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The future of languages 3

Posted by fracardi on June 9, 2008

Just found, through this post of BJ Epstein, an old post on NYT, about how many languages will die in this century. Many, but not as much as I imagined.

“SOME 6,500 languages spoken in the world today. And, according to the 2000 census, you can hear at least 92 of them on the streets of New York. You can probably hear more; the census lumps some of them together simply as “other.”

Here the link

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The future of languages 2

Posted by fracardi on December 9, 2007

Just met online Mark Griffith and found this very interesting web-site where the future of languages is the central issue of the author. Here the key point raised by Mark:

“Linguistic minorities are communities of ordinary people whose native tongue is not their country’s main official language. Swedish speakers in Finland, French speakers in Canada, Hungarian speakers in Slovakia – and hundreds more – are linguistic minorities. Thousands of unique language communities are becoming extinct. Out of the world’s five to six thousand languages, we hardly know what we’re losing, what literatures, philosophies, ways of thinking, are disappearing right now. So?

We may soon regret the extinction of thousands of entire linguistic cultures even more than we regret the needless extinction of many animals and plants. The planet is increasingly dominated by a handful of major-language monocultures like Mandarin Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, Indonesian, Urdu, Spanish, Portuguese, English, Swahili, Russian, Cantonese Chinese, Japanese, Bengali – all beautiful and fascinating languages. But so are the 5,000 others!”

And here the link: http://www.otherlanguages.org/

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Antisemitic people and Jewish Overachievers

Posted by fracardi on July 30, 2007

In this post, Martin Varsavsky, himself a Jewish, points out an evidence that’s rarely debated: why Jews are over-represented among successful people in almost all societies where they were allowed to live and prosper.

I´m not a Jew, but very attracted by Jewish culture and very curious to understand which are the reasons of Jewish unquestionable success in modern society.

To me, there is no one single reason, it´s a combination. If I should mention three factors, I would say: education, globalization and identity preservation.

About education, this was already pointed out many times.

About globalization, this is a direct consequence of diaspora. In a globalized world, the pain of being persecuted transformed itself in a clear advantage. Jewish families started becoming global hundreds of years before Italian or German families did it. And being global is a key advantage to trade, to make money and then to educate at best the next generation.

About identity preservation, this is something that is unique to Jews. Italians migrated to the Americas and in one or two generations became 100% Brazilians, Argentinians and US citizens. They “melt” into the new country. Not the same for Jews. Today a successfull Italian in Italy can´t connect with successfull sons and daugthers of Italian immigrants in the Americas (and there are many), cause they lost a common language and a common culture.

Jews are the only people who were globally spread apart but then continued to maintain a strong cross-country single identity. Together with the emphasis on education, that is proper of the Jews culture, this makes the equation.

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Censorship on the Internet

Posted by fracardi on May 27, 2007

It’s very interesting to take note on which states are censoring Internet and understand how the blogosphere and, more in general, the net “civil society” is reacting.

A very interesting case is the recent censorship of YouTube in Morocco. The apparent reason is the publishing on YouTube of some movies slandering the King of Morocco. Even more interesting:

a) Only the main DSL provider (partially owned by Morocco state) is censoring YouTube;

b) No official reasons for this blocking is being provided by Maroc Telecom to their users;

c) The Moroccan blogosphere is strongly reacting

http://www.larbi.org/

http://motic.blogspot.com/2007/05/le-blog-de-larbiorg-en-grve-en.html

In my opinion, blocking sites without giving any reason is unacceptable and draw a very threatening shadow on the freedom of expression rights in that specific country.

If you want to know more on this have a look at the “Reporter sans frontieres” site (http://www.rsf.org/rubrique.php3?id_rubrique=273)

Posted in Politics | Leave a Comment »

The return of the Latin America Idiot

Posted by fracardi on May 12, 2007

Fantastic post from Silvio Meira on “the return of the Latin America Idiot”. Especially enlightening is the following paragraph, from an Anthony Daniels’ article

Man is born rich, but almost everywhere is poor

It is to the elucidation of this paradox that many of the finest minds of Latin America have been devoted for nearly a century. And the best answer they have been able to give is that most men are poor because a few men are rich. And, by the same token, those few men are rich because most men are poor. On this view, wealth is a form of institutionalized plunder. Nothing had to be —or remains to be—discovered, invented, or developed. The wealth of the world has been the same since the beginning of time and will remain the same until the end of time. Hence your slice of the economic cake, both personal and international, necessarily decreases the size of mine, and thus poverty is always someone else’s fault. This means that the wealth of Europe and America was erected on a foundation of cheap bananas.

Echoes of Chavez, Lula, Kirchner (and his wife, my God) here, isn’t it?

The worst is that:

The Latin American Idiot has his counterpart outside the region. Indeed, the academic study of Latin America in both American and European universities is dominated by such counterparts. And most foreign journalists who are interested in Latin America share the Idiot’s world view.

In my circle here in Madrid I’m trying my best to explain that Lula is not the best Prime Minister for Brasil, but more simply a decent politician with a strong sense of survival, but lack of vision. The European press, especially from left circles, still tends to downplay the corruption and the inability to focus on the key issues (like heavily invest in education and information technology) of the Lula’s government.

I love Brasil, and I would like to see better political leaders. They are absolutely needed in a country with enormous potential, but unbereable differences among the layers of its population.

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Fears of China and its (our) future

Posted by fracardi on April 7, 2007

In this very interesting video-post, Martin Varsavsky points out that Western countries, instead of fearing Chinese lack of civic liberties and its escalating military power, should be much more worried of the ecological impact and of the huge inequalities of the current Chinese economical model. He argues also that the world would be a better place if Western countries will convince / help China to adopt the socio-democratic model of Europe and Japan, instead of the capitalistic US one.

I totally agree. Everyone visiting China could immediately realize that China is today an iper-capitalistic country, with an awesome (and ecologically and socially scaring) freedom for business. No socialist features appear in this society model, as one should expect from a country that still declares itself communist.

However, it is in my opinion impossible to disconnect the building of a socially and ecologically-oriented society from the rise of civic and political liberties. I don’t see how the Chinese Communist party could start adopting social and ecological measures without a clear pressure from the Chinese public opinion. At the end, who can systematically argue on the building of a new dam or the respect of pollution rules in mainland China? Who can teach to 1,3 billion Chinese that they should start adopting differentiated collecting of rubbish or limit the use of their cars? Western countries are just starting doing after 200 hundreds of industrial revolution .Very few countries, US the least, have the moral authority to stand-up.

That’s why I don’t see China adopting, let’s say, a Swedish model, at least until the GDP per capita will grow to 10-15k US$. That’s a very long way to go.

Am I wrong? I hope so, because if not, the future of the current Earth ecosystem has very little chances to survive during the next 100 years.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment »

The future of languages

Posted by fracardi on April 6, 2007

Given the current pace of globalisation, emigration, mixed-languages couples and tele-learning, the number of spoken languages is drastically falling, but, on the other hand, the number of people who are fluent in more than one language is steadily increasing.

It is obvious (and sad, I know) than in 1000 years very few of the indigenous Brasilian languages will be lost (today still 200 are surviving, out of the 5000 estimate in the pre-colombian age).

It is also obvious that major languages as English, German, French, Mandarin, Japanese will continue to thrive. But what about the languages currently spoken by few hundred-thousands or even few millions people (as Danish or Catalan)?

Posted in Languages | 3 Comments »

Publishing platform vs. advertising platform

Posted by fracardi on April 5, 2007

Interesting post from Scott Karp on the battle for control on the media marketplace, but let be more precise / specific on the wording.

The media business is no longer about creating or even distributing content. It’s about controlling the platforms that create a marketplace for content and advertising.

I would better say that the media business is about controlling the platforms that create a place for publishing content and provide effective / efficient mechanisms to link advertising to content. The difference is not just semantics. The winning platform have to offer both features, not just one. Youtube, for instance, exploded as the best platform to publish video content, but it didn’t provide until now a convincing mechanism to link advertising to content. Same for Flickr re: photos, or DailyMotion again re: video.

But will ever exist a single winning platform for both publishing and advertising? Or the advertising platform (Google search) will always work as a meta-platform of the publishing platform (web as a whole)?

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Gapminder

Posted by fracardi on April 3, 2007

A site with worldwide statistics on key socio-economical indicators, so to not forget how big are social inequalities in our world. Here!

Posted in World | Leave a Comment »