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Could this 20-year-old Montreal polyglot be Canada's most multilingual student?

Could this 20-year-old Montreal polyglot be Canada's most multilingual student?MONTREAL — Georges Awaad answers the phone with a polite "Hello," but he could just as easily answer in Arabic, French, Japanese, or any of the other 15 languages he speaks.At the age of 20, the Montreal linguistics student can already speak 19 different languages, most of which he taught himself through a combination of internet videos, music and conversation with friends."I'm a very auditory person, so I try to expose myself as much as possible to the language, by listening to music, videos, films if I find them, and by listening to conversations and having them with friends," he said in a phone interview.He also speaks Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Russian, Hebrew, Romanian, Swedish, Georgian, Armenian, Cantonese, Korean, Esperanto, and Dutch.Awaad, whose first language is French, said he learned early in life that he liked the sound of different languages, but his interest really began around age 10, when he asked his Arabic-speaking grandparents to help him improve his skills."I told my parents I really loved learning with my grandparents and they told me, 'You know, there are places online if you want to learn more languages,'" Awaad said.His parents pointed him to Google Translate, and he was instantly hooked, he said.Awaad may just speak more languages than any other student in Canada, according to online language learning platform Babbel.Babbel, along with the Student Life Network, launched a search earlier this year to find Canada's most polyglottic, or multilingual, student. Awaad emerged the clear winner, impressing the judges with two rounds of video submissions displaying his linguistic prowess, which were judged by native speakers of each language."As a team of hundreds of linguists from all around the world, we are extremely impressed by Georges' command of languages, especially for someone so young," Ted Mentele, Babbel's Editor in Didactics, said in a statement.Despite his achievement, Awaad doesn't believe he has any exceptional skills when it comes to learning languages. His secret, he says, is that he finds it fun."I think it's more that I'm passionate about it," he said. "It's easier for me to put in the effort to learn them because I really love them... It doesn't feel like work."Awaad finds it hard to pinpoint exactly what he loves the most about languages. At first, he says, he just loved the different sounds and inflections they made. But as he got older, he came to appreciate how they allowed him to make new connections and explore new cultures in a fuller way.As an example, he says he was able to serve as his family's translator during a trip to Japan. He's also made plenty of new friends in his quest to find people to converse with."It started to show me just how much learning a new language can open your mind and heart to so many other people around the world and new cultures," he said."You can understand the world so much better and on a much deeper level." Awaad says some of his favourite languages to learn have been Mandarin and Georgian, partly because their structures are so different from English and French.His plans for the future include completing a linguistics degree at McGill University before eventually getting a Masters and PhD.He's also hoping to pick up more languages along the way.Currently, he's working on a project to document a Mayan language spoken in the north of Guatemala and southern Mexico, and says he's already starting to pick up the words and phrases as he goes."I think this one is next on my list," he said.Morgan Lowrie, The Canadian Press


Some facts and figures about the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944

Some facts and figures about the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944OTTAWA — Some facts and figures about the D-Day landings in Normandy on June 6, 1944:TARGET: Allies land on French channel coast along five Normandy beaches stretching about 80 kilometres west from River Orne.BEACHES: From west to east, Utah (U.S.); Omaha (U.S.); Gold (Britain); Juno (Canada); Sword (Britain).FEATURES OF JUNO: Eight-kilometre strip of summer resorts and villages scattered over flat land behind low beaches and a sea wall. Many Canadians in first wave race to cover of sea wall. D Company of Queen's Own Rifles loses half its strength in initial sprint from water to seawall about 180 metres away.ENEMY AT JUNO: About 400 soldiers of 716th Infantry Division man concrete gun positions sited to fire along beach. Zones of fire calculated to interlock on coastal obstacles intended to rip bottoms out of invading boats. Gun positions protected by mines, trenches, barbed wire.SHIPS: More than 7,000 vessels manned by 285,000 sailors. Royal Canadian Navy contributes 110 ships and 10,000 sailors.SOLDIERS: 130,000 ashore by nightfall, including about 14,000 Canadians.VEHICLES: 6,000 tracked and wheeled vehicles and 600 guns land.PLANES: More than 7,000 bombers and fighters available. Allied planes fly about 14,000 sorties June 6, against about 250 by Luftwaffe.D-DAY CASUALTIES (killed, wounded and missing): Canada: 1,074, including 359 killed; U.S. 6,000; Britain: 3,200. Germany figures unreliable because of confusion in retreat.CAMPAIGN CASUALTIES (killed, wounded and missing): In 2-plus months of Normandy campaign (June 6-Aug. 21) Germans lose 450,000 soldiers, Allies 210,000. Canadian casualties total more than 18,000, including more than 5,000 dead.ALLIED LEADERS: Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower (U.S.), Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force. Gen. Sir Bernard Law Montgomery (Britain), Field Commander, D-Day Forces.CANADIAN LEADERS: Gen. Harry Crerar, Commander 1st Canadian Army. Maj.-Gen. Rod Keller, Commander 3rd Canadian Infantry Division.DIVISIONS INVOLVED: Canadian 3rd Infantry Division; British 3rd and 50th Infantry Divisions; U.S. 1st and 4th Infantry Divisions. (All had armoured units attached).The Canadian Press


Bid to get D-Day beaches added to list of UN World Heritage Sites in limbo

Bid to get D-Day beaches added to list of UN World Heritage Sites in limboThe beaches of Normandy, where the Allies stormed ashore to begin the eventual liberation of Europe from Nazi rule, are widely regarded by veterans and historians alike as venerated, sacred ground. It's not for a lack of trying: France applied to the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization in 2014 to have the beaches designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, much like several other locations linked to the Second World War. Serge Durflinger is one of those who firmly believes the D-Day invasion beaches are "incontestably important" to the world and meet the very high standards for the UN designation.


UN urges Canada to take more vulnerable Mexican migrants from Central America

UN urges Canada to take more vulnerable Mexican migrants from Central AmericaOTTAWA — The United Nations is urging Canada to help ease Mexico's refugee burden by helping resettle some of the most vulnerable of its new arrivals, including women, children and LGBTQ people.Mexico is feeling the squeeze from an unprecedented exodus of people fleeing Central American countries and some of the worst violence from nations not at actually war is forcing families northward."Our pitch to Canada is to do more," said Mark Manly, the Mexico representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.Manly was in Ottawa earlier this month for meetings with the federal government to look for ways for Canada to help resettle more of the migrants that have arrived in Mexico.The request comes as the United States takes a harder line on its Mexican border, with President Donald Trump branding the caravans of migrants as being laced with violent criminals bent on destabilizing his country.Canada, Mexico and the U.S. are pushing to have their new version of the North American Free Trade Agreement ratified soon as Vice-President Mike Pence visits Ottawa this week to give that a renewed push.Asylum seekers reaching Mexico from Honduras, El Salvador and Venezuela caused a 103-per-cent spike in claims in 2018 over the previous years from almost to 15,000 to about 30,000, says the UNHCR.Manly said that many migrants have good settlement prospects in Mexico because of its growing economy and need for foreign labour, but women and girls fleeing gang violence as well as members of the transgender and gay communities need to be resettled elsewhere because they are not safe.The UNHCR wants to "take the pressure off Mexican authorities to take care of this kind of profile and resettle them to Canada," Manly said.Criminal gangs are flourishing in Central America, he said. They extort money from the non-criminals, kill other gang members, and are constantly recruiting adolescent boys and girls."Anyone who gets in the way is at severe risk, so entire families leave," Manly explained. "That explains the demographic change."Canada is already "doing a few things in terms of technical support for the Mexican asylum system, resettlement of people who face extreme protection risks in the region," he added, including helping resettle LGBTQ applicants."These are countries that are close by; they are countries with which Canada has close ties, Mexico being the most important of them."A spokeswoman for Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen was unable to provide statistics of how many Mexican asylum seekers Canada has received recently.But Lise Jolicoeur said Canada is a partner in the Rainbow Refugee Society which helps sponsor LGBTQ2 refugees from around the world. "In fact, this year we managed to sponsor 64 refugees (record-breaking)," she said in an email.The Ontario-based World Refugee Council released a report earlier this year that said the large-scale migration of Central American women, as well as unaccompanied children and adolescents, had become a major policy issue in the Western Hemisphere."It is estimated that six out of 10 migrant women and girls are victims of sexual violence carried out by illicit actors, government authorities and intimate partners. However, most of what is known is anecdotal and there is an urgent need for a stronger evidence base in order to inform policy," the report says.Lloyd Axworthy, the chair of the refugee council, toured Mexican refugee camps near the border city of Tijuana last year at the height of the caravan activity, and described the situation as dire and entrenched.Axworthy made "human security" a key tenet of Canadian foreign policy when he was the country's top diplomat in the Liberal government from 1996 to 2000."What it demonstrates is that as long as the conflicts take place and the violence going on, you're going to have people trying to escape. And it's going to be in our region," he said in an interview."We've been focusing on the NAFTA issue; well maybe there's got to be some parallel discussion (on migration)."The long and occasionally bitter NAFTA renegotiation highlighted the differences on dealing with gender issues between the U.S. and its two continental partners.In the new deal's chapter on labour rights, it calls on all three countries to "protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex (including with regard to sexual harassment), pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity …"That paragraph also has a footnote that essentially gives the U.S. an out on that point, saying it need not take "any further action" to comply with that requirement. The footnote came after 40 U.S. members of Congress wrote Trump a letter in November 2018 objecting to sexual orientation and gender identity language in the trade deal."A trade agreement is no place for the adoption of social policy," their letter said. "It is especially inappropriate and insulting to our sovereignty to needlessly submit to social policies which the United States Congress has so far explicitly refused to accept." Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press


Wildfire crews watching for dangerous wind shift in High Level, Alta.

Wildfire crews watching for dangerous wind shift in High Level, Alta.Crews battling an enormous wildfire just outside the small northern Alberta town of High Level are bracing for what could be a dangerous wind shift today. The Chuckegg Creek fire is raging out of control about three kilometres southwest of the town, and has grown to just over 1,000 square kilometres.


Sunday 26th of May 2019 05:41:14

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