A review of three recent books on language-mixing and literacy, published in Composition Studies 42.1.
New stage of the mass education project meant to ensure Bangladesh meets the MDGs initiated. On first glance Bangladesh is poised to meet the goal of gender and representational parity in educational enrollments. But in actuality this drive has not really aimed for functional literacy skills (few can actually read at all) and even then dropout-numbers are really high.
According to a new study, “Digital Language Death”, “Less than five percent of current world languages are in use online”, the Washington Post reports. The author of the paper, András Kornai, offers “evidence of a massive die-off [of languages] caused by the digital divide,” using three indices of “imminent death” of languages: loss of function, loss of prestige, and loss of competence. “[F]or the 95% of the world’s languages”, Kornai notes, “there is very little hope of crossing the digital divide,” i.e., transitioning into and thriving in a digital age. A point of caution: the issues involved here are highly complex, not entirely predictable, and they may not be easily reduced to numbers, as Kornai himself acknowledges. However, the study does offer pause about the future of languages online. The article made me think immediately of my ethnographic work at an anathashram (orphanage) in suburban New Delhi. The children face serious difficulties in terms of access to computer technology itself; one wonders, how will their futures be further impacted by their inability to participate (effectively) online because of the domination of hegemonic languages?
There’s an interesting story about the use of film subtitling for developing reading skills in India; a recent project, Same Language Subtitling (by PlanetRead), won The International Prize as part of the Library of Congress Literacy Award. The core idea behind the project is that “regularly watching films in which the songs are subtitled in the language they speak, millions of villagers and slum-dwellers with weak reading skills effectively get reading practice.” It received the award because “It is simple to implement and easy to replicate, reaching 200 million low-literacy TV viewers. Same Language Subtitling is notable as a highly motivational approach for getting low-literacy adults to read, particularly where access to books is difficult.” Click here for more.