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Poll: Do you lament the loss of languages?
Thread poster: ProZ.com Staff

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Jan 26, 2016

This forum topic is for the discussion of the poll question "Do you lament the loss of languages?".

This poll was originally submitted by Marcus Malabad. View the poll results »



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Teresa Borges
Portugal
Local time: 02:03
Member (2007)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
Yes! Jan 26, 2016

The general consensus among linguists is that the loss of languages harms the cultural diversity...

[Edited at 2016-01-26 09:56 GMT]


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Muriel Vasconcellos  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:03
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Very much so Jan 26, 2016

When languages die, the culture disappears with them. For me, it's at least as important as the loss of a species in the world's ecosystem.

Yesterday I was conversing with a woman who is documenting a language that has only 5 speakers left, and they are all elderly. Even if the language dies, I believe that we can all learn from this kind of research.


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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:03
Danish to English
+ ...
No, communication is what matters Jan 26, 2016

As long as people are able to communicate, I don't see the big issue about languages being lost.

I understand the point about cultures or the history of cultures being lost once a language disappears, but isn't that just a part of human/cultural development? I think it is important to make records of history that is mainly handed down orally in cultures where only very few people still speak a specific language. But once that is done, I don't see the point in keeping languages alive that people don't use. Besides, where would all the mystery and excitement be for archaeologists trying to decipher ancient, lost languages?

As someone whose mother tongue is a minority language (only about 5.6 million native speakers, I believe), I see foreign words slipping into my language continually, and I try to fight that, at least in my translation work. But I doubt that Danish will vanish completely anytime soon.

My own family is probably descended from the Vikings, but I don't lament their culture having vanished into the past, nor does it bother me that I don't understand the language they used.


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Yetta J Bogarde  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:03
Member (2012)
English to Danish
+ ...
Not very much Jan 26, 2016

In fact, I have same opinion as Gitte ..... probably because we have same linguistic roots and experience.

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Michael Harris  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 03:03
Member (2006)
German to English
No, not really Jan 26, 2016

You just have to look how the German language is being destroyed by English words. Personally I find that bad, but it is not something that I can change.
Even GB English is being destroyed by US English, and the funny thing is that the British people are "doing it by themselves"!!
I think if everyone is conscious (or proud) of their own langauge (see Hungarian), then this would not be a problem, but everyone is too lazy nowadays.


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Chris S  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Swedish to English
+ ...
No Jan 26, 2016

So the last speaker of some obscure tongue in a jungle far away finally kicks the bucket, and....????

OK, it's a little bit sad, on the same scale, perhaps, as the demise of our local library. But in the greater scheme of things?

We all know the eskimos have 442 words for snow but have we bothered assimilating them into our own languages? No.

Did the demise of Ancient Greek and Latin harm the world? No.

Wouldn't we all be better off speaking one and the same language anyway? Yes.

Are cultural and linguistic diversity inherently divisive and so a Very Bad Thing? I think so.

And I'm not just playing devil's advocate. I wish the world would stop being so pedantically PC and right on and get things into perspective. Think of all the useful things those researchers could do instead.


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Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
Greatly... Jan 26, 2016

...as a gut reaction, along with all the cultural issues associated. Deep down I'm a bit of luddite too, but since I enjoy huge benefits from the "progress" that is behind so many of the things that I moan about, I'll keep my head down.

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564354352  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:03
Danish to English
+ ...
Excellent point Jan 26, 2016

Chris S wrote:

We all know the eskimos have 442 words for snow but have we bothered assimilating them into our own languages? No.



This made me laugh - you are so right, Chris... spot on...


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:03
English to Spanish
+ ...
One never knows Jan 26, 2016

Chris S wrote:

So the last speaker of some obscure tongue in a jungle far away finally kicks the bucket, and....????

OK, it's a little bit sad, on the same scale, perhaps, as the demise of our local library. But in the greater scheme of things?

We all know the eskimos have 442 words for snow but have we bothered assimilating them into our own languages? No.

Did the demise of Ancient Greek and Latin harm the world? No.

Wouldn't we all be better off speaking one and the same language anyway? Yes.

Are cultural and linguistic diversity inherently divisive and so a Very Bad Thing? I think so.

And I'm not just playing devil's advocate. I wish the world would stop being so pedantically PC and right on and get things into perspective. Think of all the useful things those researchers could do instead.



I can never see if you're saying things tongue in cheek or seriously. You can only play the mystery game only so n number of times, then it becomes tiresome.


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Mario Chavez  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:03
English to Spanish
+ ...
No, I don't lament it Jan 26, 2016

That I don't lament the loss of a language far removed from my experience doesn't mean I don't care or that it does not affect me.

I'm in partial agreement with Muriel: the loss of languages is akin to the loss of ecosystem diversity. However, I can visualize a polar bear or an imperial eagle, unlike some American native language with just a few elderly speakers. I can't visualize them, let alone understand what they're saying or writing. So, my empathizing with the former is much more solid, more powerful than with the latter.

In the evolutionary scheme of things, languages, as animal species, eventually die off. We tend to romanticize (and anthropomorphize) dinosaurs and (loud groan) panda bears. We think we have an emotional link to them. But dinosaurs, along with thousands of their contemporary species, vanished. The cycle of extinction and resurgence of life is a natural phenomenon.

We also tend to romanticize the 6,000 or so languages and dialects in existence on our planet, but those are the languages so far catalogued in the last few decades! What about the languages spoken (and some undoubtedly written, but records have been lost) in the eras preceding the last 5,000 years? Humans started off from Eastern Africa about 150,000-50,000 years ago. Don't we think they created languages back then? And now those languages are gone.

The loss of languages, far from being a political statement or emotional reaction, points to me to another truth: the ephemeral quality of life. Or, put another way, life is short.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 03:03
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
It is a bit like lamenting the loss of grandparents Jan 26, 2016

In a way, of course you do. Each person's native language is part of their soul and their identity, so it is vital to respect and preserve minority languages. For us linguists, there is plenty to enjoy, but even for us, a handful of languages is all any individual can cope with out of thousands.

Like my colleagues above, I don't mourn the loss of the Vikings' language, much as I love Danish. On the contrary, I smile as I discover the old roots still very much alive and kicking in English, especially Yorkshire and Northumbrian...

I don't mourn the loss of ancient English either. I have just come back from my weekly Italian class, and you can bet I don't mourn the loss of all the Latin declensions I struggled with in school! We can understand a lot of ancient culture from museums and translations - but realistically, we can't handle the languages.

Just as I remember my grandparents and mourned their passing, but not my great-great grandparents (I did know and love one great grandmother!), I don't worry about the loss of languages.

You have to accept that there is nothing much you can do about it anyway. New languages develop as new generations of speakers and writers are born, see the world with new eyes, and describe what they see in new ways.

As long as there IS culture, understanding, literature and poetry, we should rejoice over the new developments. They are not all degenerate, and language diversity is not endangered.


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Noni Gilbert  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 03:03
Spanish to English
+ ...
@Christine Jan 26, 2016

Now isn't that strange, I too had been thinking about the passing of friends and relatives as a similar case- it happens, you have to cope, you miss their presence, you wish others had known them etc etc. But you cope, you move on.

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Catherine De Crignis  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 03:03
Member (2012)
English to French
+ ...
Yes Jan 26, 2016

I do find it a shame. And reading that "language diversity is not endangered" here on this site, well, I'd rather say no more.
Let's all speak Globish, find a new job, and of course (because it is that simple) see the end of all conflicts. At last.


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Sheila Wilson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 02:03
Member (2007)
English
+ ...
I prefer to look forward Jan 26, 2016

Of course, it's sad to lose anything, but our little world will struggle on with one less language, hopefully, and maybe one day we'll be needing to communicate with beings from other worlds. But we'll only develop if we unite and pull together, and too much diversity tends to pull groups apart. I believe that survival of the fittest applies to humans as much as to other animal species and yes, all this PC protect and save everything, even if it has nothing of value to contribute, is not the way to go. On a personal level, every loss is a tragedy; on the planetary level it may be necessary. I guess you couldn't call me a romantic, even if I am first to grab the tissues at the cinema.

As far as English goes, I personally hate the way so many Americanisms are creeping into (my) British English. But who says the BE way is the right way? In the future I can see English (the native variety, that is) reverting to just one major variant, with unimportant minor differences. For now, professionally, I'll insist on keeping the variants apart.


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