Fmf-social: Re: language (was Re: Follow up to Questions about Aquarius)

>–Hi all! For those who haven’t seen me around in the other mailing lists my
>name is Erik Nodacker. I submitted something to this list a number of months
>ago and never did see it show up. I was operating under the assumption the
>Social group wasn’t working so never wrote back. But now I’ve figured out
>how to subscribe so I’ll be able to join in the fun!
>–The whole problem of language on Aquarius is a complicated one, but it has
>a simple solution, convienience. The language of choice will be the language
>which is most convienient for the majority of the population. For the first
>generation this will probably be English. For other generations there will
>be no telling, it could be Hindi, Arabic, Chinese, or Binary.
>–I do think we should encourage our citizens to make the extra effort to
>learn another or several other languages. It would make good business sense
>if nothing else. I don’t think it will be neccessary or even possible to
>accommodate every language of any speaker that might possibly wash ashore.
> Some people will have to learn whatever Aquarius’ language of convienience
>is at the time. It that means a group of Japanese or Vietnamese will have to
>learn English, no problem. If it means that a pack of English speakers will
>have to learn Swahilli, no problem.

Also, there are better teaching methods for foreign languages coming out
every day, so learning one no longer has to be a painful experience.

>–One of the most important things we can do in the short term is not to make
>a big deal about language. One of the US’ strengths has been its lack of an
>”offical language,” an advantage we seem determined to strip away in our
>latest fix of xenophobia. Aquarius should not make this mistake! Perhaps
>there should even be a provision in the constitution that there shall be no
>offical language.
I agree with this. You can’t force language on people. I know several
recent imigrants to the U.S., and all of them seem to have picked up
English very quickly, without needing any laws to do it. (with a little
bit of an accent, which not everyone is tolerant of–mostly, the intolerant
ones are people who only know English, and nothing else) So actually,
another reason to encourage learning a foreign language is because it’s an
easy way to teach some tolerance. (Especially if, unlike several U.S. high
school language classes I know of, people aren’t allowed to have incredibly
strong American accents in the foreign language.)
I think the problem in the U.S., besides most people only knowing English,
is that people have short memories, and only notice the new imigrants who
haven’t had time to learn English yet, and don’t notice the imigrants who
came twenty years ago, mostly because they’ve probably blended in by now.

>–I have to wonder if what language one speaks will matter all that much by
>the time Aquarius is built. It is quite possible there will be some very
>good translating programs by the time we’re on-line, and it will just be a
>matter of getting your computer to tell you what someone is saying.

I think something like this could almost encourage people even more to
learn another language, since you could get in contact with a greater
variety of people, you might want more to be able to communicate without
the translator. I know when I was in Germany, where almost everyone spoke
nearly perfect English, I wanted to improve my German (and learn Bavarian,
since I was in Bavaria), because even though I could communicate with
everyone, I couldn’t understand their conversations among themselves,
except for an occasional reference to “die Emily”. I really wondered what
they were saying about me.
I think, also, if translators were only programmed in majorlanguages, a lot
of people might start using local dialects and languages more in private
conversations to avoid being translated (this might not be a bad thing,
though). However, I’m sure in a little while they’ll come out with a
universal translator.