2008 Year of Languages

United Nations has named 2008 the International Year of Languages, recognizing that genuine multilingualism promotes unity in diversity and international understanding.

While the first-best solution in terms of international understanding and efficiency would be to have just one universal language, there is so much nostalgia and nationalism in the World that this is not realistic in the near future. The second-best solution for individuals living in the present multi-lingual world is therefore to acquire fluency in several main languages.

Although it is very hard to master a language perfectly, it is quite easy to get to a level where you can make yourself understood. Consider the following phrase:

It dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Azanmig huh? And I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt.

Or in Spanish:

No ipmotra el odren en el que las ltears etsan ersciats, la uicna csoa ipormtnate es que la pmrirea y la utlima ltera esten ecsritas en la psiocion cocrrtea. El rsteo peuden estar ttaolmntee mal y aun pordas lerelo sin pobrleams. Etso es pquore no lemeos cada ltera por si msima preo la paalbra es un tdoo.

You don’t even have to be very good at French to understand the following:

L’odrre des ltteers dnas un mtos n’a pas d’ipmrotncae, la suele coshe ipmrotnate est que la pmeirère et la drenèire soit à la bnnoe pclae. Le rsete peut êrte dnas un dsérorde ttoal et vuos puoevz tujoruos lrie snas porlblème. C’est prace que le creaveu hmauin ne lit pas chuaqe ltetre elle-mmêe, mias le mot cmome un tuot.

If you haven’t yet committed to a New Year resolution for 2008, learning a new language, and thus contributing to international understanding, would be a good option.

Happy New Year to everybody!

Do you know of any other interesting linguistic trait? Leave a reply below.

(*) Director, Institute for Advanced Development Studies, La Paz, Bolivia. The author happily receives comments at the following e-mail: landersen@inesad.edu.bo.


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