Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Worldspeak: Wha' Allyuh Say?

The local blogosphere, like the mainstream media, is already awash in post-election coverage (and so I may turn to such in my next posting).

However, we must all congratulate ourselves for still maintaining a generally peaceful transition process. And regardless of which party you supported, the PNM (People's National Movent) has emerged on top and so we must all throw our support behind the administration. Of course, we should not turn a blind eye to any foibles it may commit.

The UNC (United National Congress) is again in opposition and must accept that position and proceed with its work without wallowing too much in the bitterness of defeat.

The COP (Congress of the People) failed to gain any seats. This is a new party, albeit not consisting of political newbies. Nonetheless, just as in the corporate world where competition usually works to the benefit of the consumer, more political voices should help to keep the administration on its toes for our benefit.

So let us move onward and remember that democratic participation does not end after election.

And now on with today's post.

I have decided to place a Babel Fish translator on this blog (toward the bottom of my sidebar), in the hope of reaching even more people across the globe. Or perhaps some English speakers may also just be interested in seeing how the blog reads in another language. I cannot vouch for how well the translation is done and this is not to take away any credit from Babel Fish, but simply acknowledging the fact that language is probably best translated by a person (as opposed to a program) actually listening to or reading what is to be translated and that person too, needs to understand all the nuance, slang etc., being used.

Language is fluid, dynamic and in some cases individualistic, e.g. I cannot think of a translator program being able to translate ‘firetruck’ and ‘firetrucking’ in any of B.C. Pires’ articles.

My inclusion of the translator is also for us to remember that with the global reach of the Internet, use of English alone certainly is not adequate.

Sites such as Gobal Voices “a non-profit global citizens’ media project founded at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, a research think-tank focused on the Internet’s impact on society” (About Global Voices), are committed to translations of blogger content from other languages into English and via its Project Lingua has translators that translate content from English to other languages.

With a global world (excuse the tautology but I am sure the point is taken) there is no point in being Anglo-centric. According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization) as at 2003, English as the language of use, led the other major languages (by a remarkably wide margin) in online content.

English 68.4%
Japanese 5.9%
German 5.8%
Chinese 3.9%
French 3.0%
Spanish 2.4%
Russian 1.9%
Italian 1.6%
Portuguese 1.4%
Korean 1.3%
Other 4.6%

However, in languages actually spoken the world over, Mandarin Chinese, given the sheer number of the population of China, leads the world. Here is the top ten list taken from an August 2007 article "Most Popular Languages" on by Matt Rosenberg, who states that his primary source for this list was the CIA World Factbook.

1. Mandarin Chinese - 882 million

2. Spanish - 325 million

3. English - 312-380 million

4. Arabic - 206-422 million

5. Hindi - 181 million

6. Portuguese - 178 million

7. Bengali - 173

8. Russian - 146 million

9. Japanese - 128 million

10. German - 96 million

So as Trinidad and Tobago seeks to move forward in the world, let us -particularly our education professionals- keep in mind the importance of learning other languages (as well as retaining our own local dialect) for extending whatever impact our country has and can continue to make in a world of of ever increasing cultural, people and ideas exchange.

Apart from the opportunity of learning Spanish or French in our secondary schools, here are some links for language classes and resources in Trinidad and Tobago.

Alliance Fran├žaise de Trinidad & Tobago

Center for Language Learning (CLL) U.W.I. (University of the West Indies) St. Augustine. CLL's offering include Arabic, (Mandarin) Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish, and Yoruba. English as a Foreign Language is also taught to international students and professionals.

Government of Trinidad and Tobago Secretariat for the Implementation of Spanish

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