Thursday, July 28, 2011

Will We Need A Universal Language At All?

I started in on Nicholas Ostler's follow-up to his survey of 'international' languages (which I wrote about here), The Last Lingua Franca, this week. 

It's very good so far, although I'm really just getting going.  But it's already clear that one of his most interesting premises is that English might be the last 'universal' language because technology will obviate the need for one. 

In other words, if Google Translate can convert any language to any other language fairly seamlessly, does it really matter what language something was originally written in?  In fact, improved translation technology might even allow language diversity at a local level to increase: you could speak any obscure dialect you like with your village without losing your ability to communicate with the world-at-large.

It's an intriguing idea for the future, but I think it's safe to say that the technology is not quite there yet.

For more thoughts on English as a global language, see these posts:

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