Saturday News And Notes

The Number Of Languages Spoken Is Diminishing
John McWhorter, an author of several books on the history of languages, argues that the number of languages spoken worldwide is slowly but surely diminishing.

McWhorter predicts that by 2115, there could be just 600 languages remaining as opposed to today’s 6,000. Languages spoken by smaller groups will be the ones which do not survive, possibly because during the course of colonization, native speakers have been exterminated or punished for using their languages.

“But the days when English shared the planet with thousands of other languages are numbered. A traveler to the future, a century from now, is likely to notice two things about the language landscape of Earth. One, there will be vastly fewer languages. Two, languages will often be less complicated than they are today—especially in how they are spoken as opposed to how they are written,” he writes in The Wall Street Journal.

McWhorter says English, rather than Mandarin Chinese, will likely be the dominant language because “English happens to have gotten there first. It is now so deeply entrenched in print, education and media that switching to anything else would entail an enormous effort.”

Business Insider has a selection of charts which show which languages have the most global influence.

Japan’s Demographic Challenge
Japan is facing a problem with demographics, specifically that their population is a declining birth rate and an increasing number of citizens in their older years.

While several policy prescriptions have been proposed, including raising the birth rate and providing more child care facilities (to allow women to work and have more children at the same time), neither will deal with the challenge in the short-term, writes Jun Saito in the East Asia Forum.

Immigration, particularly allowing unskilled workers into the country, is proving to be a viable, albeit controversial, option.

“Neighbouring countries, such as South Korea, have reformed immigration policy and become more open to receiving foreign workers. Starting with the Act on Foreign Workers Employment in 2003, South Korea has introduced legislation to smooth the way for more foreign workers, and to support the children of international couples.

“Japan is behind the pack. Even if reforms are implemented, they may not be enough to attract foreign workers, who may be more inclined to migrate to countries which have been more proactive,” adds Jun.

Sweden’s Rising Religious Tensions
Swedish police have stepped up security around mosques after three suspected arson attacks in the past week highlighted growing religious tensions in the Scandinavian country.


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