July 10, 2004

Year of Languages

OK, raise your hand if you knew that 2005 is soon to be proclaimed by the United States Senate as the Year of Languages. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Well, don't feel bad; until I was catching up on some LINGUIST List reading late this evening, I didn't know either.

Not that there were any direct announcements on LINGUIST List. (Well, maybe there were at some point; I'm having a hard time with their search engine right now.) No, the news came indirectly from one Rick Rickerson of the College of Charleston. The title of the message is "NPR Radio Program on Languages", which sparked my interest because I collect radio clips about language(s) and linguistics for use in my undergrad classes. The message begins:

I'm director of of [sic] the language division at the College of Charleston and am just back from LSA Headquarters in Washington. I had a chat with Maggie Reynolds, who referred me to the LSA website. I'm about to do an NPR radio program in support of the soon-to-be-proclaimed (by the US Senate) Year of Languages in the US.

I'm reading this and thinking, OK, it's only July, maybe this is really news. But then I search Google for "Year of Languages". I got an overwhelming number of hits for the European Year of Languages (which was 2001, in case you didn't know), but also some not-necessarily-new ones for the US Year of Languages. Here are the four hits from the first two pages of Google results:

  1. A featured article from December 2003 at the Center for Applied Linguistics site.
  2. The information center for the Year of Languages, sponsored by The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. (Essentially the same page exists here, with a more transparent URL, but doesn't show up until the 10th page of Google results.)
  3. A page linked from the Alabama Association of Foreign Language Teachers (somehow affiliated with the University of Alabama at Birmingham).
  4. A page linked from the Foreign Language Association of Georgia.

The next link doesn't appear until the 8th page of Google results, and there's not much after that.

So then I went to the LSA site, and there's nothing there. (As Mark once said, I think we could do better.) Nothing at LINGUIST List either, as I already noted (modulo search engine difficulties). Even the MLA site is silent on the issue (and it bothers me that I was more surprised by that).

What's going on? Why are linguists the last to know about this important PR opportunity?

Rick Rickerson continues:

There will be 6-minute segments on language topics of interest to the general public, starting in January and airing throughout 2005. Since it's part of a nationwide celebration of language, I'm asking professionals around the country to suggest topics and, if possible, contribute scripts. Would any of you be interested in doing so?

I think we'd better be. Those of us who contribute to Language Log, at least, appear to have some time and energy on our hands for this sort of thing.

Or could I ask you to look over a list of topics and give me the name and e-mail address of linguists you think might want to do a piece on that subject? These are questions like: How do babies learn to talk; Dialect vs. language; What's a Pidgin; What causes foreign accents; Indian languages of Southeast US; Is ASL a language; the Significance of Rosetta Stone; How close are Spanish and Portuguese; etc. I would appreciate your help and suggestions!

In case you missed it: erickerson@comcast.net.

Oh, and apparently, 2004-2005 were already resolved to be 'Years of Foreign Language Study'. Bet you didn't know that either.

[Addendum: there's a passing reference to the Year of Languages about halfway down a page of "news" at the web site for the Joint National Committee for Languages (JNCL) and the National Council for Languages and International Studies (NCLIS).]

[ Comments? ]

Posted by Eric Bakovic at July 10, 2004 04:07 AM