“A language is a conduit for and repository of a people’s history, tradition, religion and culture. If the language is lost, so too is a particular understanding of the world.”
We’re starting this post with a quote from June 2014’s New Internationalist (NI), which we have here in the Periodicals Room* of the Wodehouse Library. The front cover of the magazine is eye-catching: the words ‘Save our speech!” captured in a speech bubble.
It isn’t long before the NI’s lead article on endangered languages mentions something that often crops up in the mainstream news, attracting attention for a certain amount of time before being submerged by other issues: the use of language by young people. Indeed, language use attracts attention whether we’re aware of it or not because, as far as our listeners or readers are concerned, we’re using the wrong word without apparently realising it or we’re using foul language or perhaps we’re using ‘management speak’ which is really aggravating!
As the NI highlights, so-called minority languages are simultaneously protected and promoted by some whilst facing suppression and gradual extinction at the hands of others. Language is a political issue at a local level, for example, when it comes to council resources allocated to translation services and at national and international levels as the Galician example used by the NI demonstrates.
Meanwhile from Issue 59 (June/July 2014) of Aesthetica magazine we have an article entitled Lyrics With No Limits (p.118) which asks: “Can musicians have success in the global marketplace while performing in their native language?” This is a short piece offering a different perspective on language. In the words of Dutch rapper Brainpower:
“Language is something you can paint different pictures with, and each language has its own colour. If you want to get a certain emotion, you pick words in different languages.”
So why have we chosen to post about language? Well, here in the library you are surrounded by imaginative and informative uses of language and, of course, we are always keen to help you grasp how reading can help you develop your own use of words and your understanding of how others are trying to use them. There are subject reading lists available, fiction reading lists and regular up-dates on literary prize winning titles. We tweet regularly about articles in magazines as well as highlighting how our e-resources can complement your studies by targeting your searches for information more effectively.
Why not try a search of LibCat to see what you can find using the keyword ‘language’? From poetry to prose there’s a surprising amount in the Wodehouse collection that will be of interest for the curious.
*Back issues are available from the Reference Section, near the Issue Desk and you can now find the May 26-Jun1 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek which has an article starting on p.17 about how Chinese authorities are “waging a war on American culture and the use of English”.