International Year of Languages

On average, a language ceases to be spoken every two weeks.

That’s what the web page for the UN’s International Year of Languages (2008) says. UNESCO suggests that language policies enable people in linguistic communities to use their first languages as much as possible, including in education, while also learning a national or regional language and an international language. At the same time, dominant-language speakers should be urged to master another national or regional language and one or two international languages.

hello in different languagesUWW offers language classes (Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, and Arabic), and language study is good preparation for life in a global society, promotes intercultural understanding, and comes in very handy during study abroad too! The University Library has materials that can help, including dictionaries (e.g., Kodansha’s romanized Japanese-English dictionary, 2nd-floor Reference Collection PL679 .V36 1993, and Oxford Reference Online’s bilingual dictionaries), books, and CDs for language practice (e.g., Conversational Japanese, 1st-floor Media Center, Oversize CDs PL535.5 .C66 2005).

  • For a partial listing of some recently-acquired CDs, search the Library Catalog for the keyword pimsleur.
  • For a broader listing of resources search for the keywords “japanese language” and (study or dictionary), substituting the language of your choice in place of japanese. This will list language practice CDs, videos, teaching methods books, K-12 language textbooks, foreign language dictionaries and grammar books, etc.
  • The 1st-floor Periodicals Collection includes some non-English subscriptions, such as Stern Magazine and Die Zeit (German), World Journal (Chinese), and Le Monde (French). Additional major non-English publications from around the world are available through the LexisNexis Academic database.

Of course, for quick and dirty help with translation of text there are translation sites online such as Yahoo! Babel Fish.

But the issue of language preservation/endangerment is much bigger than asking university students to study another language. Language transmits and embodies culture. Loss of linguistic diversity leads to a loss of cultural diversity. For more information see The Rosetta Project, which is “building a publicly accessible online archive of ALL documented human languages,” a National Science Foundation special report on Endangered Languages, and the web site of the Indigenous Language Institute.

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The University Library is a federal depository with many federal, state, local, and international documents on a variety of current and relevant issues available to you in print, microfiche, CD-ROM, and electronically. Come check out your government at the University Library!

About Barbara

I am a Reference & Instruction librarian, head of that department in Andersen Library, an associate professor, and a member of the General Education Review Committee and Faculty Senate. I've been working at UW-W since July 1, 1990.
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