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--- On Tue, 6/30/09, MacLeod Dave <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Date: Tuesday, June 30, 2009, 12:06 AM
> 2009/6/30 steve rice <[log in to unmask]>:
> > That depends on the precise situation. *Some* people
> will find they enjoy learning languages or at least
> experiencing other cultures more directly, and they will
> learn other languages if their circumstances permit.  Many
> or most only learn a language if they must, and an auxlang
> would nearly eliminate that reason. So language learning in
> general would probably decline.
> 
> No, it goes up:
> 
> http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/June2008/18/c5196.html
> 
> You'll notice that even though multilinguals have already
> put in the
> effort to learn another language, after doing so only 7%
> wouldn't like
> to learn another one compared to 20% for those that are
> unilingual.
> Let's say Canada and the US have a good 250 million
> unilinguals
> between them - with a world L2 we now have an extra 33
> million that
> are interested in learning another that weren't before.
> 
You're misreading the table. The 33 million would be those with NO interest in learning another language (7% of 250 million). So the other 217 million would be approachable. But under what conditions?

59% would learn another language for travel--a global auxlang would reduce the need somewhat, so only those who actually wanted to experience the native culture in the native language would persist. Call me pessimistic, but given the effort required to learn another language plus the likelihood that the tourism industry would solidly back the auxlang, I predict that shallowness would win out and few would learn more than a few phrases and the local orthography (if simple and different enough).

62% would learn another language for "Love of language/personal improvement"--that's the number you should consider your strong point. It's a large number and less likely to wither in the face of a global auxiliary. I'll return to this point later.

"Career opportunities/advancement" (41%)--hard to estimate. In one sense, it should shrivel as the auxlang takes hold, at least for multinationals. On the other hand, the ability to speak a client's language could be very helpful, but really impressing them would entail fluency, which is not an easy task.

"Better communication with friends or relatives" (34%)--an auxlang would likely wipe this out after the first generation.

Okay, so what about the language lovers? The key is the difference between interest and accomplishment. There are a lot of things I'd like to do--even languages I'd like to learn--that I may not get around to for some time if ever. How many would actually follow through?

Then there's the fact of inequality. I suspect that most of the languages learned would be relatively popular anyway. Large languages (English, Spanish, etc.) would probably remain more popular than small languages (Welsh, Samoan, etc.), so endangered languages would receive little or no help.

However, there is a way in which I find this claim congenial. I have argued for multiple auxlangs rather than just one, and I see some justification here. The usual response is that learning 3-5 auxlangs, even one well and the others for passive use, would be unworkable. But auxlangs would be largely immune to the counter-arguments above. They would be easier to learn, so the effort would be reduced, and they might also have great lexical similarites, helping even more. Multiple auxlangs also wouldn't stifle the usefulness of learning other languages, especially the other auxlangs.

Steve