Language


Depending on whose statistics you deem most reliable, there are anywhere from 6,500 to almost 7000 spoken languages in the world. One point all agree upon – several thousand of them have fewer than 1000 speakers. Any way you slice it – that’s still a lot of language.

http://www.ling.upenn.edu/courses/ling001/world_languages.html

I’m fluent in “cereal box” French, can count to 10 in Japanese, am able to muddle my way through basic Spanish, and can say “thank you” in Mandarin. French is Canada’s second official language; a requirement for any government job, but Mandarin or Cantonese are the classes with waiting lists. We’re having a provincial election in a few days; a candidate in my riding dropped a pamphlet in my mail box – English and Chinese characters – no French in sight.

I’m not pondering the Chinese election flyer; it makes perfect sense – the candidate is Asian  knows the demographic, and wants to be elected. Lets not forget – Mandarin is spoken by almost 2 billion people, English ranks third  with a paltry 335,000,000 to the 406,000,000 of second place Spanish. French doesn’t even crack the top 10 list.

I’m pondering a changing world where official language takes a back seat to demographics. A world where thousands of dialects are on the brink of extinction. A world where translation is lost, and cultures fade into obscurity. A world that borders on linguistic assimilation as might makes right. A world that fails to recognize the irreparable damage of lost languages. And yes damnit, I’m pondering that election flyer.

Language tells stories,  is part of our identity, and defines culture. French is Canada’s second official language so demographic or not, I want it on my election flyer.I hate feeling like a politically incorrect jerk for making a fuss; I’m not a jerk – I’m a really nice middle aged Canadian woman who just wants cultural identity.

The world would be an incredibly dull place without all those languages. I love travelling to Cuba to pick up Spanish, or France to dust off my french – it breaks my heart to realize thousands of languages hover on the brink of extinction, and feel like an ass for making a big deal out of a lousy election pamphlet. That said, I would sleep much better if Canada’s second official language was given a little respect.