Friday, May 11, 2007

What is in a Language?

This week, while in Mozambique, I encountered a context that made me ask myself a question that was once asked when I was learning Principles of Programming Languages. In Maputo, the majority of the people speak Portuguese (as the only international language), and here I am, without any knowledge of Portuguese (and ignorant of the fact that there might be people in Africa who would not understand a word in English). Then the question, what is in a language? I know different disciplines would try to approach this questions differently. For an anthropologist, something like culture, community, society might come up, while for a computer science person, things like functional, and procedural approaches would probably be considered. Whatever the discipline, I believe there would be some form of agreement in that a language creates some sense of identity, pride, and to a lesser (though important fact) economic power (a language sells).

I have worked in eLearning projects where we preach of contextualization, localisation, or adaptation of learning content, processes and scenarios but my experiences here made me appreciate better their meaning and importance. The ideas being preached should enhance the identity of the learning to the specific target, which in turn can create a sense of pride among the audience. Once this is achieved, some economic transformation might occur.

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