Sunday, April 04, 2010

When a PC Validates Your Language...

Back to Dr. David Harrison and endangered languages - Harrison believes language revitalization will be one of the most important trends in linguistics over the next couple of decades, and he believes companies need to get on board.

He is calling on technology companies, such as Microsoft, to help kids engender language. "The Microsoft Local Language Program can empower indigenous communities from the very moment when children in those communities first encounter a technology. It is a powerful thing for children to see their native language on a computer or on cell phone in a high tech medium. It validates the language and encourages them not to abandon the language. It shows them that their language is neither backwards nor obsolete and that it has use in the modern world and has value.”

It used to be different.

When I was growing up, the value of my language and its prestige came automatically as the result of the culture enshrined in it. I had Polish, Yiddish, English and Arabic spoken at home, then picked up a bit of Russian at school. None of the speakers of these languages needed the worth of their language validated by some PC.

It worries me immensely that kids now need to see their lingo on a hand-held phone screen to believe that it is OK to learn it. Amidst the many extinctions I am surrounded with - species of plants and animals, human languages, humanities subject at undergraduate level, common sense and politeness - here comes the extinction of the human wetware.

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