The Language Barrier Problem -Do We Need to Solve it?
U3a course Dr. Norman Berdichevsky author of Nations, Language and Citizenship
Ever since the Biblical story of the The Tower of Babel, the diversity of languages (in excess of 3,000) simply means that a relatively small proportion of the world’s total population can make themselves understood to one another. How big a problem is this? Why haven’t computers solved it yet?
This is a course in diverse formats (discussion, debate, lecture and research) that looks at the reality and consequences of a world divided into monoglots (who only speak their native tongue); bilinguals (capable of making themselves understood in more than their own native language and one other) and a small number of multilinguals.
We start with a look at ourselves to find out what we are missing :
1.What uses if any, have you made of knowledge of foreign languages for the following purposes and what benefits (if any) would you make if you were fluent, near fluent, conversant on elementary or intermediate level in the following areas:
a.Business and advertising b. Tourism and travel abroad c. Additional useful knowledge about other peoples, places and cultures d. academic study in your chosen field/degree e. Better appreciation of great classics of literature/casual reading in the original language f. Gaining new friends/acquaintances you otherwise would not have met (Do you have any friends who are not English speakers?) g. Employment in teaching, translation/interpreting h. hobbies, sport, recreation
IS there a cost?
2. As a taxpayer, are you aware of the expense incurred by local and national government agencies to provide services in a few/ several/many languages/ practically all languages wherever needed. Should we draw a line somewhere?
Only 2 at the Treaty of Versailles (1920) 6 required in the U.N.; 27 in the E.U.
Rough estimates of public expenditure. What are the limits? NHS spends £100 million on TRANSLATORS in 128 languages. Police spend £40 million on translators in just three years ...
How could this money be spent better?
3, How Did the World Get this Way? The Language Tree and its Diverse Branches
4. Test Discussion and debate – How much of another language can you grasp once you have learned one in the same family ? cognates The Language tree and it branches
5.The Major Families Lecture and discussion
Look at the list of 10 most spoken (number of native language users) and explain why it is NOT the best measure of the importance of languages on a world scale?
7. Proposals to solve the Problem – We all speak English “Basic English” Latin, Greek, Russian, Spanish Chinese. Esperanto Something Else?
8. Become Multilingual Depend on technology -Translation machines?
9. Language Conflicts
10. Languages and Dialects, Designed Languages