Taxi drivers ‘must be able to speak English’ under cab shake-up plan

CCTV, a grasp of English and regular criminal record checks are among a host of new rules proposed for taxi and private hire drivers in Birmingham.

A number of ideas put forward would also tackle the city’s problem of being ‘flooded’ by drivers licensed from other areas , of whom the council has no jurisdiction over.

A list of more than 30 recommendations has been published by a Government task and finish group set up by the Department for Transport last year.

It has called for an urgent review into the relevant legislation, some which is more than 100 years old and was written before the car was invented.

Even the newer laws were enshrined before the arrival of the internet and mobile phone, both of which have shaped the taxi industry in recent years via the likes of hailing apps such as Uber .

Library photo of waiting taxis

What is being proposed?

Some of the key recommendations are:

  • All licensed vehicles must be fitted with CCTV with audio and visual capability.
  • All drivers must be able to speak and write in English.
  • Drivers must be subjected to Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks every six months.
  • Taxis and private hire vehicles can only operate in the area they are licensed, however they are free to obtain multiple licences.
  • Council officers should have powers to carry out checks on any driver regardless of where they have been licensed and pursue enforcement action for any breaches.

Further suggestions include establishing a national database of drivers, allowing councils to cap the number of licences they hand out, mandatory child sexual exploitation training for every driver and an updated list of convictions which can serve as grounds for refusing or revoking a licence.

Licensing for Hackney Carriages outside of London is stipulated by the Town Police Clauses Act 1847, while private hire rules are determined by the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

The Law Commission reviewed the legislation in 2011 but their subsequent proposals were not adopted.

The task and finish group described this as ‘regrettable’.

Their report stated: “Had the Government acted sooner the concerns that led to the formation of this group may have been avoided.”

It added that the rise of smartphone booking applications – like Uber – had ‘thrown the need for an urgent update on legislation into sharp focus’.

What do Birmingham chiefs say?

Birmingham City Council ‘s acting head of licensing Emma Rohomon said: “The legislation is outdated and is in serious need of updating or replacing.

“The situation at the moment is detrimental to public safety as well as to the trade itself, with many legal loopholes being widely exploited, leaving licensing authorities powerless to respond.”

Mrs Rohomon also offered initial responses to each of the recommendations.

Whilst she agreed with many of the ideas, or pointed out that some were already in place in Birmingham, the licensing chief sought clarity around which councils would take enforcement action against out-of-area drivers and warned of the increased costs of carrying out extra checks in areas ‘flooded’ by outside operators.

She also said there would be a ‘significant increase’ in administration time for the council to implement six-monthly DBS checks, which is a steep rise from the three-yearly checks currently operated.

The recommendations will be discussed by the council’s Licensing and Public Protection committee on Wednesday (October 24).

Chairman Coun Barbara Dring is expected to write to the Government afterwards urging a ‘swift response’ to the proposals.

  • What do you think about the proposed new law? Let us know in the comments below.

This content was originally published here.

A Border Patrol agent detained two U.S. citizens at a gas station after hearing them speak Spanish

A Montana woman said she plans to take legal action after a Border Patrol agent detained and questioned her and a friend — both U.S. citizens — when he overheard them speaking Spanish at a gas station.

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The incident occurred early Wednesday morning at a convenience store in Havre, Mont., a town in the northern part of the state, near the border with Canada.

Ana Suda said she and her friend, Mimi Hernandez, were making a midnight run to the store to pick up eggs and milk. Both are Mexican American and speak fluent Spanish, and they had exchanged some words in Spanish while waiting in line to pay when a uniformed Border Patrol agent interrupted them, Suda said.

“We were just talking, and then I was going to pay,” Suda told The Washington Post. “I looked up [and saw the agent], and then after that, he just requested my ID. I looked at him like, ‘Are you serious?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, very serious.’ ”

Suda said she felt uncomfortable and began recording the encounter with her cellphone after they had moved into the parking lot. In the video Suda recorded, she asks the agent why he is detaining them, and he says it is specifically because he heard them speaking Spanish.

“Ma’am, the reason I asked you for your ID is because I came in here, and I saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here,” the agent can be heard saying in the video.

Suda asks whether they are being racially profiled; the agent says no.

“It has nothing to do with that,” the agent tells her. “It’s the fact that it has to do with you guys speaking Spanish in the store, in a state where it’s predominantly English-speaking.”

Suda, 37, was born in El Paso and raised across the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, but has spent much of her adult life moving around the United States with her husband and young daughter. Hernandez is originally from central California, Suda said.

Despite explaining this to the agent and showing him their IDs, Suda said, he kept them in the parking lot for 35 to 40 minutes. Though no one raised their voices in the video, Suda said she and Hernandez were left shaken and upset by the encounter, which ended around 1 a.m.

“I was so embarrassed … being outside in the gas station, and everybody’s looking at you like you’re doing something wrong. I don’t think speaking Spanish is something criminal, you know?” Suda said. “My friend, she started crying. She didn’t stop crying in the truck. And I told her, we are not doing anything wrong.”

When she got home, Suda posted on Facebook about what had taken place at the gas station. She said her shock began to give way to sadness in the following days, after some local news outlets reported the incident, and her 7-year-old daughter asked whether the video meant they should no longer speak Spanish in public.

“She speaks Spanish, and she speaks English,” Suda said. “When she saw the video, she was like, ‘Mom, we can’t speak Spanish anymore?’ I said ‘No. You be proud. You are smart. You speak two languages.’ This is more for her.”

A representative from U.S. Customs and Border Protection told The Post the agency is reviewing the incident to ensure all appropriate policies were followed. Border Patrol agents are trained to decide to question individuals based on a variety of factors, the agency added.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents and officers are committed to treating everyone with professionalism, dignity and respect while enforcing the laws of the United States,” the agency said. “Although most Border Patrol work is conducted in the immediate border area, agents have broad law enforcement authorities and are not limited to a specific geography within the United States. They have the authority to question individuals, make arrests, and take and consider evidence.”

Havre is a rural town with a population of about 10,000, about 35 miles south of the U.S.-Canada border. Border Patrol agents have broad authority to operate within 100 miles of any U.S. border, though they cannot initiate stops without reasonable suspicion of an immigration violation or crime.

Suda said she is used to seeing Border Patrol agents in Havre because it’s so close to Canada, especially at gas stations, but had never been stopped before.

“It’s a nice town. I don’t think it’s a confrontational [population] here,” Suda said. “But now I feel like if I speak Spanish, somebody is going to say something to me. It’s different after something like this because you start thinking and thinking.”

Suda said she plans to contact the American Civil Liberties Union to seek legal guidance. ACLU representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday.

“I just don’t want this to happen anymore,” Suda said. “I want people to know they have the right to speak whatever language they want. I think that’s the most important part, to help somebody else.”

Read more:

This content was originally published here.

How Data Science (+ Friends) Helped Me Learn French

Learning a new language can seem like an insurmountable challenge – however, approaching the problem with data science and using a few smart techniques can ease the learning curve and provide a starting point from which to base your studies.

I started working at Dataiku in January 2018, and seeing as I was surrounded by many French colleagues and traveling more and more to Paris for internal meetings and events, I became fascinated with the culture and got curious and motivated to learn the language.

I signed up for a French class, which was useful, as I managed to understand the structure of the language and the syntax. But at the same time, I found myself slightly demotivated, primarily as I realized that the pace would only allow me to engage in very basic conversations (needless to say, picking up on a subject or a joke when my colleagues are talking in the office or in one of our gatherings was not happening anytime soon)!

The first thing I thought about was to google some tips and tricks on how to pick up a new language quickly – the majority of them were suggesting to listen to more French songs and to watch more French movies, but I already knew that!

Then, I came across this article and the topic was very interesting. Basically the idea is that after learning the most frequent 1,000 words used in day-to-day conversations, not only will I gain a workable vocabulary, but I will also have a stronger sense of the language’s structure, which was encouraging.

But how would I get the most frequent (ideally top 1,000) words used in day-to-day conversations in French? Through Books? or Newspapers? With more research I came across another article written by a fellow data scientist who was also interested in learning a new language (Swedish), and that gave me an idea.

Meet my French tutors: Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe

Friends, the most popular TV show with its 10 seasons, was the best way I could think of to get a script of typical day-to-day conversations (that is, vocabulary used repeatedly) between friends, coworkers, neighbors, colleagues, and more. So I decided to use this as my dataset from which to extract the 1,000 most commonly used words in French.

I managed to procure all the French subtitle files for each of the 10 seasons here, which I downloaded and used as the basis for the project. From there, I roughly followed the Seven Fundamental Steps to Completing a Data Project and was able to:

Clean the Data

I started with a very messy dataset, with rows similar to this:

<font color=#ffff00 size=14></font>

I had other rows full of special characters and symbols that I didn’t need (such as: ! ? . , … <j> </b/>) as well as rows that included numbers to identify the line of the subtitle and timing on the screen

I removed all this as well as empty rows, empty columns, columns of timing, episode number, and season number, which were not relevant to this particular data project.

After all this, I ended up with one very clean column with each row representing a line of a subtitle (i.e., one sentence or two of text).

Manipulate the Data

The next step was to work on those rows to decide what to keep and what to remove:

  • I decided to extract Ngrams of up to three words, as I wanted to keep sentences or phrases like ‘’good morning,” “I don’t know,” or even “what’s up” intact.

This is how I ended up with one column for my dataset, with each row including either an individual word or a combination of two or three words used together.

Almost done – all I needed to do after that is to sort these rows based on frequency to get my top 1,000 words (which, because of the Ngrams step, could actually also be expressions – more than one word used commonly together) used on a daily basis.

But I wanted MORE!!!

Enrich the Dataset

Remember, the goal of the project was to memorize and understand the top 1,000 words or expressions. For that, the list of the top 1,000 was not enough – I also needed to know their meanings. I could have manually used Google Translate on each row to get the translation. OR I could get all the translations for all the rows at once and have no excuse to actually start doing my homework!

Since I used Dataiku for the project, which allows integrating with other data sources through external APIs, I was able to easily use the Google Translate API by:


  • Generating my API key
  • Adding it to my Python code recipe
  • Getting a translation for each row using this simple algorithm —

Voilà! Now I have my top 1,000 French words and phrases as well as their English translations, and I was able to do this all in just a few quick steps.

If you want to try this on your own, you can download Dataiku for free here – check out the tutorials here as well for more tips on getting started quickly on your first data science project.

This content was originally published here.

Learn French abroad – Université Grenoble Alpes – The API Abroad Blog

So you want to learn a new language like Spanish or French? It can seem like an overwhelming task. It’s especially frustrating trying to learn with no one around to help you practice! That’s why more and more students are taking advantage of opportunities to learn a new language through short-term or intensive month study abroad programs. The reason these work is because it allows students to fully immerse themselves in the language. Today we’re diving in to one of these API programs. It’s a fantastic option for students who want to learn French abroad!

Night kayaking down the Isere River in Grenoble (with torches!)

Intensive Language Sessions in Grenoble

Université Grenoble Alpes and API offer the perfect program for anyone who wants to learn French abroad. Although the intensive language sessions are taught entirely in French, it’s very much meant to serve as a resource for students at all levels in their French speaking.

Here’s how it works: Accepted students take a French placement test upon their arrival to determine their proficiency level. Students then enroll in a comprehensive French language course (with no more than 16 to a classroom). This immersive class focuses on writing, oral expression pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary. Students spend three hours in a classroom setting and one hour in the “language lab”. The coursework amounts to 20 hours a week, with students receiving a maximum of 5.33 credit hours per intensive month session.

Why learn French abroad? There are a few great reasons!

1. Studying a new language from a textbook is far different than studying it through the world around you.

When you go abroad, there’s literally no way to avoid using the language. If that sounds daunting, consider this: The 2013 Erasmus Impact Study found 90% of study abroad alumni reported a major improvement in their foreign language proficiency. Feeling uncomfortable at first is expected, especially if you’re not as familiar with the French language. But before you know it, you’ll be a pro at asking where the bus stop is or reading a menu and asking for strawberries on your crepes!

2. Learning French abroad brings big career opportunities.

The 2014 Erasmus study found 64% of employers think international experience is important when it comes to hiring. In addition, going abroad and travel in general provide the opportunity to meet new people and make new connections. Who knows where those connections may take you? Many of our alumni have gone on to work in the field of international education themselves; a few have even joined us at API! Needless to say, living in another country and saying you had the chance to learn French abroad looks fantastic on a resume and can put you in touch with an opportunity you might otherwise miss.

3. You can also intern abroad or create a more custom program for your needs

By far one of the biggest benefits of our intensive programs is the flexibility it can provide for students who want to “create their own abroad experience”. Many of our participants choose to also enroll in an API internship program. The internship placements usually take place either before or after their session in Grenoble. Because API works to provide placements for everyone who interns abroad with us, this is a fantastic option for someone looking to build up their resume.

If learning French abroad is your main goal, you can also join the Intensive Language Program, which is a semester program consisting of 3 or 4 intensive month sessions. Students can also choose to live with a host family (instead of in a student residence), which provides an added level of “immersion” in the French language!

4. Finally, the most important reason to learn French abroad: why not!?

You’ll discover new foods, learn useful phrases, make new friends, and visit new places. Studying abroad in Grenoble with API provides a great opportunity for travel outside of your host city, too! Our resident directors, Marie and Anna, take students on several excursions. Depending on when you’re abroad with us, you may visit Paris, the Loire Valley, Lyon, Geneva and more! Of course, each and every location you visit provides endless opportunities to brush up and continue learning French abroad.

Want to get started? Applications for our next Spring intensive program (March 31-April 27) are due February 1st!

Download your application and give us a call if you have any questions: 800-844-4124. You can also use our program finder to browse for dates that work best for your schedule. We hope to see you in Grenoble in 2019!

This content was originally published here.

Wanting To Learn French? Here Are My Top Three Tips

Scotty and I have recently returned from a fabulous trip to Canada. We loved the people, the food and, of course, the gorgeous scenery. 

And I loved the opportunity to test how far my French language skills had come since our last visit to France, earlier this year. 

If I’m being candid, most of the time I’d rate my French as pretty ordinary. This is in spite of the fact that I’ve been wanting to learn French for as long as I can remember. It’s the one thing that’s on my goal list year after year. And my desire to learn the language never seems to go away – no matter how often I tell myself that I’m wasting my time.

But, I had to reset my thinking almost as soon as we landed in Canada. Because as we walked through airport, I was struck by how much French I understood in bilingual Toronto. I could read the French signs and understand the announcements that were delivered in French. 

My feelings of surprise continued as we made our way across the French speaking parts of Canada. 

While I wouldn’t suggest that I’m great, I’d come far further than I would’ve given myself credit for. Which naturally got me thinking about the things that had helped me progress my language learning – both the big and the small. And I thought I’d share my top three tips in case you too are wanting to learn French.

Wanting To Learn French? Here Are My Top Three Tips

Do you have any tips to share for your fellow francophiles who are wanting to learn French? If so, make sure you take a  moment to share them in the comments section below.

And until next time – au revoir.

This content was originally published here.

Should You Learn French by Yourself or With a Tutor as an Adult?

Should You Learn French by Yourself or With a Tutor as an Adult?

If you’re wondering about whether or not to learn French by yourself or with a tutor, chances are, you’ve already made up your mind to learn French and can even point to your motivating source, such as travel, work, or an international move. Looking at these motivating sources can be a guide toward helping you decide the best approach to learning French. You can also examine your own study habits and study history to determine what will work best for you. This, combined with surrounding circumstances (schedules, resources, funds, location, etc., etc.) will all contribute to what works best for you at this time. Whether or not it is possible to learn French by yourself depends on these circumstances, your own study habits, and what your goals are.

Learning French as an adult might seem daunting, since on the surface it appears to be so much more difficult than learning language as a child. Children notoriously have fewer problems learning language, which is partly related to how their brains work and partly related to environmental factors. I haven’t specifically studied language acquisition in children – or adults, for that matter, but I can point out some tendencies among my adult students that are absent from learning patterns that I have observed in children. Children have neither the ego nor the self-consciousness that adults have when they learn language – it is natural for them to learn through error, which is exactly how language is learned. They also have more time to learn different patterns of speech, either in their early years when they are generally learning how to speak, or at school, where the pace of lessons is slower (compared to a college classroom or a course at the Alliance Française, for example). As adults, we may not have the time that children have to learn new languages, but we can let go of our ego and self-consciousness, and some of our linguistic habits along with that.

Although there are obvious disadvantages to learning language as an adult, there are in fact some advantages, which involve analytical skills and experience. Adults can reach into all of those skills they have developed and know what does and doesn’t work for them when it comes to learning language. Adults are also typically aware of the great motivating factor that drives them to study a particular language, such as work, travel, or personal relationships. Adult speakers of English have also have a fair amount of exposure to French loan words and cognates, such as abundance, extraordinary, bureau de change, and limousine.

The remaining question is whether autonomous study or regular tutoring will work best for you. On the one hand, language has the function of allowing people to communicate verbally, so it would make sense to learn it with other people. On the other hand, learning the written language does require autonomous work. One distinctive feature of the French language is that it is spoken very differently from the way it is written and this might affect your choice of how to approach learning it.

If your ultimate goal is to be able to converse with various French speakers, then it is a good idea to practice conversing with other people. A tutor could provide you with the opportunity to converse in real time at the level of frequency you wish, and could also slow down – or speed up! – if you ask. When working with a tutor, set out clear parameters for the sessions, such as having exchanges be exclusively in French, preparing for the session by reading an article, or being ready to describe daily activities that have occurred since the previous session. It is also important to clarify your goals when engaging in language study. Would you like to be able to make your way around a French-speaking country? enroll in school at a French university? do business with a company based in the francophone world?
The personal interaction with a tutor reflects in part the opportunity of a classroom environment, which allows students to practice conversation with a group of people. Even in this environment, though, certain students get accustomed to hearing only the instructor speak, or conversing with the same one or two students who sit near them in the classroom each session. I remember a student mentioning that when I, an unknown instructor, walked in to give an oral examination to a class, there was a student who was thrown by my use of the standard French r /ꞟ/, which she hadn’t been accustomed to hearing from her regular instructor. It’s always good to hear different people speak, and one way of doing this, with or without a tutor, is to supplement your one-on-one interactions with audio resources that are widely available via different software or online. These sources may include features that analyze your pronunciation and are able to give you feedback, and you can refer to these on days when you do not see a tutor.

A tutor can guide you toward resources that are useful for speaking and listening, which you should definitely be using regularly to reinforce your language skills. Listening materials can be found in the language tools mentioned above, as well as in podcasts and transcripts of radio segments that are available through websites such as This website – of the France Culture radio station, which is part of France’s national radio programming – provides online transcripts for certain five- or ten-minute segments that you can read while listening to the audio. Sometimes the transcripts differ from the audio and noticing what is included and what is left out can also sharpen your skills.

For more interactive online tools, there are various quizlets in French offered by different institutions, including some universities, on themes ranging from Impressionist painting to cinema. And on this note, films are a good source for practicing your listening skills, as they come from a variety of francophone regions, expose you to many accents and idioms, and have the added visual component, as well as an option for subtitles.

Reading is part of language study that is mainly completed autonomously. Choosing to read French on your own makes sense, as long as you have the discipline to make this a daily practice. Again, it is important to state your goals when setting out to improve your reading skills. Also, are you an absolute beginner or more advanced? Is your goal to be able to read signs in the Paris subway or scholarly articles that will help you complete research?

If you are an absolute beginner, I would recommend incorporating some speaking and listening into your daily practice, and I would definitely recommend an interactive method that will attune your ear to the way in which French words and sentences fall together. For more advanced learners, focus on readings that use enough vocabulary and grammar with which you are familiar, with some new words and sentence structures introduced into the texts you focus on. If there is a topic that interests you, such as the environment, familiarize yourself with certain vocabulary that is specific to this topic, and then read an article on this topic. If there is a particular author you like – great! This is a wonderful opportunity to become familiar with the author’s works and with the vocabulary and speech patterns that are characteristic of this author’s writing.

Grammar books are also helpful as a supplement to your reading, since these will explain some of the more complicated and literary phrasing that you encounter. I would recommend grammar books that are written in French, but targeted toward people of your linguistic group. This way the books can anticipate the differences between your language and French and address common issues that speakers in your group might encounter when reading French. At the same time, you will be practicing reading in French. In addition, there are books that the French themselves use, such as Maurice Grevisse’s Le Bon Usage, which is an authoritative reference work on French grammar and style. This can be useful when you begin to write.

While autonomous practice works well for reading, you may want to get a tutor to help you if you are planning on writing, since there are certain elements of style that are particular to French that appear in the written language much more than the spoken language. There are a lot of structures that you need to follow when writing and it is important to go over these with someone else. If you have certain syntactical difficulties, you can discuss these with a tutor and the tutor will be able to assist in figuring out exactly where the issue lies. Complex sentences that require relative clauses, for example, can be parsed out so that you will know when to use certain relative pronouns and why. French has very specific relative pronouns that have preserved case inflection from Latin, meaning that they will reflect their function within relative clauses and may also reflect gender.

Luckily, if you read a lot, these become more familiar to you and you can use what you read as models. This will help you understand and eventually produce phrases such as this one from Muriel Barbery’s L’élégance du hérisson: “C’est le socle anthropologique à partir duquel se bâtiront toutes les exhortations à un monde nouveau et sur lequel est vissée une certitude maîtresse : les hommes, qui se perdent de désirer, feraient bien de s’en tenir à leurs besoins”. What will be built? To what is a major certainty fastened? Who is losing touch with what? Both the language and the ideas expressed in this phrase may be complex, but fortunately as an adult learner, you will be able to approach each of these with method, insight, and the spirit of inquiry that led you to study French in the first place.

Whether you decide to learn French on your own or look for a tutor, Glossika is an excellent tool to have. If you are learning French by yourself, use Glossika as your primary language training resource and mimic the way a child acquires a language while getting optimal results by immersing yourself in French on a daily basis.

If you choose to work with a tutor, Glossika comes in handy on the days when you don’t meet with your tutor. Our spaced repetition training gets your mouth muscles more familiar with speaking French. And learn to perfect your French pronunciation with Glossika’s French coursea as recorded by native speakers.

Start Speaking French today!

Sign up and start an oral journey en français!

This content was originally published here.

Learn French at KidooLand this Summer

KidooLand is very much the English experts here on the Côte d’Azur and so in order to be able to propose a summer camp to children learning and improving their French that met our own fun standards the level was set high!
We have chosen to work with Veronique the Director and French teacher from French Access as they are able to combine fun with professionalism. She is particularly specialised in teaching French to non natives.
A variety of activities will take place and their will be an opportunity to hang out with all the French children, here learning English that week. It should be a fun atmosphere!
Below you will find an example of the kind of activities we will be doing. We need to know your child’s level to be able to adapt the French to meet their requirements.
They will be running a class from 9-13th July 2018.
9-12h every morning. Bring a bottle of water and a snack.
The cost will be 170 euros paid directly to French Access.
To reserve we need all the essential details for your child’s comfort and security. COMPLETE A FORM
Obviously we ask questions on the form about English level so in the free text box, please add in here the level and requirements for the French language.
Kidooland is growing too and so for this summer we should have doubled our space with a lovely big airy and light room for sports and leisure.
Should you be looking for an all day formula then of course you could combine this with the Kidooland afternoon programme in English where we will be doing all things African .. the language, food, culture and music as part of our Madagasgar theme! All day-ers should bring a picnic or book the lunch.

This content was originally published here.

Border agent demands ID from woman in Montana after hearing her speak Spanish

MONTANA — A US citizen who was stopped and asked for identification after a US Border Patrol agent in Montana heard her speaking Spanish says she wants the American Civil Liberties Union’s help over the incident so her 7-year-old daughter can be proud to be bilingual.

Ana Suda, who was born in Texas, recorded the encounter last week on her cell phone after the agent asked her and her friend, Mimi Hernandez, who is from California, for their IDs while they waited in line to pay for groceries at a gas station.

The video shows Suda asking why the agent questioned them.

“Ma’am, the reason I asked for your IDs is because I came in here and saw that you guys were speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here,” he says of the area about 35 miles south of the US-Canada border.

Suda then asks the agent whether she and her friend are being racially profiled.

“It has nothing to do with that,” the agent replies. “It has to do with the fact that you were speaking Spanish in the store in a state that is predominantly English-speaking.”

The incident, which Suda said lasted about 40 minutes, took place in the town of Havre, where Suda has lived for several years, CNN affiliate KTVQ reported.

Border agency reviewing incident
US Customs and Border Protection is now reviewing the encounter, the agency told CNN Monday.

“US Customs and Border Protection agents and officers are committed to treating everyone with professionalism, dignity and respect while enforcing the laws of the United States,” the agency said in a statement. “Although most Border Patrol work is conducted in the immediate border area, agents have broad law enforcement authorities and are not limited to a specific geography within the United States.”

“They have the authority to question individuals, make arrests, and take and consider evidence. Decisions to question individuals are based on a variety of factors for which Border Patrol agents are well-trained. This incident is being reviewed to ensure that all appropriate policies were followed.”

Asked about the incident on Tuesday, Acting Deputy Commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection Ronald D. Vitiello said he was aware of the video.

“There is a policy in the federal government and law enforcement against racial profiling,” he said.

“We’ve asked our office of professional responsibility to review the matter, so I don’t want to pre-judge it,” he added. “Bottom line, we expect our people to act with professionalism and when they don’t, we’re going to hold them to account for that.”

The ACLU on Monday tweeted in reference to Suda’s story that racial profiling is against the law.

“Speaking Spanish is not a valid reason for Border Patrol to question or detain you,” the civil rights organization stated. “The Constitution prohibits all law enforcement agencies, including @CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) from racial profiling and arbitrary searches and detentions.”

Spanish-speaking congressman wants answers
US Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Florida Republican, on Monday sent a letter to the Customs and Border Protection chief demanding answers about agency policies.

“What exactly are the agency’s policies regarding probable cause?” he wrote, citing news reports of Suda’s experience. “How are the actions of agents reviewed, evaluated, recorded, and held accountable for abusing their authority, for both minor and major violations?

“Furthermore, I ask that CBP review its current policies and training procedures to ensure the civil liberties of law-abiding American citizens are respected and upheld.”

Curbelo noted that he speaks Spanish regularly to his family, including two young daughters. “Young people who are attempting to learn a second language as part of their education often times practice outside of the classroom,” he wrote. “The language someone speaks, regardless of geographic area, is not enough to suspect that an immigration violation has occurred.”

The United States has no official language. And though English is spoken in most homes — and used for government documents, court proceedings and business contracts — at least 350 languages are spoken in the country, according to the US Census Bureau.

About 4% of Montana residents speak a language other than English at home, according to the US Census.

‘He asked me where I was born’
Suda had gone to the store with her friend to buy milk and eggs, she told CNN’s Don Lemon on Monday. She was next in line to pay when she encountered the Border Patrol agent.

“He looked at me, and he asked me where I was born,” she said. “So, I look at him, and I say, ‘Are you serious?’ He’s like, ‘I am very serious.’

“I said, ‘I was born in El Paso, Texas.’ And he look at my friend, and my friend said, ‘I was born in El Centro, California.’ So, he said, ‘I need to see your ID,’” Suda said.

She said the agent told her to show her ID before she paid for the goods. While he was looking at it, she began recording the encounter on her cell phone, asking him to say on video why he’d asked for her identification card.

“I believe they have to have a reason to stop you, not just because you speak Spanish,” Suda told Lemon. “I don’t believe that is a reason. I don’t believe that’s a crime.”

Suda said her daughter, 7, saw the video, then asked her mom whether they couldn’t speak Spanish anymore. It was that response, Suda told CNN in a separate interview, that prompted her to seek help from the ACLU.

“This broke my heart,” she said, adding that she told her daughter, “‘You need to be proud. You need to speak English, speak Spanish, whatever you want. You are so smart. You speak two languages!’

“This is very important,” Suda said. “The community needs to know speaking Spanish is not a crime.”

This content was originally published here.

US professor steps down after asking students not to speak Chinese | SBS News

A Duke University professor has stepped down after she sent an email requesting students not speak Chinese, implying it was “impolite”.

In an email sent to medical students, Megan Neely, director of graduate studies, told said that two faculty members had heard people speaking Chinese in the common areas, according to Duke’s student newspaper.

The faculty members told Ms Neely that they had observed students “speaking Chinese (in their words, VERY LOUDLY), in the student lounge/study areas”.

She continued: “They wanted to write down the names so they could remember them if the students ever interviewed for an internship or asked to work with them for a masters project.”

Ms Neely warned of “unintended consequences”. 

“They were disappointed that these students were not taking the opportunity to improve their English and were being so impolite as to have a conversation that not everyone on the floor could understand.”

In a letter to the students, Dean Mary Klotman apologised for the email and said there were no restrictions on whatever language students chose to speak on campus.

Many on Twitter and Chinese social media were outraged a professor could suggest a language should not be spoken in public areas.

This is a clear double standard. I was on the Duke university study abroad program in Beijing/ Nanging China. The native English speakers on the program spoke English to each other at least 95% of their down time… at best, peppering their English with a few Chinese words…

— Stefanie Trice Gill (@stefanietg)

My email to Dr Megan Neely of @DukeU.#MeganNeely #racist #DukeUniversity

— Zen Chang (@ZenChangLaw)

So Duke University doesn’t want its international grad students to speak in their language… while they’re chatting in the hallways of the buildings. “This might bring unintended consequences such as not being hired as TA or RA…” Outraging

— Ángela Castillo Ardila (@castilloangela_)

The dean said the university would conduct a review of the program in response to the emails that surfaced on the weekend.

The Duke Chronicle reported Ms Neely had been stood down from the director of graduate studies role, but remained as an assistant professor.

This content was originally published here.

Duke University Director Sends Mass Email Warning Chinese Students to Only Speak English on Campus — Or Else

The director of graduate studies for the Duke University’s Master of Biostatistics program, Megan Neely, has stepped down from her position after severe backlash over an email in which she warned Chinese students to speak only English on university campus.

In the original email, Neely urged Chinese students to speak English at all times on campus and in other professional settings and consider the possible consequences of their actions. According to the former director of graduate studies, two unnamed staff members allegedly approached her to complain about a group of first year students who were speaking Chinese loudly in public.

Using a collection of headshots taken of first and second year students during orientation, the faculty members were able to identify these students. According to Neely the staff members requested this information to, “write down the names so they could remember them if the students ever interviewed for an internship or asked to work with them for a master’s project.”

The email states, “They were disappointed that these students were not taking the opportunity to improve their English and were being so impolite as to have a conversation that not everyone on the floor could understand.”

Neely concluded her email with a warning for other students exhibiting similar behaviors:

“To international students, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE keep these unintended consequences in mind when you choose to speak in Chinese in the building.”

And while she acknowledged the struggles of these international students who are living away from their country of origin and having to learn in a foreign language, she continued, “I encourage you to commit to using English 100% of the time when you are in Hock or any other professional setting.”

Neely’s words sparked outrage among students with some doubting the events between faculty ever took place and others accusing her of making similar racist remarks in the past.

In a different email sent by Neely back in February 2018, she issued similar warnings to students speaking foreign languages in public spaces:

“Bottom line: Continuing this practice may make it harder for you and future international students to get research opportunities while in the program. Please keep these potential downstream effects in mind when you choose to or choose not to speak in English outside of the classroom.”

In this email, she once again cited unnamed staff members “the Chair of the Department” and “many faculty” as the source of the complaints.

Students quickly responded with a petition calling for an independent, full-scale investigation into the incident concerning Professor Neely’s emails. They wrote, “we are disheartened… when Duke’s faculty members implied that students of diverse national origin would be punished in academic and employment opportunities for speaking in their native language outside of classroom settings.”

Following these accusations, Mary E. Klotman, the Dean of Duke’s School of Medicine has issued the following statement:

“To be clear: there is absolutely no restriction or limitation on the language you use to converse and communicate with each other. Your career opportunities and recommendations will not in any way be influenced by the language you use outside the classroom. And your privacy will always be protected.”

Klotman has requested the university’s Office of Institutional Equity to investigate the matter and notified the students that Professor Neely has stepped down from her position as the director of graduate studies. She concluded her statement with this promise:

“We take this challenge seriously and you have my personal pledge that it will be addressed quickly and sensitively.”

According to The Chronicle, Neely still remains as an assistant professor at Duke University.

This content was originally published here.