The internet and linguistic diversity
Thread poster: Michael Jones

Michael Jones  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:13
Member (2006)
Italian to English
+ ...
Apr 14, 2008

I have heard many people complain that the internet will impose linguistic uniformity on the world. I have been interested in languages since well before the internet age, and working as a translator since then as well, and I think the net is the greatest thing that ever happened in my life (well, apart from marrying a beautiful woman, having a couple of fantastic kids, watching Nelson Mandela walk free on live television, etc etc).

My interest is the Latin languages, and a while ago I came across a reference to a language called Mirandese. I first heard of it 30 odd years ago, at which time I could only find a few sentences in an old book in the library, and I recall it was considered at that time to be all but extinct, the last vestige of the old Leonese branch of the Romance family. I googled it, and came across an entire web community using the language, got pictures and maps of the villages in North-East Portugal where it is still spoken, and discovered that the very existence of the net is helping to keep these languages alive.

Now I can watch TV programs in Catalan or Galician, download Occitan folk songs, read and join blogs that are keeping linguistic diversity alive.

Perhaps there should be an internet project to support minority language communities maintain their uniqueness.


Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:13
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
The lucky ones Apr 14, 2008

Many endangered people and their language exist in totalitarian countries, where the net is under control of the central governement and the speakers too poor to even own computers.


Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:13
Member (2004)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Minority languages Apr 14, 2008

The net is indeed a wonderful thing. It's where I learned to read Solitreo (the type of Hebrew script that some people use when writing Ladino), and that let me read a note that my great-great grandfather had written. The note turned out to be fairly prosaic ("This book is the property of Abraham Capsuto") but I was thrilled to finally be able to make out what it said.

Certainly my Catalan has improved greatly since Catalan TV and radio stations began broadcasting online and since I joined an online discussion group of Catalan translators.

The Internet's ability to bring together disparate people with similar interests also contributes to the spoken survival of endangered languages. In several cities, people who found each other largely online get together to practice speaking Yiddish, among other languages.


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