Wednesday, September 02, 2009

What Languages Will be Important to Know?

Coming Anarchy has a great article which discusses what languages should people know/be taught in schools. Sure English is the new lingua Franca but serious scholars, business men, and travelers should know at least one other language (usually one that they deal with frequently). Not only does another language help with vocal communications but also gives an insight to the other culture.

Curzon makes three main tiers of languages to prioritize educational efforts. The tiers are below

Tier One
English
Spanish
Chinese
French
Russian

Tier Two
Arabic
Portuguese
Japanese

Tier Three
Turkish
Persian
Japanese

I generally agree with the tier system. I think Russian is going to greatly decline in demand as Russia continues to decrease in population and speaking it is more of a political statement in the Near Abroad (former Soviet states). Arabic is growing in importance and probably should rank above Russian; however, who knows if the Arab markets will adjust to a post-oil world.

Certainly the tiers of language have changed massive in recent history. This is probably the widest range of tongues of importance in Western history. Just think about it
  • Roman Empire to Early Renaissance: Latin and Greek were the only two languages of importance
  • Renaissance to Early 1800s: Latin fades as French becomes the only language of diplomacy
  • Early to late 1800s: English becomes equally important to French. Last few years see rise of German due to German scientific achievement.
  • Early 1900s to End of World War II: English, French, German
  • Cold War: English, Russian with Arabic and Chinese growing in importance. By the end of the era more second and third world languages become important.

Agree or disagree? Feel free to comment!

9 comments:

Bill Chapman said...

There ought to be room somewhere for wider use of Esperanto. It has a scattered speaker population.

It is relatively easy to learn and use.

Take a look at www.esperanto.net

Anonymous said...

for a brief period of time in the 1500-1600s, Spanish was the primary language. Mostly a result of the Spanish not learning other languages and forcing various Dutch, French, Germans and Italians to learn Spanish. France was in serious decline that century.

alfaqui said...

I agree with Anonymous. Spanish was probably the most important living language in the 16th century, in terms of navigation and European wars and politics.
I'd also point that the Dutch language is somehow diminished nowadays, but it was indeed very important around the 17th century.

Catholicgauze said...

Anonymous and Alfaqui,
Good points. I wonder how internationally known those languages were. Then again, that is a Eurocentric question to ask. Many native Americans had to know the European languages and fast if they sought any sort of living in the truly New World.

Catholicgauze said...

Bill,
Thanks for the comment. I don't care that much for Esperanto. At least with a living language you have a good starting point where many people already know the language. Plus, I feel Esperanto lacks the rich history and therefore culture which make a language a language.

Catholicgauze said...

Esperanto continued: Not bashing your point of view. Just not liking Esperanto.

Darren said...

Russian needs to be dropped in favor of Arabic. Russian is almost useless outside of Russia and the "near Abroad" and will only experience a rapid decline.

Catholicgauze said...

Darren,
I agree.

Wanderers views said...
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