Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Internet: Combating Monolingualism Everywhere

Click on the following paragraph!

Yo pienso que el internet es un recurso fantástico para aprender otras idiomas. También, el internet ayuda communicación entre culturas y países, porque podemos traduzcar cualquier cosa que queremos con un clic. Este hace que la información está más disponible. Antes, cuando no podíamos usar traductores en línea, tuvimos que esperar que una person bilingue pasó mucho tiempo traduzcando cada página en nuestro idioma. Ahora, cada persona tiene el mismo nivel de aceso a información.

As you can see, the grammar of the translator is not perfect, as languages are incredible complex and nuanced. However, could you understand what I wrote? You can see that, although you may not speak Spanish, with the internet, you don't need to have studied a language for years to be able to understand foreign text. ¡Qué fantástico!

The implications of this ability are huge. This means that if a kid in China stumbles across our blog and wants to know what the post below me says, all he has to do is copy it into a translator, and bingo! If I need to decipher a scholarly article in Tagalog on the merits of hydroponic lettuce production for my PLS2 research paper, it's not a problem! This has a huge effect on the world, because people have infinitely more access to information and other cultures than they did before. This completely eradicates the language barriers that our species has faced for the entirety of its existence.

As far as real-life language barriers go, the internet helps in a few ways. What happens if I am speaking to a native Spanish speaker or reading a book in Spanish, and even though I have a good grasp of the language, I don't know the meaning of a word that is critical to understanding the meaning of a sentence? I can pull out my iPhone and type that word into my iTranslate app, and presto. No problemo.

All these abilities, however, still don't invalidate the importance of learning a language. Speaking another language gives you insight into points of views, cultures, and ways of thinking that are unavailable to you in your first language. When traveling or communicating face-to-face with foreigners around you, you have to have at least a basic understanding of their language. Luckily, the internet can help in this regard as well!

The internet has helped me in my endeavor to become bilingual by providing an incredible amount of access to language-learning resources. I can watch YouTube videos of subtitled animes in Spanish to improve my listening skills, or look up an article about why they sometimes use "the" in situations where we don't in English. I have instant access to multiple explanations by native speakers of complex grammar points, and different ways to say a complex phrase. I have also had the pleasure of making friends online with a girl in Mexico City who is studying English, which has been an invaluable resource for me. This gave me the ability to carry on a conversation with a native speaker who is happy to give me feedback on my grammar: something that otherwise is only available by visiting a country or conveniently having a friend in real life who speaks the language you're learning.

The effect of the internet on language barriers is huge. Don't shy away from communicating with people that speak other language, or using resources that aren't written in your native tongue. You might gain access to an interesting point of view that nobody from your corner of the world could have come up with.

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