex issue for many people living and working abroad.

Sima Mahdjoub, 30, who is French but has lived in nine countries including the UK, Australia and Spain, recently decided to settle in Sweden for the foreseeable future, largely as a result of its outdoor lifestyle. She has become fluent in the language and worked hard to understand local business norms (“in France you can close a deal in one meeting. That’s not possible in Sweden”), but says she can’t ever imagine viewing herself as Swedish, or becoming completely fluent in her adopted nation’s culture.

“In southern European countries in general we tend to be quite fiery people, quite expressive in both negative and positive emotions,” she explains, arguing that she does not want to remove these “natural instincts”, which are less common in Scandinavia.

“It is possible because I have seen other people manage it, but for me I’m too direct and I’m too influenced by too many cultures to really want to.”

At the end of the day if I am born in a foreign country… I will be differentiated no matter what - Sree Kesanakurthi

Meanwhile the now Brussels-based IT consultant Sree Kesanakurthi says he has started learning French, because he would like to put down stronger roots in the Benelux region than he has in previous locations he’s lived in. But he’s also not fazed by the idea of never achieving complete linguistic or cultural fluency.

“Learning a local language is important when it comes to buying a property, dealing with paperwork or taxes and accounting for example,” he argues.

“However I am not worried about how integrated I will be. As long as I have good people around me, I will be okay. At the end of the day if I am born in a foreign country… I will be differentiated no matter what.”

For Professor Eero Vaara, it is this kind of acceptance that can often hold the key to expats making the most of their experiences abroad, whether they end up staying for the short or long term.

“Differences are okay…it’s more a question of trying to appreciate the differences and deal with those, rather than going too far and trying to be what you are not, or what you’ll never be perceived to be.”


Faculty Forum / Re: Citation Styles
« on: May 22, 2018, 09:35:37 AM »
Good information for all and thanks for sharing.

ভালো এবং দরকারী তথ্য।

ভালো এবং দরকারী তথ্য।

ইন্সটল করে দেখলাম ভালোই কাজ করেছে।

Good and thanks for sharing.

New technology can detect tiny ovarian tumors
“Synthetic biomarkers” could be used to diagnose ovarian cancer months earlier than now possible.

Anne Trafton, April 10, 2017

Most ovarian cancer is diagnosed at such late stages that patients’ survival rates are poor. However, if the cancer is detected earlier, five-year survival rates can be greater than 90 percent.

Now, MIT engineers have developed a far more sensitive way to reveal ovarian tumors: In tests in mice, they were able to detect tumors composed of nodules smaller than 2 millimeters in diameter. In humans, that could translate to tumor detection about five months earlier than is possible with existing blood tests, the researchers say.

The new test makes use of a “synthetic biomarker” — a nanoparticle that interacts with tumor proteins to release fragments that can be detected in a patient’s urine sample. This kind of test can generate a much clearer signal than natural biomarkers found in very small quantities in the patient’s bloodstream.

“What we did in this paper is engineer our sensor to be about 15 times better than a previous version, and then compared it against a blood biomarker in a mouse model of ovarian cancer to show that we could beat it,” says Sangeeta Bhatia, the John and Dorothy Wilson Professor of Health Sciences and Technology and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, a member of MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and the senior author of the study.

This approach could also be adapted to work with other cancers. In this paper, which appears in the April 10 issue of Nature Biomedical Engineering, the researchers showed they can detect colorectal tumors that metastasized to the liver.

The paper’s lead authors are postdoc Ester Kwon and graduate student Jaideep Dudani.

Synthetic biomarkers

Bhatia first reported the strategy of diagnosing cancer with synthetic biomarkers in 2012. This method measures the activity of protein-cutting enzymes called endoproteases, which are made by tumors to help recruit blood vessels and invade surrounding tissues so the cancer can grow and spread.

To detect this sort of enzyme, the researchers designed nanoparticles coated with small protein fragments called peptides that can be cleaved by particular proteases called MMPs. After being injected into a mouse, these particles passively collect at the tumor site. MMPs cleave the peptides to liberate tiny reporter fragments, which are then filtered out by the kidney and concentrated in the urine, where they can be detected using various methods, including a simple paper-based test.

In a paper published in 2015, the researchers created a mathematical model of this system, to understand several factors such as how the particles circulate in the body, how efficiently they encounter the protease, and at what rate the protease cleaves the peptides. This model showed that in order to detect tumors 5 millimeters in diameter or smaller in humans, the researchers would need to improve the system’s sensitivity by at least one order of magnitude.

In the current study, the researchers used two new strategies to boost the sensitivity of their detector. The first was to optimize the length of the polymer that tethers the peptides to the nanoparticle. For reasons not yet fully understood, when the tether is a particular length, specific proteases cleave peptides at a higher rate. This optimization also decreases the amount of background cleavage by a nontarget enzyme.

Second, the researchers added a targeting molecule known as a tumor-penetrating peptide to the nanoparticles, which causes them to accumulate at the tumor in greater numbers and results in boosting the number of cleaved peptides that end up secreted in the urine.

By combining these two refinements, the researchers were able to enhance the sensitivity of the sensor 15-fold, which they showed was enough to detect ovarian cancer composed of small tumors (2 millimeters in diameter) in mice. They also tested this approach in the liver, where they were able to detect tumors that originated in the colon. In humans, colon cancer often spreads to the liver and forms small tumors that are difficult to detect, similar to ovarian tumors.

“This is important work to validate novel strategies for the earlier detection of cancer that are not dependent on biomarkers made by cancer cells. [The method] instead forces the generation of artificial biomarkers at the tumor site, if any tumor indeed exists within the body,” says Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, chair of the department of radiology at Stanford University School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study. “Such approaches should eventually help change the way in which we detect cancer.”

Earlier diagnosis

Currently, doctors can look for blood biomarkers produced by ovarian tumors, but these markers don’t accumulate in great enough concentrations to be detected until the tumors are about 1 centimeter in diameter, about eight to 10 years after they form. Another diagnostic tool, ultrasound imaging, is also limited to ovarian tumors that are 1 centimeter in diameter or larger.

Being able to detect a tumor five months earlier, which the MIT researchers believe their new technique could do, could make a significant difference for some patients.

In this paper, the researchers also showed that they could detect disease proteases in microarrays of many tumor cells taken from different cancer patients. This strategy could eventually help the researchers to determine which peptides to use for different types of cancer, and even for individual patients.

“Every patient’s tumor is different, and not every tumor will be amenable to targeting with the same molecule,” Bhatia says. “This is a tool that will help us to exploit the modularity of the technology and personalize formulations.”

The researchers are now further investigating the possibility of using this approach on other cancers, including prostate cancer, where it could be used to distinguish more aggressive tumors from those that grow much more slowly, Bhatia says.

The research was funded by the Koch Institute’s Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, the Ludwig Center for Molecular Oncology, the Koch Institute Support Grant from the National Cancer Institute, the Core Center Grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.


Children get sick and hurt a lot. Whether it’s playground injuries or cold and fever, we’re frequently wondering if we should reach for the kids’ Panadol.

But pain relief has side effects, and we know as adults we shouldn’t take it too liberally, so what about for our kids?

We asked five experts if it’s OK to give our kids pain killers.

Four out of five experts said yes
Here are their detailed responses:

Disclosures: Greta Palmer has previously received grant support from Cadence Pharmaceuticals for a paracetamol study in neonates.


Smartphone / Re: The OnePlus 6 is as durable as it is beautiful
« on: May 21, 2018, 10:00:29 AM »
Thanks for sharing

Astronomy / Re: NASA is sending a helicopter to Mars!!!
« on: May 21, 2018, 10:00:14 AM »
Thanks for sharing

Story was awesome and good. Thanks for sharing.

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