This article was translated by John R. Bopp

Quartz is an online publication that is among the 2,000 most read in the world. In it, Alice Bonasio has published an interesting article about the role and the process of recovering local languages, in a world where it seems that small number of languages is going to take over all the rest.

The article lays out different and very interesting points of reflection and debate, such as the incursion of technology in the world of languages, where we find ourselves ever closer to translations or interpretations that can be done confidently with computers.

But, above all, she lays out new realities that seem to break apart the ideas that were once generally accepted.  The recovery of space by “local languages” is one of them.  A small group of languages has taken a predominant role in communication: Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, and English are at the head of that group, with English as the lingua franca of business, and Spanish as the language with the widest diffusion and biggest growth.  Mandarin Chinese, despite being the one spoken by the most people as their mother tongue, is concentrated in just one country.

In a world where knowing two languages means you can travel the globe, what role, what importance, do those languages spoken by small communities have?  In this article, the author gives a few keys, such as the need for a connection to what is our own, or having language be a marker of identity.  What’s more, the director of the Lauaxeta Ikastola, interviewed in this article, offers an interesting point of view, that the more languages we know, starting with our own, the greater our ability to understand that there are “others”, with different cultures.

The only thing that unsettled us a bit was the use of “local dialect” as a synonym of “local language”.  It seemed to us to be an unfortunate oversight.  Neither Welsh nor Basque, to mention two examples in the article, are “dialects”: they are two languages in the same category as English and Spanish, even if they have far fewer speakers.

Quartz – 26/9/2017 – USA

The surprising reason why you should learn a local dialect instead of a global language

Modern technology has made it incredibly easy for people to connect and communicate with one another. Not only is it possible to look up the meaning of any word in a digital dictionary, but there are countless applications that can instantly translate words from photos taken on your phone, translate presentation slides in real time, or even translate directly from speech into another language. These advances are bringing us ever closer to Star Trek’s universal translator, which can understand what another person (or alien) is saying, whatever language they speak.

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