Should we publish in minority languages, of which nearly all of the speakers can speak the dominant language?

Yes
48% (16 votes)
No
39% (13 votes)
Unsure
12% (4 votes)
Total votes: 33

Posted By

Devrim
Mar 30 2006 10:08

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Devrim
Mar 30 2006 10:08

I was looking at the AF website this morning, and I noticed that they had translations from their pamphlets in Welsh, and Scots Gaelic. As far as I know, the vast majorities of speakers of these two languages are also English native speakers, and even if there are a few old people who don’t speak English well, they are hardly be likely to be using the internet to log on to the AF website. In which case unlike the other languages on there: French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Dutch, Russian, Esperanto and Turkish, it isn’t being used to communicate what would be otherwise inaccessible ideas.

What do people think about minority languages? I have read that one language dies on average every two weeks. Capital has a tendency to destroy minority languages. Even while native speakers of those languages may think that it is a ‘good idea’ to continue using the language, and to stop it dying, they tend to want the best prospects for their kids, which involves them being fluent in the dominant language. Recently though I think that an opposing tendency has developed particularly in the industrialized countries, which is actively seeking to promote existing minority languages, and even resurrect dead ones (e.g. Cornish, or Manx).

I know that Welsh is a living language. The last time I visited Wales, which was some time in the early 90’s, I heard it being spoken around me on the terraces at a Rugby League match. However, I am sure that all of those people were native English speakers. Is it necessary to publish propaganda in these languages? Is it tied in anyway to nationalism? I am not having a go at the AF here. I do realize that these things were only on the website, and were only short documents which were probably put up without a lot of deep thought into it.

In Turkey language is a deeply political issue. It is not that long ago that it was illegal (and punishable with a prison sentence)to speak Kurdish in the privacy of your own home. Now things have changed.

Wikipedia:

Quote:
In March 2006, Turkey allowed private television channels to begin airing Kurdish language programs. However, the Turkish government said that they must steer clear of showing children's cartoons, educational programs that teach the Kurdish language, and can only broadcast for 45 minutes a day or four hours a week. The programs must carry Turkish subtitles.

It is very difficult to get accurate figures about what percentage of people speak Kurdish, what percentage of them are bilingual as the Turkish state doesn’t like to talk about these things, but in my own experience I have never met a Kurdish speaker under the age of 65 (Obviously I am talking about Turkish Kurds, not Iranian or Iraqi ones) who couldn’t also speak Kurdish. In fact most of the people I know who can speak Kurdish in Ankara are people from Kurdish backgrounds who actively decided to learn it when they were adults.

Should we then publish propaganda in this language. We decided the answer was no because it would not help us to communicate with more people, it would consume time and effort, and most importantly because the Kurdish language movement is indivisibly tied to the Kurdish nationalist movement. If we had thought that it would allow us to reach a wider audience, however, we would have considered it (Kurdish speakers in Iran, and Iraq use a different alphabet, and mutually incomprehensible dialects, so there is no point putting (Turkish) Kurdish translations on a website for them).

I think the same thing applies to Welsh, and Scots Gaelic.

I would just like to stress that this isn’t written from any sort of national chauvinist position. I speak Turkish, English, and occasionally a little Arabic in my everyday life. Before the last time I went to the South East, I took the trouble to learn a bit of basic Kurdish (greetings, shopping, numbers etc), and I think it made my holiday more enjoyable. I also have no worries about people learning languages as a hobby, and certainly no objects to people speaking in their own mother tongue.

I am interested to know what other people think.

Steven.
Mar 30 2006 10:17

I think it's just PC rubbish, to be fair. Definitely not worth the time or effort.

martinh
Mar 30 2006 10:55

While I don't think it's a good idea to publish all our stuff in all languages, I think it's important to send a signal that we don't solely support the dominant language. Welsh is a living language and it is to the AF's credit that they have put stuff out in Welsh as it shows they are not solely interested in organising among English speakers. It's less true about Scots Gaelic, but one of their members was from a Gaelic-speaking community IIRC and was therefore communicating directly with his community.

Of course when people are looking for ideas, they will look in whatever language they understand but if we're presenting our ideas to them, we should do it in a way that is accessible on their terms, not ours.

And I don't think it's all about "nationalist shite" either, as a lot of languages/dialects are oppressed for class reasons. When was the last time you heard a lallans-speaker read the news or take part in a radio debate?

Regards,

Martin

Steven.
Mar 30 2006 11:03
martinh wrote:
And I don't think it's all about "nationalist shite" either, as a lot of languages/dialects are oppressed for class reasons.

Not saying I think all languages should be squashed, but I think at least having a universal second language (English) would help strengthen workers internationally because we could all communicate.

McCormick
Mar 30 2006 11:36

A(C)F published things in Welsh as we had the offer of a translation by a non-A(C)F comrade in Wales.

AF-Alba had a completely bi-lingual Gaelic-English website. Two of our members were Gaelic speakers.

I'd like to see our literature in all languages, but I'd say a priority was those languages spoken by people in Britain just now, such as Kurdish, Urdu, Bengali, Arabic, Polish, Czech, Alabanian whatever. Any offers?

red n black star

Steven.
Mar 30 2006 11:37
McCormick wrote:
I'd like to see our literature in all languages, but I'd say a priority was those languages spoken by people in Britain just now, such as Kurdish, Urdu, Bengali, Arabic, Polish, Czech, Alabanian whatever. Any offers?

I agree. But well good luck!

MalFunction
Mar 30 2006 12:21

can i just say that publishing in welsh in a welsh speaking area is not pandering to nationalist shite. it is respecting the fact that for some people in parts of wales, welsh is their first language and english is one they use when they have to but not otherwise.

they are more likely to understand something written in welsh (taking into account local differences - there's a difference between BBC welsh and welsh as spoken in north and southwest wales) than in english and will tend to ignore anything that isn't written in welsh as not being addressed to them (the same as english monoglots will ignore anything in welsh)

anyone wanting any credibility in those parts of wales needs to also publish in welsh to be taken seriously.

Devrim
Mar 30 2006 12:23

Of course if there were a universal translating machine, and you just typed in your text, and out it popped in whatever language you wanted, it would be valid to publish in every language, but it isn't translation even though it is very neccesary, is a boring, time consuming task. I can understand wanting to publish in

Quote:
those languages spoken by people in Britain just now, such as Kurdish, Urdu, Bengali, Arabic, Polish, Czech, Alabanian whatever.

This is potentially worthwhile as lots of these workers are recent immigrants, and may not have full comand of the English language.

But with Gaelic? Wikipedia says

Quote:
The 2001 UK Census showed a total of 58,652 Gaelic speakers in Scotland (1.2% of population over three years old). Compared to the 1991 Census, there has been a diminution of approximately 7,300 people (an 11% of the total), meaning that Gaelic decline in Scotland is continuing.

How many of these people do you think aren't also native English speakers? How many do you think can't speak English. I worry that this is just pandering to nationalism.

John said

Quote:
Not saying I think all languages should be squashed, but I think at least having a universal second language (English) would help strengthen workers internationally because we could all communicate.

I don't think the English are allowed to say this. It's not PC. wink I think English is becoming the international language though. We might as well aknowledge it.

In an old issue of organise supporting Esperanto the AF said

Quote:
"But English is already a kind of international language, isn’t it?"

True. But English is the international language of business, the multinationals, power, imperialism, etc. In many parts of the world English has been forced on people, in some cases literally at the point of a gun. Esperanto on the other hand, is not the property of any class, nation, corporation or government. As far as I know, there is no international Esperanto police force putting the boot into the workers.

Another problem with English is, though it may be a relatively simple language if you want to learn the basics, a non-native speaker will still always be at a disadvantage. In fact English is riddled with countless bizarre and often incomprehensible grammatical forms, completely illogical phrases, strange idioms, as well as weird spelling and pronunciation. In the end, English for the non-native speaker is yet another barrier to international communication. Much the same problems tend to apply to all other national languages.

There are two points here. The fact that it is the language of business means that more, and more workers are forced to use it. Secondly there aren't any 'incomprehensible grammatical forms' in English. Give one example? English has very simple gramatical forms.

the button
Mar 30 2006 12:28
Devrim wrote:
Give one example? English has very simple gramatical forms.

In German: Ich gehe.

In English: I go. I am going (but not right now). I am going (right this minute). I have been going. I will be going..... and so on.

English is nuance mayhem for the non-native speaker.

georgestapleton
Mar 30 2006 12:38

Its not pandering to nationalist shite, john and jack. As for having a universal second language. Hardly anyone outside of western europe, oceania and north america speaks english. As far as I know more people speak arabic, cantonese, mandarin or spanish and hindi than english.

I speak Irish, christ I'm even a bit of an irish language revivalist. But do I think its worthwhile publishing stuff in Irish? No. Or at least not independently. In ireland its quite wasy to get stuff published in irish language papers and magazines. And they are also a hell of a lot more left-wing then english lanugage newspapers and magazines. Comhar the irish language magazine almost always has some article by someone in the SP. The only time it'd be worthwhile producing irish language stuff would be if 1. You were producing it for a gaeltacht area or 2. if you were producing it for the irish language movement.

Indeed the only time I've ever distributed anything in irish was when I handed out irish language leaflets calling for a no vote in the irish citizenship referendum in 2004 on a march to have the irish language recognised by the EU. It was worthwhile producing those in irish i think. And we got a very very good response on the march. (Although we lost the referendum abmisally)

Devrim
Mar 30 2006 12:45

I don't think that this is imcomprehnsible. English has two basic tenses, present simple, and past simple. Alongside this are the various aspects. I think that its basis is subtly different to other European languages, which are mainly based around time whereas the English forms are based around the relationship of the action to reality. For example:

Do you want to come to the cinema tomorrow?

No, I play football on Friday nights.

No, I am playing football tomorrow night.

No, I am going to play football tomorrow.

No, I think I will play football tomorrow.

The four responses above are in descending order of how real the speaker sees the event to be, ranging from the first, which is a certain as we can be about the future to the last which is quite vague. This is not a difficult concept to understand, and also allows flexibility of expression.

English has four basic verb forms (drink/drank/drunk/drinking). Even if you want to call it five (he/she/it drinks) compared to a language like Turkish, which has over two million this is quite simple. Also it has no gender, and only one remaining case. Quite a simple language I think.

the button
Mar 30 2006 12:50

You're good at this.

How's about explaining to me the difference between would, should & could, in a way that would be clear to speakers of English as a second language.* Seriously.

I would give up smoking.

I should give up smoking.

I could give up smoking.

* Having been in the position of being completely stumped when trying to explain it to some guys from the Congo I met a few years back.

the button
Mar 30 2006 12:52
Devrim wrote:
The four responses above are in descending order of how real the speaker sees the event to be, ranging from the first, which is a certain as we can be about the future to the last which is quite vague. This is not a difficult concept to understand, and also allows flexibility of expression.

It's an easy concept to understand, but it makes English a hard language to learn. It's often said (by me, anyway wink ) that English doesn't have a grammar, it has usage. And it's very hard to explain to someone when to use one of five expressions, if their own language has only one.

Steven.
Mar 30 2006 12:57
Jack wrote:
There is nothing progressive at all in preserving a dead or dying languages - if anything, it's extinction should be hastened.

The second bit of this is just silly, which is a shame cos it makes it easier for people to disagree with the correct first bit.

Devrim
Mar 30 2006 13:02

George,

English is the most widely spoken language in the world. It’s advantage is not only in the fact that it is spoken in many different countries, but also in its spread as a second language.

Added to this as far as I know Mandarin Chinese, which has the most native speakers, is not a language, but a collection of mutual incomprehensible dialects linked by a pictogram writing system. Colloquial Arabic is definitely split into very different dialects. A Moroccan can not communicate with a Gulf Arab. Of course they can revert to classical, but that is only an option for the well educated.

As for the Irish language movement. I don’t think that there is anything wrong in revivalism in itself. There is nothing wrong with speaking any language, but I think it does have connections to nationalist ideology.

JDMF
Mar 30 2006 13:17
the button wrote:
English is nuance mayhem for the non-native speaker.

too fucking right!

once i was an hour early to a meeting because people said "half one" - which to me means half of one, which clearly would be 12.30.

"next friday" doesn't mean the next friday - obviously?!?! - but next weeks friday.

oh the amount of domestic fights i have had with my native english speaking wife which are down to nuances and misunderstandings grin

Anyway: about translating material, if a volunteer exists, why not. Often people are keen on translating material, makes them feel like contributing something concrete and enjoying the process. No harm done.

georgestapleton
Mar 30 2006 13:21
Jack wrote:
There is nothing progressive at all in preserving a dead or dying languages.

What the fuck does that mean?

The language debate:

Bob: "I want to speak language x."

Jane: "But that doesn't aid the cause of proletarian revolution"

Bob: "I never said it did"

Jane: "Yes but some nationalists says that it does"

Bob: "Who cares I'm not a nationalist. I should be able to choose what language I converse in with my friends and family."

Jane: "But that doesn't aid the cause of proletarian revolution"

Blah blah blah. etc. etc.

I'm not saying people shouldn't be able to speak an international language or should be discouraged from speaking one. But thats a different issue.

My Basque friends speak basque to basque people, spanish to non-basque spanish people, and english to me. My Catalan friends speak catalan to catalan people, spanish to non-catalan spanish people, and english to me. What's wrong with that?

If I want to speak Irish with my friends and family in ireland, and english to you. What's wrong with that. To be quite frank its none of your fucking business what language i speak to anyone but you.

the button
Mar 30 2006 13:21

To JDMF: -

Amusing exchange with native Spanish speaker....

"You think that because I am not English, I know fuck nothing. But you are wrong! I know fuck all!"

grin

(Nuances again)

Devrim
Mar 30 2006 13:26

To the Button

The modals are one of the more complex parts of English grammar, but not incomprehensible. All of these phrases express a distance from reality, which is why they use the past form. English moves a tense backwards to express ‘unreality’ as in ‘If there were a revolution tomorrow, I would…’

Will/Would refers to an action

The first one ‘I would give up smoking’ has two functions related to this. One is an advice function. I would give up smoking if I were you. The unreal thing being that I am not you. The second is in a hypothetical situation. I would give up smoking if my doctor told me I had cancer. The unreal thing being that he hasn’t.

Shall/Should refers to a good idea

The second one I should give up smoking represents something that it is a good idea Again it is unreal as it means that I am probably not going to do it. I should give up smoking, but I enjoy it too much.

Can/Could refers to ability

The third one is saying that I have the ability. I could give up smoking if I wanted to. Again it is unreal in that I don’t want to.

I don’ think that these concepts make English hard to learn. Every language has different concepts. For example in Turkish there is a different past tense used to describe an action that we didn’t see as opposed to an action that we saw. It seems strange to non Turkish speakers. How we laughed when a German friend gossiping said that Ali had been fucking Ayşe, but forgot to put it into the unseen past tense.

On the point of English not having a grammar, but having a usage, you are basically right. I would say that it has a descriptive grammar rather than a proscriptive one. In lots of countries there is an organization for setting rules for the language. Here we have the Türk Dil kurumu. In France they have the Academy Francaise. English has nothing, but hey, that’s Anarchy tongue .

JDMF are you a Slavic language speaker because they use the time like that?

georgestapleton
Mar 30 2006 13:30
Quote:
More spoken as a first language yea, but English is spoken by more people.

Where? In western europe almost everyone speaks english as a second language. But thats not even the case in eastern europe where the common second languages are russian and german. Whereas in the rest of the world a section of the most educated section of society speaks english.

Quote:
Also the fact that a lot of types 'Arabic' or 'Spanish' are actually really different languages.

Thats true of Arabic but not spanish. Regardless as far as I know most arab people who have a basic education have some command of classical arabic. The differences between the arabic languages are large often as big as the differences between spanish and italian, but if you have a basic knowledge of latin (which nowadays no-one does) the differences are surmountable. The difference is that classical arabic is as far as I'm aware thought in primary schools in most arab countries.

Of course i could be wrong.

Devrim wrote:
As for the Irish language movement. I don’t think that there is anything wrong in revivalism in itself. There is nothing wrong with speaking any language, but I think it does have connections to nationalist ideology.

This I know. I've alienated most of the gaelgeoirs that I used hang around with because I wouldn't shut up about how shit republicanism is.

georgestapleton
Mar 30 2006 13:31
Jack wrote:
georgestapleton wrote:
If I want to speak Irish with my friends and family in ireland, and english to you. What's wrong with that. To be quite frank its none of your fucking business what language i speak to anyone but you.

But it's societies business how society raises and teaches children. I mean it's not as if people somehow magically determine what language they speak free from any social context. roll eyes

And your point is.....

Steven.
Mar 30 2006 13:35
JDMF wrote:
the button wrote:
English is nuance mayhem for the non-native speaker.

too fucking right!

once i was an hour early to a meeting because people said "half one" - which to me means half of one, which clearly would be 12.30.

Well that's just mathematically wrong. Why would you only do half from midday? I mean, would "half 3" mean 1.30? If you're gonna do that, you'd at least have to halve if from midnight wink

Quote:
"next friday" doesn't mean the next friday - obviously?!?! - but next weeks friday.

Like jack said, only to stupid people.

JDMF
Mar 30 2006 13:39
Devrim wrote:

JDMF are you a Slavic language speaker because they use the time like that?

No, i'm finnish. Thats not slavic, but related to hungarian and estonian plus some dying tribes in the volga region of russia. Its like the most useful first language to have grin

But finns didn't count time before swedes and russians came over, so they gave the time use, calendar, and weekdays names, plus the metric system.

Bodach gun bhrigh
Mar 30 2006 13:39

You could class John, Jack and Revol's responses as pro-English bigotry. This is exactly the same attitude that has destroyed minority languages in the British isles. An monoglot English speaker who can't see the point in speaking foreign languages because it's too much effort, and because they don't understand them, derides other people's attempts to learn the local foreign language because they see them as Nationalist. Replace Nationalist with barbarian, backward or uncivilised and you would see an exact reproduction of the anti-Irish, Gaelic or Welsh propaganda from the last two or three hundred years which has emanated from London. And this propaganda has been used all over the world. The reason everyone speaks English is that everyone has been fucked over by English-speakers, either through the British empire or now through American imperialism. English is the language of power, and therefore, not superior, actually, you could say it's more barbaric.

And I'd also like to ask, what is people's problem with minority languages? Are they threatened by them? Where is the harm in certain communities speaking their ancestral language? Where is the problem? What is wrong with certain people being different? I would dispute that the languages in themselves are Nationalist, if they were, why would Gaels in the last 200 years have spent so much time fighting for the British empire, at a time when the community was much stronger? Why would so many Bretons have fought for France against the Nazis? Most of the world is bilingual, it's just bigots who can't see the value in having another language. Nationalism is abhorrent, but being bilingual is not Nationalism, and in a British context, speaking a minority language is probably a mark of tolerance and your desire to show respect to a culture that has been entirely fucked over, usually by your own ancestors.

Where does Gaelic link up with Scottish nationalism? The Gaels have been marginalised within scotland for centuries, and a lot of lowlanders share revol's bigoted attitude. Their culture was destroyed by their own hereditary chieftains, so they would have an extra reason to reject the kind of hierarchies that Nationalism promotes. Gaelic is the language of an oppressed class, and the attitude that people shouldn't learn it at all is just the same attitude as millions of bigots have had down the centuries.

Either Anarchism is tolerant of people's cultural differences, or we may as well just hand ourselves over to the Cheka and the inquisition.

martinh
Mar 30 2006 13:46
Devrim wrote:

JDMF are you a Slavic language speaker because they use the time like that?

It's the same in Norwegian - they say half one meaning 12.30, I say half one meaning 1.30. (But then they also think a mile is 10km so get all shocked when you express distance, when you point this out they say, oh no, it's a Norwegian mile.... and there is at least one norsk poster on here)

The reason English is easy to learn, particularly for people who understand grammar, is that its grammar is very simple because it evolved as a pidgin between Old Anglo-saxon and Old Norse. Pidgns always simplify tenses and the like, just as those of us who haven't quite mastered foreign languages tend to use only simple present and compound past/future tenses in the beginning. wink

But Button is right when he talks about nuance - that's the difficult thing to master. The English used by international business is standardised and american - and that's what people generally learn as a second language. Give it another 50 years and British English will be to standard business english as Italian is to Latin. (And I speak as someone who has real trouble being understood in the US, where most people think I'm Australian and can't understand my pronunciation of the word "eight")

Regards,

Martin

Steven.
Mar 30 2006 13:50
Jack wrote:
Except that none of us think people should necessarily be monolingual (well, I'd hope in a future communist society there'd eventually only 1 language, but that's beside the point)

Nah I mean I think lots of little ones are all fair enough, I spose there'd be some artistic/cultural merit in it. I'd hope that there was a least a universal second language though that everyone spoke fluently. I think the ability for universal communication is very important. If that makes me a bigot then so be it.

If you think that small languages have inherent value, and diversity's inherently good, then wouldn't it be *better* if say every family spoke a totally different language, and no one could communicate with anyone outside of it?

Bodach gun bhrigh
Mar 30 2006 13:51

Calling a language pointless is bigotry, no matter how you put it. The 50,000 gaelic speakers aren't all going to jump in the sea just because you reckon it would help their children. Bilingualism helps children educationally. And I reckon raising your child with a minority language is less harmful than raising them with the attitude that different cultures are a waste of time, which is in effect what you're saying.

georgestapleton
Mar 30 2006 13:54
Quote:
georgestapleton wrote:
And your point is.....

That people should be raised in a way that best equips them for life.

Just because dead/dying languages have some cultural relevance doesn't mean kids should be disadvantaged by being hindered with a first langauge that hardly anyone speaks. I mean, speak whatever the fuck you like, just don't expect anyone else to be put out by your bizare choices, and don't ask that parents be given the 'choice' to fuck over their kids by making them have it as their first language.

I don't see what you are on about. It hardly the case that anyone is going to be prevented from speaking an international language by their parents.

Perhaps you are saying parents shouldn't be allowed speak irish to their children? That's such a stupid opinion i'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you don't hold it.

Perhaps you think that there shouldn't be irish language schools, because that disadvantages children. Well I went to an irish language school and if you look at college entrances (the closest things we have to league tables) Irish language schools come up as the best schools. Even better than many private schools.

And I have yet to meet anyone under 60 who was brought up through irish that doesn't have perfect english.

As for "That people should be raised in a way that best equips them for life." If you mean a way that best equips them to find a job. Quite frankly fuck off. I'm a communist, I want to abolish my position as a wage-labourer not cow down to it. Saying diversity should be abolished so that people are more adaptable for the labour market is reactionary shite.

Quote:
Oh, and on Spanish - one of my mates speaks South American (Equadorian, I think?) Spanish as her first language - and is no better at Spain Spainish (dunno the correct term... Castillian?) that someone who spoke a totally different romance language.

I'm living in the netherlands at the mo. and am hanging around with a bunch of people who all speak spanish together. They are columbian, mexican, basque, catalan, gallician, argentinian and peruvian. I've talked to them about whether all spanish is the same and the castillians have said that they find chileans really diffilcult to understand but that its the same language.

Maybe equador is special.

Steven.
Mar 30 2006 13:55
Bodach gun bhrigh wrote:
Calling a language pointless is bigotry, no matter how you put it.

How?

Quote:
The 50,000 gaelic speakers aren't all going to jump in the sea just because you reckon it would help their children.

confused

What on earth are you on about?

Quote:
Bilingualism helps children educationally.

And? Where has anyone disagreed with that?

Quote:
And I reckon raising your child with a minority language is less harmful than raising them with the attitude that different cultures are a waste of time,

Evidence?

Quote:
which is in effect what you're saying.

In fact I explicitly stated the opposite.

If I invented a new language and brought up my kids only speaking it, would that be progressive? Would you defend my language from extinction, and try to get road signs or whatever put up in it?

nastyned
Mar 30 2006 13:55
JDMF wrote:

Anyway: about translating material, if a volunteer exists, why not. Often people are keen on translating material, makes them feel like contributing something concrete and enjoying the process. No harm done.

This is a very sensible point. I think we should translate anarchist stuff into as many languages as possible.

Yes, minority languages may be promoted by the likes of Irish nationalists. But then again saying everyone should speak English is promoted by British nationalists.

And whilst on the subject of languages I've heard that as Turkish is an extemely phonetic language and we should forget about esperanto and all learn Turkish!