Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Should We Protect Languages As They Are?

The discussion of language protection policies always leads to interesting debates. For those who love languages, it's easy to say that all languages should be protected. Others prefer a laissez-faire approach and say languages should be treated like living organisms and allowed to evolve naturally.

Certain languages have regulatory bodies, such as the Real Academia Española (Spanish) and the Académie Française (French), amongst many others. English, despite its apparent dominance has no regulatory body and as a result several variations exist... UK and US English, anyone?

The people here decide whether or not you've passed your Spanish test.

Of course, all languages have geographical variants. A regulatory body could settle arguments between the residents of the many English-speaking countries as to who speaks the language correctly. However, there are more reasons to have regulatory bodies than just settling arguments on YouTube.

French in Québec (or Québécois) is an interesting example of seemingly parallel language protection and evolution. If you talk to the Office québécois de la langue française you would think they're completely against the influence of the surrounding English language. However, if you chat with the French-speaking locals (and you will have a lot of fun if you do) you will quickly realise that they're not as against using loanwords as one would expect. It's a good example for seeing how protected language can coexist with an ever-changing language.

Arrêts are becoming a serious problem on Canadian roads.

One of the main reasons to protect languages in their current state is that you could maintain clarity in terms of historical texts, literature, music and the arts. That way everyone in future generations will be able to enjoy them, instead of only the scholars who study "Old Modern English", or whatever they decide to call it. You can't prevent people from speaking as they like in everyday life, but there's nothing to stop them from learning a "standard" English (or French, Italian, German, Spanish, etc...) in the classroom.

When we do have cool robot friends in the future, I'd like to be able to watch Star Wars with them, wouldn't you?