Translation, Please

Iceland faces growing concerns.

Many countries have their own native language while also having one or more secondary languages. Being bilingual or even multi-lingual is common in many countries, with one language, often the "mother tongue" being used at home and another language being used for business or education.

With the Internet making global communication even easier, English has become the dominant language for many countries. In this article from The Guardian, Jon Henley discusses the growing concern Iceland has over their increasing use of English. Icelandic is a rich and complex language dating back hundreds of years. It is the majority language in the country, but in the digital world it is virtually non-existent. Spoken by roughly 340,000 people, Icelandic is barely a blip in the world of computers, where the majority language is English. Referred to as digital minoritisation, Icelanders fear their language will become digitally extinct. And, if that happens, they face the real fear that Icelandic will fall out of use in their day-to-day lives as well.

Supporting Web Links
Discussion Questions/Activities
  1. Poll the class about the language(s) they speak. Is English their native tongue or is it a second language for them? Do they speak one language at school and another at home? What about when they are online? 
  2. Divide the class into small groups and have each group identify something that is becoming obsolete or extinct due to the Internet. Students may want to begin with the Supporting Web Links section to get some ideas, but should attempt to locate an original item. Each group should develop a presentation about their finding explaining its history and background and indicating how the Internet has impacted it.
  3. As an individual project, ask students to create and conduct a brief survey. Student should use some of the questions from the first activity or other questions of their choice to learn how the primarily English-based Internet and computer systems have impacted those individuals for whom English is not their native language. Students may want to interview their peers, family members, or work colleagues or survey individual at a nearby mall or shopping center. Students should create a presentation or write a brief report to share their findings.


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