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April 29, 2010

Comments

I disagree with you on this one. It's God's will that the people be scattered about the globe speaking mutually unintelligible tongues. It makes for a more worthy human experience. What's needed is for the West to leave these small peoples alone.

I am tired of efficiency, progress, commerce,EDUCATION, globalization, interconnectedness etc...Some days I wake up and wish that there were 20 more North Koreas in the world. Besides, trying to improve the human condition is a fools errand, doomed to failure.

Don't exaggerate the benefits of learning English. We have millions of native English speakers in this country who could be replaced by Latvian speakers who would do a better job. People aren't scrambling to go to Jamaica or the Philippines either. Certain ethnic groups - Jews, Armenians, Koreans, Croatians - have probably benefited from the cohesiveness created by having a shared language unfamiliar to outsiders. It's not clear to me that the Irish, for example, are necessarily better off as a nation for having abandoned their language for English. Native Americans all learned English - didn't do them a lot of good either. But, yes, once you've reached a certain level there are probably only diminishing returns for trying to keep a language alive.

Well, at least you are doing your part to preserve italics

Yes, weird languages like Hebrew should have went extinct awhile ago, Arabic and English are far more practical for the daily business of Israel right?

[HS: Israel would have been better off with English, because it would then attract more American Jews to move there, and the people who live there wouldn't have funny Hebrew accents so they'd be better spokespeople for Israel on American TV.

Arabic wouldn't benefit Israel because its neighbors don't have relations with her except for Egypt, and most of Israel's trade is outside of the Arab world. German would probably be the second language to most benefit Israel. Russian third.]

I've always supported the idea that everyone should learn to speak English. I'm not a globalist, but it would surely help create a more cohesive global society.

It's also political. Promoting language preservation promotes ethnic nationalism and grievance against the dead white males.


This view is crazy. Do you *like* living in boring American monoculture? Why not get rid of all other languages: then there would be no barriers to communication!

Sure, efficiency is important, and it's nice for people to be able to talk to one another. I think a better linguistic model is India, where most people speak English well, but as a second language in addition to their native tongue.

This is true. Languages could be studied as a hobby or curiosity, and recorded as a part of history, but it makes no sense to try to revive them and make use of them for practical purposes. One of the reason that India is now relatively prosperous is because it has been united by the English language, where as before the English came every little area of the country had its own language. My grandparents spoke Gaelic (and English) and lived in the north of Scotland. It would be an interesting curiosity to be able to speak Gaelic, but I'm sure glad that someone made the decision to teach all the children in the highlands English in school, even if it meant Gaelic practically died out. Otherwise I might be scrapping out a living collecting kelp and planting oats on a croft in the highlands instead of living in a nice house in Canada where I can waste time posting comments on peoples' blogs instead of marking the big stack of calculus final exams sitting beside me.

It is a big grievance of the Canadian aboriginals that they were forced to learn English in evil white-men's schools. But suppose they had NOT been taught English--then they would surely be even more poor and marginalized than they currently are, and would likely complain about the fact that nobody built schools for their children.

If someone wanted to be a professional minority rather than join the ranks of productive humanity, I could imagine that speaking an endangered language could have advantages. It could be a way to get grants, SWPL fans, and generally improve your status without having to adapt to / compete with modern culture. Sure, you've got to put up with a few egg-head linguists and (worse) sociologists, but it's not a terrible tradeoff.

"Arabic and English are far more practical for the daily business of Israel right?"

I am sure every Israeli knows all the Arabic they need to know, such as the phrases for hands up, lie down and put your hands on the back of your head, everybody get out of the car, etc. =)

How many? One. Whether it should be this way or not: there will be only one language and it will be English. English is easier to learn than any other language.

"I am sure every Israeli knows all the Arabic they need to know, such as the phrases for hands up, lie down and put your hands on the back of your head, everybody get out of the car, etc."

Just as every Arab soldier knows how to say "I surrender! Don't shoot!" in Hebrew.

Peter

Dude! The Eskimo's have like 40 words for snow. Recognize!

Get rid of bureaucracy in education and people are very keen and quick to learn the "language of commerce", whatever it happens to be.

It's a SWPL thing, like intervening in nature trying to save animal species.

Should we also get rid of all musical keys except C major? How about we get rid of all instruments other than the xylophone, since that is one of the simplest instruments to play? Letting their native language die and adopting English would certainly be a loss to any people. Whether the gain outweighs the loss is debatable. Have you ever read translated poetry of a great author? For the most part, it can't be done very satisfactorily. Literal semantic meaning isn't the only component of a language.

I agree with your point. Doing academic work in a new field is a barrier to advancement- whether or not the work that is produced has any significant importance.

The fact that these dying languages exist mean that someone can document them as a thesis topic.

Is there any benefit to anyone other than the academic? Probably not.

It reminds me of Ann Dunham useless thesis on rural blacksmithing that she abandoned her family for.

Some comments;

The Irish example is interesting. The forced assimilation to the English language certainly helped the economic picture, but now that it is a part of the anglosphere it is attracting large numbers of NAM migrants who would otherwise not have came.

Another example is multicultural Canada, where ethnic enclaves are strengthened by non-English language usage. This allows them to get a monopoly on certain commercial sectors and labour markets that English only speakers are locked out of.

There are collectivist economic/cultural benefits to not being unilingual, mono-cultured, and mainstream. In fact, many of these enthic communities would actively discourage you from learning their language! That tells you something right there.

Anybody with high 'g' can grab a copy of Rosetta stone software and learn a language in a matter of months, using only 1 hour of study per evening.

Perhaps they can agree to learn English if we agree to go metric?

It doesn't harm anyone to transcribe as much as can be written down about soon-to-be-extinct languages. No one's forcing anyone not to learn English. If anything, more linguistic data is beneficial since it provides a larger data set for research that bridges computer science and linguistics, which could have value-adding applications in areas like machine translation...

Well, there's creative uses for other languages; like the codetalkers (I didn't know this until the post made me fact check a bit, but even basques were used for the purpose).

Next, there's the simple fact that some words are hard to translate, so it's best to leave some native speakers around so any knowledge can still be transmitted and interpreted. I'd be interested to see what that would mean for biblical studies at the very least, if native speakers of the original tongues were around.

I also don't see the problem with preservation since people often say somethings unimportant, and then go "damn, my national/cultural identity was based on that, so morale related reasons should be considered.

So, I guess I agree. The reasoning is selfish, but not necessarily useless.

Half, this must be one of the dumbest posts you have ever made. And to get rid of Hebrew smacks of some self-hatred that is sad and pathetic.

The major languages of this century will be English, Mandarin, Spanish and Arabic. When you think of all that cannot be faithfully translated among those four languages alone, think of all the interstices of human expression that will be forever dark if every other language was gone.

You probably can't speak any language other than English. I speak four. So I know what I am talking about.

When you aren't bashing NAMs you are way off your game.

"English is easier to learn than any other language."

HS, comments like this do not speak to a very high g amongst your readership.

"The Irish example is interesting. The forced assimilation to the English language certainly helped the economic picture, but now that it is a part of the anglosphere it is attracting large numbers of NAM migrants who would otherwise not have came."

Because NAM immigrants never go to small countries with hard-to-learn non-English languages, like Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland...

"Do you *like* living in boring American monoculture?"

Yes! It's not boring - YOU are boring.

If "American monoculture" is so damn boring, how come the entire world seeks it out?

"The major languages of this century will be English, Mandarin, Spanish and Arabic."

Add Hindi

Schools everywhere should teach only English in their foreign-language classes. You learn that one language and you would be able to communicate with everyone else in the world. Your "own" language wouldn't have to go away.

"Anybody with high 'g' can grab a copy of Rosetta stone software and learn a language in a matter of months, using only 1 hour of study per evening."

Let me guess, you've never tried to learn a language before, have you?

The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis says that one's language governs the way one thinks. If that's right, by losing a language we lose a portion of the way that humanity can think. It may be good to lose some ways; it is definitely not good to lose most or all.

Of course, even if everyone adopts English, local variants of English will diverge into separate languages. Singlish, Jamaican Patois, and Saramaccan are radically different languages derived from English. And while English is still unified as a written language, I dare you to speak with your average Glaswegian and understand him. This process already happened to Arabic: there is Qur'an Arabic, International Arabic, and then dozens of regional languages derived from Arabic. The process is also starting in Latin American Spanish.

More than likely, you probably don't speak another language; I can tell you as someone fluent in French that there are many concepts, phrases, and thoughts that just don't occur in English. And that's between two Indo-European languages that have been in constant contact for 1000 years. The difference among languages of different families is even greater.

In short, you're a ignorant clown. Again.

The major languages of this century will be English, Mandarin, Spanish and Arabic.
--------------
You die now for not mentioning Nipponese, Amelikan! But you learn Nipponese first!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GOUblxxyOE

Banzai!!!!

OT: Derb posts a trader's rant on the Corner. The value-transferrees are flexing their Internet beer muscles!

http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=YWE4YmE2YjhmMzgzODJjMTY3NTA1NDJjNGZjMmE4M2Q=

The fact that this rant is a viral hit on Wall Street really speaks to how much brokers despise the middle class, we who TARPed their sorry asses.

The emotionality, thuggish tone and logical contradictions approach the level of an ethnic studies, value-eating grievance-monger.

The value-transferrees loaned boatloads of money to value-eaters, causing the financial system to crash. We value creators bailed them all out, and guess what? They still despise us.

If these traders are as sharp as the ranter claims, why do they think they need to take jobs from the middle class? Why don't they simply apply their swashbuckling trading virtuosity to their -own personal fortune-?

Any reasonably intelligent group should be able to maintain its native language and literature while learning the dominant language when they enter school. Just like plenty of people still study Latin or ancient Greek for their own personal reasons, those who want to preserve their identity certainly should be able to do so without goofy meddling professors. If they don't value it, no foreign academic is going to compel them to value it.

I ignore people who use expressions like "interstices of human expression", on general principle. Especially when they boast of the languages they speak.

Publius is right, though, that this post does not hold true for all cases. Some of these languages have a literature, and a literature means ancestral knowledge - a comparative advantage over nations which can't speak that language. Hebrew literature, for instance, is amazing; there's a reason so many major religions are based on it.

Also, a rare language lets one speak in code to one's own relatives, which keeps outsiders from eavesdropping into your mafia.

And there's a propaganda value. Say I was a Greek in a land occupied by Turks. If I'm "still speaking" Greek, I can get other Europeans on my side to release me from the Turkish oppressor. But if I'm speaking Turkish like them then foreigners will treat me like just some other lame faction of Turks.

The use of a phrase like 'egghead academic' exposes you (finally) as the bitter C-student I always figured you were.

Posted by: Joshua Holmes | April 29, 2010 at 09:36 PM

I haven't read such a whiny, pussy shit comment in Allah knows how long. Why didn't you post it in Francais? As for certain oogaboogas, I mean certain portions of humanity, thinking in certain ways, I wish they didn't think at all. In other words, that these things were dead. Shoot 'em in the head I say. And double tap them as you pass by. That is what things are going to come to anyway, so you'd better be ready. And don't use any French when the shooting starts. It doesn't sound so good. Go with German, Japtalk or Russian. Think about it. Who wants to put cartouches in their boomstick? Umladen! Schnell!

English is the dominant language of forced unilinigual environments like aviation. This is largely due to economics, of course, but also because English is better at forming new words than are Chinese, Arabic and Spanish. I used to work in an international field, and to me our visitors making travel arrangements sounded like:

"(gibberish) business class (gibberish) curbside check-in (gibberish) taxicab ..."

Building on that and another recent thread, has anyone developed "simplified international English" that would be as easy for a foreign speaker to learn as Esperanto is? Keep the parts that follows regular rules and get rid of useless things like how to pluralize "half," spell "knight" and the letter "c".

" I can tell you as someone fluent in French that there are many concepts, phrases, and thoughts that just don't occur in English"

Can you give 3 examples please?

"German would probably be the second language to most benefit Israel. Russian third."

I'd go with Mandarin. And there might be...ah, historical barriers to Israelis wanting to learn German. Or Russian.

There are obvious benefits to speaking a language that few others know and obvious disadvantages to only speaking a language that just about everyone understands.

A major reason why all that American raw military power doesn't translate to as much actual influence as it "should" is that we all know English well enough to have a pretty good idea of what America is actually likely to do. When the President of Russia makes a few angry remarks at a small country, panic ensues and local kremlinologists rush to interpret how serious the issue is and how much appeasement and show of submission is required (yeah, I'm Finnish, and that's exactly how it works), since pretty much no one has any actual clue on the inner workings of Russia and thus no one sees any other option.

When a POTUS makes a few angry remarks at a small country, everyone in the world rushes to appeal to the Hollywood/Harvard crowd to condemn these terribly intolerant and aggressive words... and just about everyone knows how much popular support the POTUS actually has for real action and so on. Chinese or Russian leaders can make a few subtle hints about making life hard for their neighbours to get their influence through while American leaders don't have similar influence on Cuba or Mexico despite even more overwhelming might on paper... and it's all because of English.

As it is, America has the odds massively stacked against it in any propaganda war, since it's rather easy for anyone to have a decent idea about the relevant parties and the inner workings of American politics and culture while very few people outside Iraq or Afghanistan or wherever have any clue how to appeal to the significant social forces over there or even which of the social forces there are actually significant. There's plenty of educated Iraqis who know exactly what American politicians, celebrities or intellectuals want to hear and very few Americans who can do it the other way around. In this field knowledge is the ultimate power and America is the weakest nation in the world.

Likewise, Israel would be in a *much* weaker position if it weren't capable of obscuring it's internal debates and hesitations from its enemies with the use of Hebrew.

"... it’s only of benefit to the egghead academics... "

Almost all of academe is only of benefit to the academics. As you've expounded on endlessly (cough... BIGLAW!) it's just a bunch of mostly pointless debt. Were it not for radical government tax-and-spending to pay for the shit and adverse impact legislation to give companies a reason to demand credentials, most academics would have to produce something of value to pay for the berets and red diapers. Or, talk to your bartender about his anthro degree (because he will have one.)

This post can be re-purposed to 80% of academic work.

I made a "Mad Lib" for future posts about academe:

Here's a (liberal paper) article about (non-STEM academic field.)

The thing about (non-STEM academic field) is that it's only of benefit to the profs. There's absolutely no benefit to (anyone affected, excepting the profs.) Thus, I think that the profs are extraordinarily (insulting descriptor) getting paid $(large number) to produce this drivel while helping no one.

BIGLAW, ARRRGGHH!

I see there being four major languages worth knowing:

1) English
2) Mandarin Chinese
3) Japanese
4) Spanish

English and Mandarin Chinese are obvious. Japanese is significant because the Japanese are still leaders in advanced technology. Spanish is relevant because all of Latin America speaks it and this is a rather large region of the world. It is true the Brazilians speak Portuguese. However, most of them understand Spanish as well. Latin America is experiencing economic growth along side that of China.

"Thus, I think that these language preservationists are extraordinarily selfish, putting their own academic interests ahead of what’s best for the people who speak these weird languages."

There are some languages out there that might well be worth preserving since they are language isolates or they have unusual features that might eventually shed light on how humans process language. However, the overwhelming majority of the world's languages are simply not that interesting. Preservation of the oddballs doesn't necessarily require that anyone speak the language: so long as the language is adequately preserved through recordings, grammars, and dictionaries, then the job of the language preservationist is probably done.

The languages going away having very small numbers of speakers who are technoloically backward. Dutch is still alive and they typical learn several economically useful languages to a high degree of fluency.

It's a stretch to think of Russian or Potuguese disappearing any time soon.

JGP

"it would surely help create a more cohesive global society"

Most everyone in America speaks english. Do we seem like an especially cohisive society to you?

"Preservation of the oddballs doesn't necessarily require that anyone speak the language: so long as the language is adequately preserved through recordings, grammars, and dictionaries, then the job of the language preservationist is probably done."

Preservation of that sort (minus the recordings) happened in the case of Cornish. Although the last native speakers died out in the 1700's, there was ample written documentation, so knowledge of the language was in no danger of being lost. In recent years it's actually been going through a revival, mainly as a matter of ethnic pride.

Peter

Holmes said,
"The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis says that one's language governs the way one thinks."

You know what a hypothesis is, right? It's an idea that has very little evidence behind it.

//"I can tell you as someone fluent in French that there are many concepts, phrases, and thoughts that just don't occur in English"

Can you give 3 examples please?//

lol. Good point Sabril. He could give examples, but you'd have to speak fluent French to understand them.

As for literature in translation, All the lit in language X only benefits people who know that language. If there were only one language, everyone would be able to enjoy all the new literature for here on out.

I think English is a good language for everyone to learn. It's easy enough even for black people to learn, so this bodes well for the prospects of Africa. Even if they don't talk English so good, at least most people can understand what a black person is saying, no?

Chinese is only a good language because there are a lot of people in the world that speak it. Learning the writing and reading system is very hard. Even the Chinese person of average intelligence can have trouble with recognizing characters. Simplified has made it somewhat easier (though simplified is strange for me), but it's still not an easy language. Most of the whites I know that have mastered it have at least an IQ of 120, and most of them spent a considerable amount of time in China or Taiwan.

I always what would happen if blacks of average intelligence tried to learn Chinese. I doubt they could learn it. I think it would make their brains explode.

Chinese is a language for smart people. If you wanted to make create a society where only the smart folks were literate, you would choose Chinese as the official language.

@the clever chap who wrote this:

"I ignore people who use expressions like "interstices of human expression", on general principle. Especially when they boast of the languages they speak."

First, it is not boasting when you can do it.

Second, I ignore people who put the comma after the quotation mark.

***_I can tell you as someone fluent in French that there are many concepts, phrases, and thoughts that just don't occur in English_***

***Can you give 3 examples please?***

Mise en scene "MEES ENN SENN" - Literally "place in scene". It's a term of art in French cinema. The closest approximation in English is "art direction", but the concept is much deeper than that. It describes the totality of the artistic impact of the interplay of the visual elements, what narrative the visual elements themselves tell. There's nothing like it in English, so we just took the term for ourselves. But it doesn't mean as much in English without the French cinema theory behind it.

acquis communautaire "AH-KEE KAU-MYOO-NUH-TARE" - Literally "what has been acquired by the community". It is used in the EU to refer to all of the binding EU treaties, law, and precendents. Perhaps "code of laws" or "body of laws" is the closest in English, but it doesn't reflect the confusing mix of treaties, laws, conventions, etc. that comprise EU law. The word "acquis" itself is being borrowed into international English to serve similar purposes in other international bodies.

coup d'oeil "KOOP DEH-EEL" - Literally "stroke of the eye". It means the ability to understand the tactical advantages and disadvantages of a particular situation immediately. The closest English equivalent comes from basketball: "court vision".

""it would surely help create a more cohesive global society"

Right. It's hard to think of many examples where people speaking the same language and sharing the same cultural tradition fought each other, except the American Revolution. Oh, and the Civil War. And, yes, the Yugoslav Civil War. Oh, and the Russian Civil War. And the Chinese Revolution. And the Spanish Civil War. And the Korean War. And the War in Vietnam. And the French Revolution, and the 30 Years War, and the War of the Roses, and....

Lol, mise-en-scene has entered the English language as a foreign phrase.

And of course the concept of the entire body of EU law occurs in English. We just don't need a short unique expression for it. It's easy enough to just say "the entire body of EU law" or "EU law" or "EU law including treaties, statutes, and court decisions."

Coup d'oeil has also entered the English language and in any event it's easy enough to express the concept in English. If people needed to describe this concept with a short phrase, one would surely develope.

Posted by: Joshua Holmes | April 30, 2010 at 09:14 PM

Yay for cut and paste!

""... it’s only of benefit to the egghead academics... "

Almost all of academe is only of benefit to the academics. As you've expounded on endlessly (cough... BIGLAW!) it's just a bunch of mostly pointless debt. Were it not for radical government tax-and-spending to pay for the shit and adverse impact legislation to give companies a reason to demand credentials, most academics would have to produce something of value to pay for the berets and red diapers. Or, talk to your bartender about his anthro degree (because he will have one.)

This post can be re-purposed to 80% of academic work."

Most people who major is History, Archeology,Anthropology,Linguistics, etc aren't going to get jobs in these fields or professorships,but aren't they useful subjects to study? Can people study these outside of colleges on their free time? Don't we need profs to study these?The problem is forcing larger amounts of people to go to college to get something that is useless for them, not that there are profs researching Archeology.
I don't think Charles Murray would be for getting rid of some of these subjects. He just wants fewer people wasting their time on them when they don't belong there.

How many languages does the world need?

Two.

Italian for Opera, English for everything else.

Yes, weird languages like Hebrew should have went extinct awhile ago, Arabic and English are far more practical for the daily business of Israel right?

[HS: Israel would have been better off with English, because it would then attract more American Jews to move there, and the people who live there wouldn't have funny Hebrew accents so they'd be better spokespeople for Israel on American TV.

Arabic wouldn't benefit Israel because its neighbors don't have relations with her except for Egypt, and most of Israel's trade is outside of the Arab world. German would probably be the second language to most benefit Israel. Russian third.]

Only an American would ever come up with ideas like this. Newsflash for you: the world is not America. People don't change language without immediate and considerable practical benefits. If you don't speak English and live the USA you're in trouble. But suggesting that a Hebrew-speaking Jew in Israel or a Swedish-speaking Swede in Sweden, change their languages into something more "useful" is just stupid. You might as well suggest that as of tomorrow all Americans study Chinese with the aim of gradually replacing English with Chinese in daily life.

"coup d'oeil "KOOP DEH-EEL""

No, not even close.

It can happen though, Markku. Within living memory French was very widely spoken in Louisiana. Huey Long spoke it in private to his friends and fellow politicians. But his children's generation just gave it up because it wasn't considered useful in an increasingly unilingual America. The world may not be America right now, but globalization certainly is Americanizing it like never before, and within a generation, who knows...

What an outburst of SWPLers below the post! I totally agree with halfsigma, I am sure these people would prefer prosperous living for themselves and their kins in their homeland instead of being just a contribution to someone's ellitist scientific status in the US. And what is sad is that the Western societies don't do the ethical judgement on their own to condemn the selfish behaviour from a humanistic viewpoint, just pay respect to what authorities tell them to pay respect to.

I have to disagree here. A lot of our history is written in these 'dead languages,' and without a thriving field in them, we may lose our ability to gain further insight into who we once were.

The study of archaic languages also allows us to build constructs of even earlier proto-linguistic communication.

History depends on us being able to understand the language of its speakers.

Wow. So this is what passes for sensible centrism these days, huh?

-fred

I'm not going to touch the more metaphysical or religious speculations some have bounced back and forth here.

But with all due respect I think your assessment is incredibly short sighted. Each language encompasses a unique world view that reflects tens of thousands of years of human history and evolution. As someone else indicated it does give cognitive insights but not only for the evolution of language from pre-linguistic communication, but ALSO how specific environments that specific ethnic groups found themselves in molded their cognition.

There is research indicating the real possibility that language profoundly influences HOW we think, and that certain languages are better at describing some aspects of reality than others. Dismissing this or not seriously considering it is a mistake. If this is the case, then maintaining multiple living languages at studying them for posterity keeps open many ways of seeing the world that may not only have some real validity but that may help us better understand how we got to the point we are at.

Relegating this to the "egghead" category reflects an unfortunate preoccupation with efficiency first and foremost. It's possible to see multiple things as being relevant and important.

This should not be misunderstood, I am not suggesting that diversity for its own sake is simply a "wonderful, wonderful let's all sing kumbaya " thing - there are utilitarian values in maintaining the world languages that many are not looking at. Now other things of value may TRUMP the specific value of maintaining a specific language

None but an idiot would argue otherwise. It is a matter of priorities. As all things are. Some languages are more useful in some contexts to keep around, others are not. On an aesthetic level there is a certain ugliness in seeing anything unique and old die. This isn't a liberal SWPL attitude, I believe the word "conservation" is etymologically related to the word conservative.

Reductionism is a useful tool in its own respective sphere, it is a mistake to allow it free rein everywhere.

This has nothing to do with being a "SWPLer" - some of the most profoundly conservative people I know realize this and at one time "conservatives" actually had a healthy respect for dead and obscure languages.

I honestly and respectfully suggest that many people are not really looking at this in any deep way, with the attention that it is due. I could be wrong of course - a man's got to admit the possibility of his being wrong, unless he's an utter cretin and fool.

But, I think that people should examine this issue with greater depth.

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