Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Your UN Dues at Work

For all those who thought that last Saturday, February 21, was special, you were right. UNESCO designated that day as International Mother Language Tongue Day. I can see the work of the French delegation behind this holiday; and now that Bush has put the US back in UNESCO (NECO didn't exactly trip off the tongue), Americans may also rejoice. We can now cry hallelujah, alléluia, and hee haw.

According to UNESCO, "there are about 6,000 languages spoken in the world today. Ninety five percent of these languages are spoken by only four percent of the population, and an average of two languages die out each month." UNESCO views this dwindling of dialects in a negative light. Now, it may be my Bible-thumping education; yet I always thought that the polyglot resulting from the Tower of Babel was a curse, not a blessing. As if to reinforce this point, UNESCO's quintessence of sinecure, the "Goodwill Ambassador to Languages," is the unpronounceable (yet serene) Vigdis Finnbogadottir.

Finn*?!etc. is the former President of Iceland and a francophone who studied at the Sorbonne as well as at the University of Grenoble--which only strengthens my hypothesis of a French International Mother conspiracy. While there may be a certain aural richness to linguistic diversity, perhaps a little Darwinian survival of the fittest--a linguistic euthanasia--is in order for a few thousand of those languages. It might make the international community more accessible to that 4% of the population stuck with those 5,700 little-used combinations of vowels and consonants.

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