As if the Sea should part: Seren yw llais pob un yng ngalaeth yr ieithoedd    
 Seren yw llais pob un yng ngalaeth yr ieithoedd2 comments
picture18 Apr 2005 @ 21:09, by Tom Bombadil


"In the galaxy of languages, each person's voice is a star"



The quote above (in Welsh in the title) is the Linguasphere Observatory's motto. The Linguasphere Observatory introduces itself as an independent organisation (created in 1983, with "no political, religious, institutional or governmental affiliations") devoted to the worldwide study and promotion of multilingualism:

The story of the tower of Babel suggests that the multiplicity of languages is a bad thing, a divine curse on mankind. Observation of communities throughout the world, on the other hand, indicates that multilingualism is a normal and healthy part of the way human society has traditionally organised itself. Humankind’s wide range of languages provides an immense variety of expression and outlook, and a potentially peaceful means of personal and communal identity in a complex world. Anyone may learn the language or languages he or she desires, needing effort and motivation but no permission or passport. There is evidence to suggest that an intimate knowledge of two or more different languages and speech communities serves to sharpen the wits, and to broaden one’s outlook on the world, as well as to provide personal options of expression and culture. The academic success of bilingual schools in Wales, where Welsh and English are used as languages of instruction for different subjects, is a case in point. Monolingualism, like illiteracy, may one day be viewed as an educational handicap throughout the world as a whole.

An interesting question here is why isn't the Linguasphere Observatory website multilingual yet?

Like others, apparently, they are working on it. We are told that "The Linguasphere Observatory is seeking help and sponsorship to prepare and provide versions of their website in other languages," and that "In the meantime, one can always visit the Observatoire Linguistique (the French version of the site) or go to Google Translation for limited online translation" into other languages.


What are the World's Most Widely Spoken Languages?

Interesting overview, here, from Saint Ignatius High School, along with some charts from a variety of sources (and perspectives) :

This question is a very interesting one that has a rather complicated answer. Estimates of how many people speak a language are quite general and can vary considerably. For example, English estimates vary from 275 to 450 million, Spanish from 150 to over 300 million, Hindi from 150 to 350 million, and Russian from 150 to 180 million.

To further complicate matters, the definition of “speaker” can be vague. Some surveys of languages give information on native speakers only. Others count both native speakers and secondary speakers (those who use the language regularly or primarily even though it is not their native language).

Lastly, it is important to consider not only the population (number) of language speakers, but also the geographic distribution of these languages. Some languages have relatively large populations of native speakers but are used almost exclusively in a few countries. On the other hand, other languages have relatively small populations of native speakers but are used in many different countries as an official or national language.



We may have different religions, different languages, different colored skin,
but we all belong to one human race.

—Kofi Annan



The Nations Online Project is dedicated to the improvement of cross-cultural understanding and global awareness through information for the peaceful, nonviolent coexistence of nations (...) for cultural diversity and cultural identity, and the free flow of information and knowledge across national, cultural and religious boundaries.

Very inspiring page and beautiful Mission Statement there ("Open your mind for new perceptions, maybe you'll even discover unknown foreign inner spaces" etc.)—yet, beyond the promising and inspirational greeting page, the site still has a long way to go to meet its commitment. Just like the Linguasphere Observatory, above, they too are looking for sponsors and volunteers and they do ask for it. I quote:

"Do something important today, become a member of the Nations Online Association, a membership association registered under the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany. more... (in German)"

?! - Well that's anti-climatic—kind of. I think I see a problem here.

Sure, those who don't speak German could use Babel Fish or Google Translation, but still I can't help but be taken somewhat aback by this.


Our major obligation is not to mistake slogans for solutions.
—Edward R. Murrow



Oh, well, when everything else fails, there is still that one language which is beyond languages—so say poets (and lovers):


In the confusion we stay with each other, happy to be together, speaking without uttering a single word.

Fra i rumori della folla ce ne stiamo noi due/ felici di essere insieme, parlando/ poco, forse nemmeno una parola.

Nous sommes là, tous les deux, dans les rumeurs de la foule/ heureux d'être ensemble, parlant/ peu ou peut-être sans dire un mot.

Entre los ruidos de la multitud estamos tu y yo/ felices de estar juntos, hablando/ poco, quizás ni una palabra.

Na multidão estamos um com o outro, felizes de estar juntos, falando sem pronunciar uma única palavra.

— Walt Whitman


Or, as Bell Labs Unix would put it:

Reach out and grep someone.


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The picture, above, is from SLIF



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2 comments

24 Apr 2005 @ 10:50 by jmarc : i never saw the Babel
story that way, as a curse. The curse may have been everyone speaking the one language, leading to a homogenization of goals and their means of attainment. Could be it's a great blessing, this babbble of diversity. It may guarentee, or at least give a fighting chance for survival. Problems are more likely to be solved if they are attacked from many angles of viewpoint rather than just one, no?  


27 Apr 2005 @ 21:28 by ida : A Quiz

Machine Translation or Faulkner?

Can you tell the prose, which won a Nobel Prize, from the one, which needs editing?  



Other entries in
18 Sep 2006 @ 04:30: اْسِ
5 Apr 2005 @ 01:53: Back to the Future
15 Mar 2005 @ 20:50: Imaginary Islands



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