Sunday, October 31, 2010

70% of web users don't speak English

D - one of the potential benefits of an IAL (international auxiliary language) is cost.
Advertisers can use a one-size-fits-all approach.
Government bodies,particularly international ones, can save a bundle on translations.

Then there are subtle costs.
New immigrants to Canada are offered language lessons. But often they wish to start working right away so they don't 'waste time'.
Which ultimately constrains their ability to work effectively.
Unless one has a job that involves sitting in an isolated cubicle, and even then does not involve reading, this is a mistake.

A few years ago, I participated in a YWCA-sponsored 'Coming to Canada' improv skit theatre project. I learned facts that made me sympathetic to newcomers. For example, sometimes Canada invites them here due to their educational qualifications- and then won't recognize this when the get here.
Conversely, I found they collectively engaged in a mental trap about discrimination.
They adamantly refused to admit that speaking English in a clear and concise manner is a job skill. Ergo, every time they fail to get a job it must be... DISCRIMINATION!
Yes, they actually believed that.
First of all, the ability to communicate (both ways) in a spoken and written form IS a job skill. The inability to do so is a valid and legitimate reason to not employ somebody.
Second, it may be that our language lessons are failing them.
I am of the opinion that addressing accent/dialect is MORE important than the usual 'nuts and bolts' approach of teaching grammar and syntax.
I for one have a mild auditory processing problem. Misplacing the stress and changing cadence on words I know is often enough to render them unintelligible to me.

NEWS: after only a YEAR, I have finally finished reading Chomsky's SPE. For most people, I suggest you just read a summary of his language rule results.
Even where these rules are summarized with page reference in SPE, those pages still are almost indecipherable as examples.
I am completely unable to think in 'notation'.
Meaning all the efficient short-hand expressions in the book might as well be greek to me. The section on phonology was worth its weight in gold, though.

Teaching simple example by large groups samples might be useful.
1) nail down English phonemes in one syllable words. Work up to diphthongs n' consonant clusters.
2) at 2 syllables, show the rules for noun and verb and adjective.
3) use lots and lots of examples.
4) gradually introduce examples of how derivatives change the stress.
5) gradually show how co-articulation changes the actually spoken word.
Notice that grammar and syntax are not even mentioned.
Knowing 1000 words in English with perfect grammar and syntax remains totally useless if one cannot say those 1000 words in a manner that is understood.
Yet ethnic accent is the very last thing to persist after learning English.
It should be the very FIRST thing to go.
I know this is very hard for an adult brain. But it is rewarding.

Aside: I am intrigued by the idea of a 3rd tier of pronunciation- the unspoken secret underlying representation.
I wonder if colour-coded stacking of hiox figures could capture narrow (IPA), wide (standard) and this underlying mode, all in one fell swoop?

An alternative aux-lang to English, or course, sacrifices the richness and quirkiness of a natural language for the stilted but accessible aux-lang.

I did find Q and X particularly to detract from C's claim of English 'optimal orthography'. Ending a syllable in X has a KS sound. This consonant cluster can often make a syllable strong, even with a weak vocalic nucleus.
X deprives the reader of the consonant-cluster cue necessary.
Such aux-langs as Ceqli sensibly recycle X and Q for other sounds.

The staggering difficulty of mastering English remains a point in favour of a world (or nation, or even province/group) aux-lang.
Saying 'learn English or go home', though terribly tempting when dealing with ethnic truck drivers (as I do at work), remains a superficial response to a complex issue.
Whether learning a simple aux-lang would amount to more work than teaching passable English to untalented adults on a large scale is open to debate.
I suspect it would be viewed as a sensible investment, paying huge and long-term dividends. At least after the fact.

An ideal aux-lang for this purpose faces the 2 constraints, opposed to each other of,
1) too complicated to learn for many backgrounds, and
2) LCD- lowest common denominator- leaving very few elements to communicate with.
Lacking nuance or brevity as a result.
These are issues each IAL designer must struggle with.
Espo has chosen problem 1).
I have chosen problem 2), but hope ot mitigate it through very careful early planning.

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