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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2003 9:28 am 
gach wrote:
This whole arguing has risen one question for me:

Is good income the source of ultimate happyness?


No. Good income is a source, not the source. A man who is unable to enjoy what his good income brings him is not happy; a man who can't enjoy anything but good income isn't happy either.

But then, you must understand that being poor in developing nations (i.e. most of the world) is very different from being poor in the developed world. That's why people in China (or India, or whatever) are working so hard for income -- because everyone's scared of being poor.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2003 10:20 am 
Aidan, I was not ignoring Ran's experience. I was not addressing it: I concede he has experience of China that I do not. I do not concede that he can extrapolate from his experiance of China to say what will happen in every case ever anywhere.

What does the wealth of Europe have to do with anything? If I'm a Catalan, it doesn't cost me anything to speak Catalan. I can still get a job with a Spanish company - the local office may be staffed with Catalan-speakers anyway, and even it it isn't, I speak Spanish as well, so where's the problem? If I'm Dutch, it doesn't cost me any money to talk to all my friends in Dutch, and it doesn't cost me any money to watch TV in English.
You want linguistic monoculture? Then everyone must abandon their old languages. Tell me, if I'm a Dutchman, why must I abandon Dutch? If I'm a Gibraltarian, why must I choose between English and Spanish?

The reason that bilingual cultures collapse is not because of some immutable law of human nature. It is not that it is advantagous tos peak only one language: it is simply that people see no reason to speak their old language. There are no reasons against it; there are simply no reasons for it. What has happened in Europe is that people have seen that there are reasons to keep their native languages, and so they do. Convince the Chinese that their language has value and they will keep speaking it, even if they speak Chinese as well: it doesn't inconveniance them to speak two languages.

So why shouldn't they?


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2003 11:42 am 
Sumerul
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Salmoneus wrote:
What does the wealth of Europe have to do with anything? If I'm a Catalan, it doesn't cost me anything to speak Catalan. I can still get a job with a Spanish company - the local office may be staffed with Catalan-speakers anyway, and even it it isn't, I speak Spanish as well, so where's the problem?


The point ran is making is that up-keeping linguistic diversity is not cost-free. Look at the European Union - 11 official languages, a huge chunk of the budget going on translations and printing a dozen versions of everything, etc. This all costs money which could be used for other purposes or handed back to taxpayers. I don't say it's a waste of money, but it's certainly something worth considering when deciding whether to keep linguistic diversity. On having to learn English - I'd say in most countries which are integrated into the world economy it's simply impossible to get attractive jobs (outside government-related or purely local activities) for people under about 45 if you don't speak English. Now, I assume most on this board like learning foreign languages, as I do, but for many people it's a chore costing them time they'd prefer to spend on other activities. So, ran's argument is, it'd be much better if they could have grown up as native English speakers, saving them this ordeal.
Again, as I've already stated here, I don't think it'd be a good idea if everybody dropped their native languages for English (or some other, regional, lingua franca). But linguistic diversity certainly involves costs and efforts to be kept alive, and that's why it's surviving mostly in those areas where the effort is not so big (areas which are integrated into the global economy to a lesser degree) or which are already rich enough to afford the costs of keeping it, like Europe.
Best regards,
Hans-Werner


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2003 1:04 pm 
Keeping multiple official languages costs money, yes. But a language needn't be official to be used.
I agree with ran that growing up as English native speakers (or whatever language becomes dominant in the future) would be better for the Chinese, and for everybody else; I don't believe that that means they can't grow up as native speakers of other languages as well.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2003 1:08 pm 
Lebom
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And then I find it a strange story that there are more than 10 primary schools in Rotterdam alone where the children are taught English as a mother tongue in addition to Dutch.
On the other hand, how likely will such a project succeed? If the pupils need to talk English to the teacher, but can only talk Dutch to children from other schools, to their parents, and to almost everyone else, at least until they are about twelve and start watching subtitled TV programmes.

And this summer vacation I was in Germany staying with a friend, and I have gone to his school for one day, and I saw their English class. Their level was absolutely horrible, I don't say my English is good, but their accent was like in Allo Allo and I have seen all kinds of spelling and syntax mistakes. And that while they were almost all 16 or 17!

I think the point here is that there are enough Germans to keep the language alive; if you are German, you do not need to know any other language to "survive", almost all movies are dubbed, there is a German Linux Magazine, there are lots of original German movies, there are lots of German music and I can go on.

In the Netherlands things are a little bit different, you are almost literally bombed with English on TV and in ads and on universities; I can understand that it is impractical to translate all scientific books and magazines to Dutch, but with TV and ads it is just and only that English is "cool" in the Netherlands - I guess at least 3 out of 4 pupils from my class has never have to use English anywhere within the Netherlands.

And for me, I want to learn German really well, because I would really like to go to Germany after I finish school or so, making the use of English to read computer books and webpages.

And with that internet, did you know that there are estimations that Chinese will be the most used language on the Internet in 2007? This because so many people in China get internet access and thus can chat, email, use fora and can make webpages.

EDIT: what would the world be boring if everyone spoke English! In some cases it would be easy, but I think it would be really really boring.
Not to mention that the more speakers English has, the less chance on a spelling reform there is, and wouldn't that be a bad thing? ;-)


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2003 1:42 pm 
Boardlord
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hwhatting wrote:
On having to learn English - I'd say in most countries which are integrated into the world economy it's simply impossible to get attractive jobs (outside government-related or purely local activities) for people under about 45 if you don't speak English. Now, I assume most on this board like learning foreign languages, as I do, but for many people it's a chore costing them time they'd prefer to spend on other activities. So, ran's argument is, it'd be much better if they could have grown up as native English speakers, saving them this ordeal.


There are some valid requirements for speaking English; but it also gets used as a shorthand for "the more educated students". It's like specifying a degree level in the US. If you specify a college degree, you eliminate about half the applicant class, in hopes of getting the better students.

If everyone in China knew English, another hurdle would be created to replace it.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 22, 2003 2:39 pm 
Šriftom
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hwhatting wrote:
Salmoneus wrote:
What does the wealth of Europe have to do with anything? If I'm a Catalan, it doesn't cost me anything to speak Catalan. I can still get a job with a Spanish company - the local office may be staffed with Catalan-speakers anyway, and even it it isn't, I speak Spanish as well, so where's the problem?


The point ran is making is that up-keeping linguistic diversity is not cost-free. Look at the European Union - 11 official languages, a huge chunk of the budget going on translations and printing a dozen versions of everything, etc. This all costs money which could be used for other purposes or handed back to taxpayers. I don't say it's a waste of money, but it's certainly something worth considering when deciding whether to keep linguistic diversity.


I have just seen a recent statement by Neil Kinnock, the EU Commissioner responsible for language services (among other things) that the proportion of the EU budget spent on language services is 1% - hardly a major issue. Buying up unsellable butter from European farmers costs probably a lot more.

hwhatting wrote:
On having to learn English - I'd say in most countries which are integrated into the world economy it's simply impossible to get attractive jobs (outside government-related or purely local activities) for people under about 45 if you don't speak English. Now, I assume most on this board like learning foreign languages, as I do, but for many people it's a chore costing them time they'd prefer to spend on other activities. So, ran's argument is, it'd be much better if they could have grown up as native English speakers, saving them this ordeal.
Again, as I've already stated here, I don't think it'd be a good idea if everybody dropped their native languages for English (or some other, regional, lingua franca). But linguistic diversity certainly involves costs and efforts to be kept alive, and that's why it's surviving mostly in those areas where the effort is not so big (areas which are integrated into the global economy to a lesser degree) or which are already rich enough to afford the costs of keeping it, like Europe.
Best regards,
Hans-Werner


India is an example of a poor country where language diversity will survive for a long time. English is the lingua franca, and educated people know it, and Hindi is widely known in the North (but hardly tolerated in the south). The local official languages (Tamil, Panjabi, Bengali, etc.) thrive, although the many tribal languages may have a bleaker future. In any case, bi- and multilingualism are very common at all social levels.

I once represented my organization at a meeting in Chennai (=Madras) whose purpose was to encourage rural women to establish more independence from their husbands. The women, most of whom had hardly ever been away from their villages, came from all over southern India, I imagine they were monolingual. I was amazed at the incredible performance of the Indian government official addressing the women though: he repeated his speech in fluent Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam. Then he explained things to me in equally fluent English.

Whatever is keeping India poor, it's not multilingualism.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 23, 2003 4:59 am 
I think an authentic native perspective is missing from this debate; here, a Cheyenne talks about preserving his language. (The article contains a whiff of the brand of humor that Indians are so famous for.)

Preserving the Cheyenne Language
By Richard E. Littlebear


Cheyenne speakers are uneasy about losing our language. They say, “It’s scary” when asked about it. The loss is scary because most do not realize we are losing the living essence of our identity as Cheyennes. We assumed Cheyenne would be here forever. The possibility of its death has given us a jolt of reality.

If the death of languages were more noticeable, then perhaps there would be massive efforts to save them. For instance, if language death was like road kill, we could say, “A lot of complex syllables are getting run over. Look all those glottal stops rotting by the roadside. Those silent vowels sure stink when they die.” But the dying is subtle and complicated.

Our language started dying with our first European contact and would now be complete if it weren’t for Cheyenne efforts at strengthening it. We must use every strategy to save our language while contending with English.

Yet, we must also promote English because it gives us physical sustenance and enables us to work in the present society; whereas Cheyenne provides us with spiritual sustenance, positively reinforces our identity, and lets us commune with all that we hold sacred. Both languages are useful in their unique ways and are equally important to us.

We Cheyenne have not been blameless in the loss of our language. Elders have ridiculed and over-corrected and thus rendered mute those who aspired to speak Cheyenne. Parents have not valued Cheyenne enough to teach their children and grandchildren. We have belittled efforts to strengthen the language while not offering to help.

To strengthen our language on our Reservation, this is what we do: offer oral language classes, copy and implement successful oral language programs, offer courses in linguistics for those who want to read and write, offer immersion schools or classes, and offer a standardized oral language curriculum to all of the local K-12 schools. We must make tribal language the official language of the people and reservation by tribal council ordnance and create a certification process for our own language teachers; offer a language-speaking group for people to hear the language; begin a word coinage program, which will bring the language up to date; sponsor a summer language immersion camp; create and standardize a writing system. These are stratagems we are using.

Any language, when not used, assumes a momentary, gossamer presence, and then it disappears. We must use them or lose them. If we don’t do anything to strengthen them, our languages will silently waft with butterfly elusiveness on the winds of the world and their melodic sounds will be lost forever.

It is the charge of this older generation of Cheyenne speakers to do everything to strengthen it. It sounds trite, but it will only die once.

Richard E. Littlebear is Vice President for Cultural Studies at Dull Knife Memorial College in Lame Deer, Montana


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2003 12:51 am 
Smeric
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jburke wrote:
I think an authentic native perspective is missing from this debate; here, a Cheyenne talks about preserving his language.


Thanks for the article, Jeff. I think it is a good presentation of an important perspective. It's also very interesting, the note about the elders' over-correcting speeding the death of the language.

But your use of "native" seems a little questionable to me, when you say we're missing an authentic native perspective. Native what, you know? Why are the Cheyenne qualitatively more "authentically native" than, say, the German or Chinese among us? (It is, of course, obvious why the European-Americans among us are less "native".)


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2003 1:17 am 
Quote:
But your use of "native" seems a little questionable to me, when you say we're missing an authentic native perspective. Native what, you know? Why are the Cheyenne qualitatively more "authentically native" than, say, the German or Chinese among us? (It is, of course, obvious why the European-Americans among us are less "native".)


Germans and Chinese are not, in their own countries, minorities whose languages are in danger. That's the perspective I meant to show.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2003 1:39 am 
Smeric
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jburke wrote:
Germans and Chinese are not, in their own countries, minorities whose languages are in danger. That's the perspective I meant to show.


Yeah. I just think your second description here, "minority" is a more relevant and accurate term here than "native".

Minor sidetrack, no more discussion needed, I don't think. Carry on 8)


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2003 9:06 am 
Sumerul
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Aidan wrote:
jburke wrote:
I think an authentic native perspective is missing from this debate; here, a Cheyenne talks about preserving his language.


Thanks for the article, Jeff. I think it is a good presentation of an important perspective. It's also very interesting, the note about the elders' over-correcting speeding the death of the language.


That's indeed an important point, and not only concerning younger generations of minority language speaking. My family moved to Northern Germany when I was a kid. In that area, many people still speak Plattdeutsch (Lower German), and we quickly learnt to understand it. But whenever we tried to speak it, we got ridicule, or at least funny looks - even from people who never would dream of doing that to, say, a Turk speaking broken (Standard) German. A minority language often becomes a badge of identity, so that speaking it means showing that you're a member of a community, and a non-native speaker of that minority is often treated as an impostor or gate-crasher to the club. So, learning of the language is discouraged, leading to a further decrease in usefulness and usade.
BTW, I've heard from some acquaintances (all German) that they made a similar experience when trying to speak Dutch in the Netherlands (my personal experience is different - my family has Dutch friends, who have been quite helpful in my attempts to learn the language).
Best regards,
Hans-Werner


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2003 9:45 am 
Sumerul
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gsandi wrote:
I have just seen a recent statement by Neil Kinnock, the EU Commissioner responsible for language services (among other things) that the proportion of the EU budget spent on language services is 1% - hardly a major issue. Buying up unsellable butter from European farmers costs probably a lot more.


Heh, don't get me started on the Common Agricultural policy (that is a waste of money, if there ever was).
As I said, I don't think keeping the EU multi-lingual is wasted money; I just think that ran is right in pointing out that linguistic diversity is not cost-free.

gsandi wrote:
Whatever is keeping India poor, it's not multilingualism.


Certainly not. Once again, I think that when people want to cling to their own languages and cultural identities, they have the right to do so; and although ran is right in pointing out the costs, the question with costs is always only to decide if a society is ready to pay them.
Best regards,
Hans-Werner


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2003 10:02 am 
Sumerul
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zompist wrote:
There are some valid requirements for speaking English; but it also gets used as a shorthand for "the more educated students". It's like specifying a degree level in the US. If you specify a college degree, you eliminate about half the applicant class, in hopes of getting the better students.

If everyone in China knew English, another hurdle would be created to replace it.


That's certainly a part of the phenomenon. Another point, maybe not so valid in China, but very important in Europe, is the lingua-franca role of English. Even in big Chinese companies like Huawei or Haier, you could probably get along with only speaking Chinese as long as you're not involved in sales, investment, and partnerships abroad. But in most Trans-European companies, English is the working language also for internal purposes. If in a German Trans-European company a document or an e-mail has a chance of landing on the desk (or desktop) of a non-German speaker, it's written in English. In the (German) company I'm working in, many materials are written in English, and translated into German only when necessary. Many big companies have made English their official internal language - even French ones like Alcatel. So, in the bigger European companies, knowledge of English is not just a proxy for better education - it's a pre-requisite for full-blown participating in company life.
Best regards,
Hans-Werner


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2004 1:04 pm 
Smeric
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You're right, it isn't the entire story, but what would the French be without French? The Russians without Russian? It's a severe blow to a culture if they lose their language, and only the strongest of peoples can keep them while under brutal oppression (i.e: Celts, Greeks, etc.).


Being bored, I descided to dig up some old threads I might have missed, and came upon this. When has the Greek language been endangered? On the contrary, the Ottoman rule of the Balkans strenghtened its position greatly, as the Turks forced Patriarchies on the peninsula unite inder the rule of Istanbul's Greek Patriarch, effectively putting the Orthodox church in the Balkans under Greek control. Had it not been fierce resistance by the Bulagrians and Albanians, the would have been thoroughly Hellenised. For the whole first half of the XIXth century the Bulagrian national movement focused exclusively on establishing a seperate Bulgarian church, as with the Greek independence the Greek hgih-ranking priests started even a stronger Hellenisation of the church (and the schools were a part of the church then), directly threating the existance of the Bulgarian lagnauge.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 07, 2004 4:08 pm 
Sumerul
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A few remarks:

1. Linguistic diversity is terrible for people who can't learn foreign languages for some reason. Just imagine how a Hmong monolingual must feel in the USA... In Mauritius, Creole monolinguals can't read newspapers or books and are in fact barred from clerical jobs, their language having no official status.

2. Linguistic diversity is a loss of time and energy. For example: the EU, where parliamentary debates in a dozen languages are an interpreter's nightmare.

3. Linguistic diversity hinders political unity. For example: Europe, again.

A single language (preferably English, which is already quite widespread) should be taught to all the schoolchildren of the world, along with their mother tongue. Administrative, legal and commercial documents should be bilingual.

I know that in the long run some languages and cultures would disappear, but IMO it would be a minor inconvenience.

I don't think that the existence of a common auxiliary language for all the nations of the world would make this planet more peaceful. But it would make access to information easier, and therefore favor commerce and the emergence of a "unified planetary lowest common cultural denominator" (whatever that would be in practice - something similar to what we have on the zbb, perhaps). It would make migrations easier, and this aspect alone would have important consequences - for instance, it would accelerate the disappearance of minor languages.

There are American-style shopping malls even in non-English-speaking countries. And Britney Spears albums are bought all over the world by people who can't understand the lyrics. I don't think that shopping malls and certain musical styles would be necessary consequences of English as an international auxiliary language. The spread of those cultural traits has other causes.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2004 2:47 am 
Smeric
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Legros: That's a good point. Japanese anime is in fashion all over the world, even though not everyone understands Japanese. Perhaps the status of English as a lingua franca is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the Westernization of the world.

An argument for linguistic diversity that's often brought up, is that the structure and vocabulary of a language contain within them an entire "world view" which may turn out to be valuable. It sounds pretty sentimental, but come think about it, some thoughts are easier to express in some languages than others, and this can affect my decision on what to say at a given time. There's a real impact on communication...


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2004 9:26 am 
Osän
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Well, if this makes you feel any better, English has a lot of loanwords. English is like a monster among languages ... it goes around eating up all the other languages and adopting their vocabulary, and to a lesser extent their grammatical and phonological features. English just keeps growing and growing with no end in sight. I would prefer to see Lojban or some other logical language make it to the top, because I think they are more efficient, but otherwise I agree with what Legros said ... except that I think that in the future there should be only one language in the world at all, and all others should be abandoned.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2004 10:16 am 
Smeric
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I remember a short sci-fi story where studying obscure languages and conlanging was something everyone did and fashions changed like clothing now, and everyone talked in different languages all the time... I can't remember the author or title now, though, it was a few years ago.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2004 11:53 am 
Smeric
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Mercator: Well, every language incorporates loan words, and I don't see loan words going into English faster than they go into, say, Chinese.

If you ask me to choose an international language, I'll favour a pidgin such as Chinook Jargon.

I'm not sure about ease of access to information, but I prefer access to a good life. :mrgreen:


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2004 3:55 pm 
Sumerul
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bicoherent wrote:
I'm not sure about ease of access to information, but I prefer access to a good life. :mrgreen:

If you don't have access to information you don't have freedom, and without freedom you can't have a good life :)


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2004 4:52 pm 
Osän
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I don't like loglangs, myself. They can't be good for you in a Sapir-Whorf sense. Wouldn't they take away your ability to feel emotions or do anything subjective?

Quote:
1. Linguistic diversity is terrible for people who can't learn foreign languages for some reason. Just imagine how a Hmong monolingual must feel in the USA... In Mauritius, Creole monolinguals can't read newspapers or books and are in fact barred from clerical jobs, their language having no official status.

2. Linguistic diversity is a loss of time and energy. For example: the EU, where parliamentary debates in a dozen languages are an interpreter's nightmare.

3. Linguistic diversity hinders political unity. For example: Europe, again.

A single language (preferably English, which is already quite widespread) should be taught to all the schoolchildren of the world, along with their mother tongue. Administrative, legal and commercial documents should be bilingual.

I know that in the long run some languages and cultures would disappear, but IMO it would be a minor inconvenience.

I don't think that the existence of a common auxiliary language for all the nations of the world would make this planet more peaceful. But it would make access to information easier, and therefore favor commerce and the emergence of a "unified planetary lowest common cultural denominator" (whatever that would be in practice - something similar to what we have on the zbb, perhaps). It would make migrations easier, and this aspect alone would have important consequences - for instance, it would accelerate the disappearance of minor languages.

There are American-style shopping malls even in non-English-speaking countries. And Britney Spears albums are bought all over the world by people who can't understand the lyrics. I don't think that shopping malls and certain musical styles would be necessary consequences of English as an international auxiliary language. The spread of those cultural traits has other causes.


I don't believe it! I'm criticized for supposedly wanting to make everyone alike and Legros posts this and doesn't get any criticism. :roll:

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2004 5:14 pm 
Sumerul
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Eddy the Great wrote:
I don't believe it! I'm criticized for supposedly wanting to make everyone alike and Legros posts this and doesn't get any criticism. :roll:

Eddy, you didn't read my post! *sighs*

Try again:

Quote:
A single language (preferably English, which is already quite widespread) should be taught to all the schoolchildren of the world, along with their mother tongue. Administrative, legal and commercial documents should be bilingual.


To give you an example: Japanese children would learn English and Japanese at school. They would remain as Japanese as could be, but they would have a common language with the rest of the world.

That's what we are doing on the zbb, by the way: we have many different mother tongues (English, German, French, Finnish, Hungarian, Spanish, Bulgarian, Swedish, etc) but English is our common language. Posting in English doesn't make me less French - there's no risk of us all becoming alike because we speak the same second language.


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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2004 5:21 pm 
Osän
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Quote:
Linguistic diversity is terrible for people who can't learn foreign languages for some reason.

Linguistic diversity is a loss of time and energy.

I know that in the long run some languages and cultures would disappear, but IMO it would be a minor inconvenience.


What about that? That hardly seems like someone who is opposed to conformity.

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 08, 2004 10:06 pm 
Smeric
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Legros: Though I have tons of information at my disposal, I'm not sure how much they contribute towards my freedom. Also, doctrellor and Eddy certainly aren't feeling very free... :|

Eddy: Stop taking other people's words out of context. You can `prove' anything you want by just grabbing a fragment of people's words, but I'll be unimpressed.

Saying logical languages "take away your ability to feel emotions" clearly means you have a super-weak understanding of logic. It's perfectly possible to say "I am angry" in a logical language; in standard predicate logic notation, it can be expressed as, say, Angry(I). If the phrase for "I am angry" is used often enough, it can become a stereotyped attitudinal.

My main objection to Lojban, and also to English, is that they have too many rules and enforce too much structure.

(Now that gives me an idea for a conlang based on the Chinook Jargon -- there's already Saiwosh, I know.)


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