Ice­landic lan­guage fend­ing off an English takeover

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Front Page - XIN­HUA

REYKJAVIK — Two cen­turies ago ex­perts pre­dicted that Ice­landic would be a dead lan­guage by now. But the doom­say­ers can eat their words: Ice­landic is alive and kick­ing de­spite an on­slaught of English brought on by mod­ern tech­nol­ogy.

Cur­rently spo­ken by the 355,000 in­hab­i­tants of the North At­lantic is­land, Ice­landic has re­peat­edly come un­der threat through the ages — fol­low­ing mi­gra­tions, in­va­sions by Nor­way and Den­mark from the 16th to the early 20th cen­turies, and the In­dus­trial Revo­lu­tion.

But it has al­ways sur­vived, with

upon en­ter­ing the work­force,” UNSW Dean of En­gi­neer­ing Pro­fes­sor Mark Hoff­man said.

“They leave univer­sity not only with a first-class en­gi­neer­ing de­gree, but also prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence, plus team­work, project man­age­ment, bud­get­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions skills, all needed to do well in a cor­po­rate en­vi­ron­ment.”

For the mo­ment, how­ever, the stu­dents say that they just want to in­spire their fel­low Aus­tralians to learn more about so­lar tech­nol­ogy and the planet-sav­ing ben­e­fits of re­new­able en­ergy.

“I am hop­ing that peo­ple will come out to see us along our jour­ney and talk to us about the ben­e­fits of re­duc­ing our im­pact on our planet and how we can all con­trib­ute to this cause,” Liang said. the writ­ten lan­guage lit­tle changed since the 11th cen­tury.

Yet English us­age has in re­cent decades sky­rock­eted in Ice­land — as around the world — thanks to the dom­i­nance of US pop cul­ture as well as the adop­tion of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy such as the in­ter­net, YouTube and smart­phones with light­ning speed.

Vis­i­tors to the cap­i­tal Reykjavik need only ask lo­cals for di­rec­tions to quickly dis­cover that Ice­land is in fact bilin­gual.

For youths here, speak­ing English is sim­ply a mat­ter of ne­ces­sity.

“I have to be able to read English be­cause it’s ev­ery­where and it’s universal,” 11-year-old Sigthor Elias Smith said — in Ice­landic.

Amid some con­cern that English is too preva­lent, Ice­land has adopted sev­eral mea­sures to pro­mote its own lan­guage.

In 1996, the gov­ern­ment des­ig­nated Nov 16 as Ice­landic Lan­guage Day, while in 2011, a new law rec­og­nized Ice­landic as the coun­try’s of­fi­cial lan­guage.

To coun­ter­act the dom­i­nance of English in tech­nol­ogy, Al­freds­dot­tir has also ear­marked 2.4 bil­lion kro­nur (around $19 mil­lion) to de­velop Ice­landic ver­sions of voice recog­ni­tion ser­vices for vir­tual per­sonal as­sis­tants such as Ap­ple’s Siri and Ama­zon’s Alexa.

Sigthor and Eva’s teacher, Solveig Reynis­dot­tir, wor­ries that the tsunami of English that chil­dren are ex­posed to on­line is af­fect­ing their Ice­landic vo­cab­u­lary.

“The chil­dren some­times lack words be­cause there are many they’ve never heard,” she said as she handed out a lan­guage com­pre­hen­sion as­sign­ment to her 23 stu­dents.

“The tech­no­log­i­cal changes are a real chal­lenge.”

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