This week in languages: May 25, 2018

by on May 30, 2018



Will English remain the world’s favourite language for much longer? Robin Lustig claims that advances in machine translation will make a lingua franca unnecessary; the rise of China may mean Chinese takes English’s place; and the hybridisation of the English language with the emergence of ever more dialects means the English of the future may be virtually unrecognisable from that of the modern day.

Meanwhile, Maddy Savage, also at the BBC, claims that English may indeed be here to stay, with companies around the world—including those in non-English dominant geographies—adopting English as their official language. Savage suggests that for economically mobile people, learning the local language may be less critical than learning to adapt to different communication styles and socialisation norms.

Like the idea of grabbing a pain au chocolat and coffee from the café on your way to work? Well, French MPs are debating on whether to recognise the term “chocolatine” as an official alternative to “pain au chocolat”. While “chocolatine” advocates are calling on the term’s regional popularity in southwestern France to support their stance, die-hards of “pain au chocolat” are feeling the heat of a nationalistic threat from the supposed English roots of “chocolatine”. And all this despite controversies that remain as to whether the term “chocolatine” may in fact have come to be through a morphed import from Austria or a similar-sounding term in Occitan. For us here at Unravel, we don’t really mind what it’s called as long as we get our regular dose of this delicious chocolate-filled pastry!

Commentaries and Features

As part of Language on the Move‘s Reading Challenge and in celebration of Library and Information Week (#LIW2018, the theme is “Find yourself in a Library”), Ingrid Piller explores the tight bonds between professional identity and language in reading In Search of Myself by Hans Natonek, a Praguer who escaped the Nazis by fleeing Germany and travelling around Europe, eventually settling in the US.

I love my own mother tongue, but I recognize with sadness that separated from the soil in which it roots it must wither. It cannot be artificially maintained. The mother language does not transport nor grow nor bloom under alien skies. It is, at best, no more than a memory to be used on occasion to recall a friendship or another life.

In a bid to correct alienating language policies of its past, the Department of Education of the USA has accepted applications for USD 2.3 million in grants to support the teaching, learning, and studying of Native American languages, reports District Administration. According to the Administration for Native Americans, most of the indigenous languages of the US “have vanished—of the 245 indigenous languages, about 65 are extinct and 75 are near extinction”. The programme is also intended to close achievement gaps and raise awareness about cultural understanding among students.

A language frozen in time: Language Volcano profiles the Ladino (also known as Judeo-Spanish; in Hebrew: (E)spanyolit or Ladino) language of the Sephardi Jews, with the majority of speakers in Israel today. The endangered language draws 60% of its vocabulary from Old Spanish and can be written using the Hebrew alphabet. In fact, the word Sephardi was derived from the Hebrew word Sepharad ‘Spain’. Read more about it this blog post!

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