Friday, 13 November 2009

Ha Long Time Coming

David Graddol predicted in 1996 (theory quantified by Lupyan and Dale, 2009) that, as more people learned English as a second language, native English speakers would lose their grip on the language. Indeed, there are probably far more second language speakers of English now than native speakers, so the non-natives have the power to change the language to suit themselves.

This was highlighted on a friend's travel blog recently (I've been enjoying living vicariously, especially when there are puns involved in the titles). The latest post in Eric's South East Asia blog finds the protagonist on board a ship, floating between the myriad of islands in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. Incidentally, I have to agree that it is one of the most beautiful areas I have ever seen. Having signed up for an English tour, Eric is surprised to find that he is the only native speaker of English. However, he found himself translating between 'versions' of English. There seemed to be non-reciprocal intelligibility between them: Eric could understand them all, but they had difficulty translating between themselves. Indeed, one traveller resorts to using his iPhone for translation (see my post on Lingua Tecnologia).

So it seems that, instead of a sprawling continent, English may be eroded by the seas of time into thousands of tiny little islands.

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