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#20230 - 02/26/01 02:52 PM English a Global Language
patbieber Offline
stranger

Registered: 02/26/01
Posts: 1
Loc: USA, Iowa, Missisppi River Val...
Although many people speak English as a second language, it would not be a good choice as a global language. There are too many irregular forms in English, too many words of foreign extraction in English, and too many coined phrases for English to work well. As a matter of practicality and for good manners people should be able to speak the dominant language of the country they are living in, and should have at least a minimum proficiency (and be able to use dictionaries and phrase books) in the language of any country in which they are visiting for more than two weeks.


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#20231 - 02/26/01 11:39 PM Re: English a Global Language
Bingley Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/09/00
Posts: 3065
Loc: Jakarta
Although I'd agree with the general principle, I think two weeks is cutting it rather short. Who's going to learn a whole new writing system for a two-week stay in, for example, Thailand or Korea, let alone Japan or China? Please and thank-you and greetings would be enough, I think, although not all languages are as obsessed about please and thank you as English is.

Bingley
_________________________
Bingley

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#20232 - 02/27/01 01:57 PM Re: English a Global Language
David Gjerdrum Offline
stranger

Registered: 06/16/00
Posts: 1
It has on occasions been said that 'a bilingual is a person having equal difficulty with two languages'.

Since my own suite of such problems extends to several acquired languages and major groups (IE, Chinese, Japanese), I have a great sympathy for those seeking to visit new lands.

A two week visit into an unknown speech community is basically a challenging proposition (for me, first trips to Pakistan, Korea and Thailand -- all 'buffered' by a business agenda that starts with a generally soon to disappear 'introducing party' --- come to mind).

Without advanced warning, entering a new speech community can be quite off-putting; being armed with grammars, dictionaries, phrase books and the like may help, but there are no guarantees there; my first trip to Beijing (to deliver a paper on data entry methods to the Society for Chinese Information Processing) was nothing more than an exercise in stage fright (I ended up delivering the paper in English, and then speaking quite freely in Mandarin after the meeting was over).

All of this to say that assimilados should all try their hardest when seeking to live and work in a new community, and that the use of any and all resources to ease that stress is well recommended.

On the other hand, I see little logical linkage between a discussion on the need to develop personal skills in the language of use in a community to be visited and any assertion that English is somehow deprecated as a global language.

The reference to the many borrowings our lexicon contains seems particularly misplaced; to the extent a given language might be 'universal' in a world where 'language death' is a practical fact, the preservationist desire would be to increase borrowings for the limited diversity they do bring.

To the extent the students are from the communities of origin, I would think that borrowings are very much the stuff of ESL in building associations from the known to the novel.

As to the irregularities of our spelling system, etc., -- oh well; it may be accident of history or some other process that allowed our last major sound change to coincide with the printing press -- this medium suggest very strongly that technology again will chage how people transcribe their ideas and experiences.

But to the point at hand -- what other candidates are on the horizon for a useable global language? In the same way that I chose to learn Mandarin because more people speak it than any other language, English must be a primary choice because of its broad distribution.

Is it merely locale that makes English the language of choice in my (technology) workplace, or doesn't the fact that there are substantial populations of productive Arabic, Farsi, Tagalog, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese and Korean speakers compel the selection of a common second (or later) language.

Moreover, were we to attempt to bring a specifically constructed language into use by fiat, we could at best hope for a form of diglossia (e.g. the use of koine in all Greek documents during the reign of the Generals).

There aren't that many examples of top-down language formation in recent history: Israel as a new country brought a theological language into productive use in about a generation (but they had to 'borrow' swear words -- other than those occurring in the bible -- from their semitic cousins the Palastinians), and of course it took a revolution in China for the introduction of "PUTONGHUA" (i.e. Mandarin) to occur.

Each of these reminds me of a quote from David Olmsted, "a language is a speech community that shares a common army." So the question becomes, 'short of at gunpoint, how does one introduce a global language?', with my answer tending toward letting market forces work.




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#20233 - 02/27/01 03:26 PM Re: English a Global Language
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
To demonstrate my remarkable command of the obvious, language is a tool so indispensable that the most widely useful language will be the dominant one. Quite possibly as China's economy reaches its obvious potential, Mandarin may become dominant, if computers make it easier to learn and write.


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#20234 - 03/01/01 07:29 AM Re: English a Global Language
belligerentyouth Offline
old hand

Registered: 12/20/00
Posts: 1055
Loc: Berlin
> 'a bilingual is a person having equal difficulty with two languages'
Sadly, this is, by and large, true. The more languages you learn; the more superficial your understanding of the subtle nuances of each is.


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#20235 - 03/01/01 08:53 AM Re: English a Global Language
Shoshannah Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/01
Posts: 116
Loc: Jerusalem, ISRAEL
'a bilingual is a person having equal difficulty with two languages'

This is why, as I mentioned in my original post on this subject (just under the chief's), having lived in Israel for the better part of the past 20 years, I have become 'not fluent in two languages' (actually three as I do know a few words and expressions in Arabic as well).

I've heard another expression on this subject since living here - trilingual means you speak three languages; bilingual means you speak two languages; and if you speak only one language, you must be American. Sad, I know, but unfortunately, still too true!


_________________________
suzanne pomeranz, tourism consultant jerusalem, israel - suztours@gmail.com

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#20236 - 03/01/01 12:40 PM Re: English a Global Language
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
As the legend of the Tower of Babel tells us, having many languages is a source of painful confusion. Having one universal language would not solve all our problems, but it might at least facilitate eliminating some of them.


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#20237 - 03/01/01 12:58 PM Re: English a Global Language
Shoshannah Offline
member

Registered: 02/26/01
Posts: 116
Loc: Jerusalem, ISRAEL
Having one universal language would not solve all our problems, but it might at least facilitate eliminating some of them.

Oooooooooo - I'm against having only ONE language - how boring life would be without all the fabulous differences in the world! I think that learning other languages and experiencing other cultures is a much better way to get along in the world than ELIMINATING something or other... after all, in that Tower of Babel story, what happened was that MAN (yes and WOMAN) decided he/she could be as all powerful as G-d and that having only one language would help facilitate that end... thus, G-d in His wisdom, confounded our tongues so we would have to actually LEARN about and respect differences in order to get along!

And that's MY sermon for today! Hey, Father Steve, how was that?

_________________________
suzanne pomeranz, tourism consultant jerusalem, israel - suztours@gmail.com

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#20238 - 03/01/01 03:36 PM Re: English a Global Language
Max Quordlepleen Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 08/12/00
Posts: 3409
In reply to:

Sadly, this is, by and large, true. The more languages you learn; the more superficial your understanding of the subtle nuances of each is.


What irks me is the facility with which children raised in polyglot households prove themselves the exception to this general rule. I agreee with your assessment, and it seems to me that the only way to be truly multilingual is to be exposed to the languages in question from birth.



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#20239 - 03/01/01 05:19 PM Re: English a Global Language
wwh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 01/18/01
Posts: 13858
i venture to predict that English borrowings will increase steadily,amd more extensive pidgins develop until they are widely understood. No telling how long it will take, but eventually there will be only one language, and it won't be called English.


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