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Janielle Guzinski

Graduate Student - Landscape Architecture,

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What will happen when the world speaks only a few languages?

Increasing levels of globalization are causing a few languages to spread at unprecedented rates. But many less common languages and their associated cultures are going extinct. Programs exist for the conservation of species and habitats at risk of extinction, but very little attention is given to language extinction. Some scientists are suggesting that there are more languages at risk of extinction than bird or mammal species

Does language extinction really matter? It is hard to imagine how the loss of a language halfway around the world would impact your life, and diversity in language makes it difficult to understand one another. But should that diversity be preserved?

References:
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v423/n6937/full/nature01607.html
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/01434632.2012.709973#.Ua6KRutAv_I

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    Jun 5 2013: I think we should also consider the multiple functions of language and whether moving towards a small number of commonly spoken languages would actually fulfill all of our needs. Yes, of course, language is used to communicate, but it is also used for social cohesion and to create boundaries, as a way to define who is and who isn't part of a group. The need to satisfy these other functions may ensure that there will always be niches for the less mainstream languages.

    See this article for more info: http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/english/angela-reyes/repository/files/18942789.pdf
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      Jun 5 2013: I agree with Gwynne and think that language is so much more then communication and has strong ties to social/group cohension and, to an extent, culture. This importance of language has long been recognized I think - see any example of dictators, colonialists etc repressing the language of some unfavored group within their territory throughout history.
      Also, I think the invention of modern Hebrew is very interesting to think about in these situations. It is one of the only examples I can think of where there was a deliberate revival and modernization of an ancient language.
    • Jun 6 2013: I think that moving towards a small number of commonly spoken languages may result if people are not culturally attached to their language. Hebrew is an example of once dead language that is not considered to again be a living language as the Jewish population has taken great care to reincorporate it into their identity.

      This also brings up the point that knowledge of a second (or more) language(s) is a useful skill to have that seem to be undervalued in the United States because English is such a commonly used language worldwide. Here is a link NEA research study about the benefits of studying a second language .

      I think you might find the California Foreign Language Project’s (CFLP) interesting:http://cwlp.stanford.edu/resource/Stanford_CFLP%20Handbook.pdf
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        Jun 7 2013: Sonja I think it should be mandatory in our school system that kids are taught a 2nd language from the beginning of their education. Not only would this create a more diverse workforce in the future, but it would improve the overall education (including cultural education) of our children. I do notice that people that are either fluent or very familiar with a 2nd language are usually better workers and study much more in school (I've observed this not only among my friends but also my students).This study talks about many of the benefits of knowing a second language.

        http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/lib/sde/PDF/Curriculum/Curriculum_Root_Web_Folder/BenefitsofSecondLanguage.pdf
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          Jun 7 2013: yeah, I agree Ryan, second language should absolutely be part of our curriculum. The list of benefits you posted is incredible, I was surprised it could have such positive influence in other areas of study too, such as math?!

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