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Off topic: On how languages will "disappear"...
Thread poster: Rafa Lombardino

Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 10:23
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Dec 1, 2005

I've just read a short article published by a very trusted and serious magazine in Brazil, which talked about how 3,000 languages will "disappear" over the century due to the popularity of Internet and to computer programs that are published / developed in English.

The article mentions a study performed by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and calls on computer corporations to invest in software localization.

Here's the original article: Internet ameaça 3.000 idiomas pelo mundo

On a personal note — and considering Brazil, my home country, and its familiarity with computers —, I would say that, within the next 100 years, Brazilian Portuguese has better chances of being deeply changed with the addition of new terms coming from other languages (English, mostly, and some Spanish) than disappearing all together.

These changes are highly visible now, after thousands of young Brazilians have been creating their profiles in friendship websites such as Orkut, which was originally developed in English. One can often read messages such as "Se me ADD, faz um SCRAP" (translation: "If you add me to your friends list, leave a message in my scrapbook").

Some efforts have been made in order to translate such sites into other languages spoken by visitors accessing the content from all over the world and Orkut now has a multilingual platform. But how well could a young Brazilian that has been using the site for a while understand that "add" means "adicionar" and "scrapbook" is a "caderno de recados"?

Yes, I believe that Brazilian speech will be once again changed over the years (as it was with the African, Italian, French, German, and Dutch influences), the only difference is that this time things are happening so much faster that these changes tend to be more inconsistent. Over the years, Brazilians got used to words such as "abajur" ("lamp"), which was borrowed from French to name something that until then had no name. But nowadays, when someone lazily decided to use "printar" instead of "imprimir" as a derivative of the English "print", how many Brazilians will really understand it?

In other words, it may make sense for someone to use a foreign word in his/her speech due to the contact that person has with such foreign word, but he/she may not be understood by others who do share his/her native language. Still, how strong the national culture and media are will end up being a very important factor on how those changes will affect a whole nation, allowing foreign words to be incorporated in our daily lives or merely forgotten as a "fashion" related to a certain period in history.


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Claudio Chagas
Brazil
Local time: 16:23
English to Portuguese
+ ...
The Publishing language Dec 1, 2005

Hello Rafa,

Thanks for raising this issue. It's a very interesting topic which follows previous developments of a literary culture in Brazil along with the influence of Anglo-American culture.

For most of Brazilians, the mass impact of the printed word came almost simultaneously with the coming of the TV, cinema and radio. The results were that,

"Relative weakness of printed culture made it possible for electronic media to move in before national integration through the word had taken place."
MCCARTHY, CAVAN MICHAEL. Developing Libraries in Brazil, with a Chapter on Paraguay. Metuchen, N.J: Scarecrow Press, 1975, p. 80

As with many colonised nations the legislation and the technologies brought to the new land by its mother country always out paces local development and because these new technologies tend to take off very rapidly, they tend to happen on an unequal fashion, benefiting only a few privileged groups in the society. While printing activities had been done for over 400 in Europe, in the rural plantation colony of Brazil printing wasn’t seen as a necessity.

"Local culture had to be largely visual and aural: it could not be printed inside the country. All the books they had were foreign books; when they established libraries these were libraries of foreign books."
Id., ibid., p. 79

It could not be any different after the advent of the computer and the Internet. The dominance of English as a major publishing language in print and online will certainly overshadow language groups of underdeveloped and developing countries.

This is true not only of poor countries lacking a mass-market literary culture, but also of some wealthy European nations. Take Sweden for example, which despite of its solid bookish culture, it's the country that publishes more English titles after the USA and the UK, and most Swedish people have acquired English as a second language.

[Edited at 2005-12-02 13:28]


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RHELLER
United States
Local time: 11:23
French to English
+ ...
the future of languages Dec 2, 2005

shouldn't this topic be in the linguistics section?

Very interesting, indeed.

Believe it or not, similar things are happening to English!

see an example in which the reverse is occurring:
http://www.proz.com/kudoz/1197481

Non-native speakers are increasingly writing in English due to many pressures (that is a doctorate in itself) and causing translators who use those texts as their source to question their own English understanding.

In addition, the nuances of regional dialects are falling into the "melting pot" of "international English"; it may help global communication which may be a step toward international peace but has the same drawbacks both of you have discussed.

Agencies would like to have translators/proofreaders who can switch back and forth between UK and US English...it is easy to change an "S" to a "Z" but syntax and expressions vary widely.

People in the U.S. do not, for example, understand "don't be caught out"! Books have been written on the differences.

What we do and what we accept will have an impact on the future of language.


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Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 10:23
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
The melting pot indeed Dec 2, 2005

Claudio Chagas wrote:

For most Brazilians, the mass impact of the printed word came almost simultaneously with the coming of the TV, cinema and radio.


That is true! I wasn't alive back then, but let's say that when literature was a big deal in Brazil in the 1800's, the influence logically came from Portugal and helped shape Brazilian "dialect" until Brazilian Literature came to life. But then, again, the influence of a foreign language back then came from French and there was a whole section (elite) of the population that read French books that also helped shape their speech. "Abajur", "sutiã", "bidê", and other words were created then, coming from French. Newspapers from that era would also resort to "Frenchisms" to sound elegant — or "chique", for that matter, another Frenchy entry in our vocabulary.

Radio was available to this same elite in the 1920's as an educational tool, but became popular later on when president Getúlio Vargas realized what a strong instrument he had in his hands to reach his voters in the "lower classes" (those hard-working guys who actually had to spend 18 hours a day working in order to earn enough to feed their families). Since everybody was listening to the news now, men of the printed word where terrified they'd lose their jobs...

Soon TV came in the picture, thanks to one of these newsmen — Assis Chateubriand, to be more exact — and followed the same entertainment-oriented mind of mass radio. Once again, everybody was wondering what would happen to the press...

In the 21st century, we're wondering where newspapers, magazines, radio and TV will end up going because of computers. Here in the US, more people are using it to replace the other media altogether due to the selective and individual nature of the internet (you can download the radio shows you want, without commercials, and listen to them as a podcast; or you go to news sites and listen to / watch those important sound bites without worrying about the extensive and useless cover that every anchor will have in his/her show to offer his/her own perspective).

This reality is not very far from Brazil, where many teenagers and university students (and some grown-ups with more time in their hands) are also dedicating themselves to producing their own podcasts and speak to the world (are blogs dying now because of that?). And that is how we go back to what the article was talking about: Technology is available and people are using it, but most of it has been developed in the US — not by Americans, necessarily — and those who speak another language and wish to use such technology have to "manage".

I personally work as a voluntary translator for several computer-related projects for non-for-profit developers (no Microsoft here, just Joe down in the basement), translating their programs, manuals, and websites into Brazilian Portuguese. Am I making a difference as a language professional? Hardly... For every project I translate, there are 100 others popping up. It's hard to keep up with the technology because what's "in" now will soon be "out" and replaced by another tool. And I'm talking about the "underground" of open-source projects here, those brilliant minds that help each other in order to reach an objective and have a program or other computer technology that will help others — and they don't get anything in return for trying that hard...

What we would need now are big companies to realize that there are other languages in the world and start investing in translating their products and contents. This lack of knowledge or consideration for the rest of the world may turnout to be a major backlash, though... If you think about how expensive it is to have Windows and Office legally running on a PC, you'll soon realize that most people cannot afford it. If you have this price times three, you'll realize that most Brazilians REALLY cannot afford it... That is why we've been hearing about so many wonderful projects involving Linux, which is a free operating system. Maybe this will help Brazilians have a less "infected" computer world, independent from the English language. And that's what LOCALIZATION is all about, uh?

On a separate note:

Rita Heller wrote:
Believe it or not, similar things are happening to English!


I believe it, Rita! At least, people are aware of what English is, even though they don't think about the "localization" and put American, British, Irish, Scottish, and Australian in the same bag. But with Portuguese things get even worse! Besides making no difference among European Portuguese, Brazilian, and African Portuguese, most people think that there's no distinction between Portuguese and Spanish! It's supposedly this thing spoken South of the border and on the tip of Europe, right? LOL

Then, once again, localization is soon taken for granted and some businesses are hiring the wrong professionals to create this so-called "uniform" product, offering European Portuguese to Brazil, Brazilian Portuguese to Portugal or — worse — Spanish to Portuguese-speaking audiences — sometimes even creating what we call "Portunhol", which is português + español!

If we don't educate our clients, maybe we'll contribute to the "prophecy" this article talks about...

P.S.: Thanks for the wonderful input, both of you!

[Edited at 2005-12-02 20:09]


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NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 13:23
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

MODERATOR
Moving this thread to Dec 2, 2005

the Linguistics Forum.

Nancy


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Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 10:23
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Dec 2, 2005

NancyLynn wrote:

the Linguistics Forum.

Nancy


I never know how to classify these threads... Thanks for your help!


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RHELLER
United States
Local time: 11:23
French to English
+ ...
interesting idea Dec 2, 2005

Rafa, you made me think...

Rafa said "The article mentions a study performed by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and calls on computer corporations to invest in software localization."

If Henry sees this, maybe he can inform UNESCO about Proz,a wonderful place on the internet full of ready, willing and able translators!


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