Has this idea ever come into your mind or am I just crazy?

I think it’s a bad idea.

Just because a country have a big population, doesn’t mean their language will be useful for you. Compare for example usefulness of Japanese vs, for example, Bengali (no offence).

And relying on high birth rates is even worse, because they are common in underdeveloped countries. Maybe they will become developed in the future, but will you manage to wait for it?

If you want a more “objective” measure of a language usefulness, I recommend to look on total GDP of countries where it’s spoken. And I think, it should be evident that a big population not necessarily means big GDP.

Latin is still spoken and studied in schools, so you have a couple of thousand years more to think about.
Esperanto is still spoken and studied and there are not even natives speakers.
Klingon exists, and its popularity is even increasing, with a Klingon Language Institute. However, language exchange with a real Klingon could be dangerous. :rofl:

I thought it was obvious that I wasn’t being serious, though there is a hint of truth in my earlier post.

We don’t know what the effect of AI will be on language.

It will allow simultaneous translation, and that could save a fortune for the EU (meetings and documents), and for companies selling overseas. It could also be a boon for tourists, and scientific collaboration.

Yes the internet allows youngsters to learn a second language to native level like never before. And AI will add to that thanks to chat bots and AI teachers.

AI could paradoxically lead to less people learning second languages, or more, we don’t know. But I don’t see school language teaching improving, not in Britain. We are stuck in a need to test rut, where rigour counts i.e. testing grammar and vocabulary.

@LeifGoodwin as there are people thinking that way, I couldn’t be sure about it. But yes, the French mandate hint should have ringed a bell. Not for French people though. :rofl:

Regarding AI and the future of language learning, I believe it is a question of attitude. Some people think we are doomed and it will substitute everything, others the opposite.

I have read an article about second language learning declining in Britain, but I have never actually seen much interest in learning a second language for anglo saxons countries in general. Unless they are given some sort of incentives. Maybe it is like that for many other countries, honestly, I don’t have any idea.

If we had a completely different educational system for language learning, starting from when we are kids, we would probably be trilingual at 18yo without much of a problem.

I’m an admirer of France, so my comment was a gentle dig at French pride.

Yes, the number of British children studying a second language at school has declined. I’m not convinced this is bad as the teaching methodology is so poor. We Brits lack confidence when it comes to second languages, when compared to Germans, Dutch and Nordics. Americans probably have less motivation than us, except in Hispanic areas of course.

@LeifGoodwin yes, I have always respected indeed how French defends their language, in fact, it’s been the first country I went to live for a few years for learning French, and I loved it. However, now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t see the same pride that there was decades ago. I think we have been all disaggregated for some reason, but I don’t want to go political.

I’m not sure about those reasons you mentioned, you might know more than me about it, but we never know how things change in the future. Americans have introduced more Spanish for sure for obvious reasons, but I have the feeling that it’s just bits here and there.

Maybe it’s just the nature of the beast, some countries are more pragmatic, so they think more about the utility of a language, like this thread started. English is the most popular language, so why bother? It might be an unconscious thinking overall.
Plus, the educational system is quite bad, and in general, a language is just introduced because “they have to”. But they don’t really care much about it.

That’s why I was saying at the beginning that doing a pragmatic choice is legit but not enough to keep the motivation going for a long time. Learning a language is a long journey. Imho.

I agree.

When I was young I was a serious tournament chess player. Later, when I had to make a life, I stopped playing, but I always kept track of chess.

When Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov and when most of us would lose to a chess app on our cell phone, I noticed that chess players did not give up on chess. They acknowledged that AI would always be better, but then they just used AI to improve their chess play against other humans.

I want to be able to read and converse in French. I’ll never equal ChatGPT, but that doesn’t matter. I want to be able to read and converse in French for my own satisfaction. ChatGPT is a welcome tool for that goal.

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Unless there is some academic/career gun to your head, you learn a language for love – love of learning languages, love of learning a particular language, love for the people who speak that language.

Especially if one is self-learning a language. It’s a lot of work. If you don’t have some passion for the effort, I don’t see how you keep your motivation up for the daily slog learning a language takes.

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I can’t think that far into the future. I may not be dead in 20 to 30 years but I’ll not be traveling the world adventuring :joy:. I remember in college back around 2000 a friend of mine wanted to study Chinese because it was up and coming then. I wasn’t at all motivated because up and coming seemed 15 years away or more to me and no way was thinking that far ahead. I was sticking to European languages thank you. (Also because I couldn’t imagine learning to read Chinese characters or speak tones although since then thanks to apps like LingQ it’s not too terrible).

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It’s an interesting question, but unless you’re planning on living for many hundreds of years, the same major languages that are around today will still be around when you die of old age.

Let’s say all Russian speakers suddenly stopped having children today, and never had another Russian child, and no one ever went to Russia to learn Russian in order to take advantage of the job opportunities that suddenly arose there due to the manpower shortage. It would still take over 100 years for the Russian language to die out, because there’ll still be millions of Russian speakers alive in 20, 30, and even 50 years from now.

The idea that a collapse in birthrates (and almost certainly only a temporary one) within a language group will signal the end of that language in 20-30 years is so unlikely as to be not worth considering. What tends to happen is that birthrates wax and wane over time, so an ethnic group that is suffering a drop in birthrates today could easily experience a boom in birthrates 10 or 20 years from now.

So throughout the lifetime of anyone alive today, the major world languages will still be English, Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, Arabic, French, Bengali, Russian, Portuguese, and Indonesian, each of which has over 200 million total speakers.

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Is it realistic to include Arabic in the list of languages with over 200 million speakers? After all speakers of Iraqi Arabic cannot understand speakers of Algerian Arabic, and might not even understand Eqyptian Arabic. In truth you might as well include Romance as one of your languages, where Romance includes Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian, Rumanian and countless other Latin derived languages. Or Eastern Slavic?

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Can they

Can they really not understand - i.e. are the varieties of Arabic dialects in the same way Broad Yorkshire is a dialect of English, or is it one of those cases where the accent is so strong that they need a little exposure to the accent (as with Londoners trying to understand people from Tyneside)?

Broad Yorkshire is pretty close to standard English. Scots is however quite unintelligible for an English speaker. I recall meeting a Scotsman who asked me the way to a village. I hadn’t a clue what he said, but I heard the name of a village so told him to follow me. For a mile he was talking to me, and I couldn’t understand a single word. Then I told him to follow the road to the left, which he did, so he clearly understood me. Decades later I met another Scotmans. I understood half of what he said, because every other word was f***.

Anyway, yes varieties of Arabic can be mutually unintelligible. In some cases it is akin to Spanish and Italian, communication is possible at a slower speaking pace. I believe most Arabs can communicate using modern standard Arabic, which is a bit like going to Holland and talking in English to the locals. Most Dutch do speak English.

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I’m not talking about a Yorkshire accent. I’m talking about dialect words like “gennel”, “buffet” and phrases like “frame thisen” and “ah’ll si thi”.

Ayup. Gie-ooer rooarin’, tha mardy bugger! Sup thi tea an ah’ll tek thi on’t Moor.

That’s Yorkshire dialect (Sheffield). Tell me what all of that means (without Googling any of it) and I’ll grant you that broad Yorkshire is intelligible by a person who speaks standard English. English people, raised on TV shows where they have made fun of the Yorkshire dialect might have a clue as to what it means, but I doubt your average American or Australian would have a clue what any of that means.

My impression from what I’ve read and heard about it is that the situation of Arabic dialects is rather analogous to the situation in Romance-speaking Europe ~1000 years ago: the language of government, religion, and literature was Latin, while the commonly spoken language had long been diverging into different proto-languages that were considered dialects of Latin at the time, but are proto-French, proto-Spanish, etc. in hindsight.

I wonder if today’s much more widespread literacy and familiarity with the literary standard (and with other regional dialects through modern media) makes Arabic more resilient than Medieval Latin – in the sense that dialects will remain dialects rather than completely split-off languages for longer.

Eee lad, tha’s reet daft apporth.

I understood what you wrote, no problems. Yes Americans would be lost. But I am lost when I hear some American accents. A problem I had with Duolingo is that I kept translating phrases incorrectly because I didn’t understand the American language, Thus to wash up means to wash oneself, not wash the dishes, and a comforter is a duvet. Something like gi’ oer sounds impenetrable but it’s just a pronunciation variation of give over. And what’s tha on wi is another example. Dialect words exist everywhere. Even the the word for the humble bread roll varies greatly, we said bap when I was young.

By all accounts the difference you ascribe to Yorkshire and standard southern British English would be akin to Palestinian and Egyptian Arabic, not Iraqi and Moroccan for example. Western Arabic will include a lot of Berber words.

By the way, mardy comes from the Midlands. :slight_smile:

An accent isn’t a dialect though. A dialect of English uses non-native words and phrases. Gennel is not an English word, nor is buffet, or thisen. “Thisen” is not just a shortening/corruption of “yourself” or even “thyself”, and “Ayup”, like many Broad Yorkshire words, derives from Old Norse and has no English counterpart. A native Englsh speaker would not understand those words, and would be completely lost when faced with such words unless they had been exposed to Broad Yorkshire or taught the translation.

You do realise American dialects (since we’re being pedantic) have their own grammar and vocabulary? Taking a light hearted look at some common differences between standard American and English, our biscuit is their cookie, their biscuit is our scone, their pancake is our scotch pancake, their hood is our bonnet, their trunk is our boot, their diapers are our nappies, their pacifier is our dummy and so on.

Sen, as in do it thy sen, is not local to Yorkshire. Honestly it wouldn’t take long to learn Yorkshire. It’s not that different from standard southern English. Every region has some words that are different. Many English words derive from old Norse. If you look at isoglosses, you’ll see different words for stream throughout Britain for example. Scots is far more distinct, and really is a separate language.

Anyway this is getting pointless. You can do your own googling and discover what speakers of Arabic say about the various varieties of Arabic.

Quite a lot of languages have died out already. This will continue. I’m glad we have linguists documenting them.

But I don’t see the top dozen or so languages dying out, in this century at least. Even with the huge demographic collapse forecast for China, the Chinese language isn’t going anywhere.

All the major and most minor languages have substantial cultural legacies linked to them. Even a dead language like Latin isn’t going anywhere.

Then there is a love element, mentioned by SeoulMate, which is also exempt from a pragmatic demographic calculation.

It comes down to one’s reasons for learning a language. If it’s an ROI (Return on Investment) calculation, well, sure.

I mean, given the tremendous amount of time that has to be put into learning a language, it might not be the smartest idea to dedicate so much time into languages that are not so ‘‘useful’’