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The future of Languages - more than just words
A public dialogue organised by the Club of Amsterdam, the British Council and
OBA - Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam

As a part of the Language Rich Europe project the current state of play as for multilingualism policy and practice has been researched in 20 European countries. Its results will be published in a publication as well as on an interactive website in May 2012.

The project advocates "multilingualism for stable and prosperous societies". We learn all our life how to communicate with each other. In the contemporary world with various borders becoming more and more blurred, it is even more tempting to use one common language. The most widely spoken constructed intralanguage, Esperanto, comes to mind.

What would the consequences be if we all spoke one language? History shows that languages that we use are not only about words. Federico Fellini, an Italian filmmaker, once said, "A different language is a different vision of life". But is there really a relationship between the language and the thought? If we do decide to learn another language, what is the easiest way to get a good grasp of it?

The newest technology offers stunning solutions for language learning. CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment) is an immersive virtual reality environment where projectors are directed to three, four, five or six sides of a room-sized cube. It is used in experiments for language learning as it offers the unique opportunity to immerse into a different world and language. (The name is also the reference to the allegory of the Cave in Plato's Republic, where a philosopher contemplates perception, reality and illusion). On the other hand, the newest solutions for machine and real-time translation seem to undermine the effort required to speak other languages. Where will it lead us?
Concept: Aleksandra Parcinska

Mirjam Broersma, PhD, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
Why linguistic diversity will never disappear
Speaking and understanding speech are much more difficult in a second language than in one's native language. Some of the associated problems are not obvious to understand. Why do some foreign languages seem so much faster than our native language? Why do Dutch speakers never manage to pronounce the English 'th' correctly? This talk will explain such difficulties by addressing the cognitive processes underlying speech. And it will answer the question why, despite such difficulties, linguistic diversity will never disappear.

Simon King, Professor of Speech Processing & Director of the Centre for Speech Technology Research, University of Edinburgh, UK
Making computers speak like individual people.
Simon will demonstrate what is currently possible in speech synthesis - the conversion from text to speech by computers. Recent developments now make it possible for computers to sound like individual people, opening up new applications such as personalised speech translation and assistive communication aids for people who have difficulty speaking. But there remain barriers to making this technology available in all the world's languages, especially those with small numbers of speakers, or spoken in less affluent parts of the world.

Tsead Bruinja, Poet
Failing in Between - Writing Poetry in two languages
Tsead s a poet/performer who writes both in Frisian (the language spoken in the provence Fryslân) and in Dutch. Bruinja has read his work at festival all over the world, from Zimbabwe and Nicaragua to Indonesia. His work has been translated in many languages and he himself has translated the work of poets from other into Dutch and Frisian.

In his talk he will read some of his translations and original poetry and talk about his experiences as a poet writing in two languages. Bruinja had to relearn to write Frisian when he was 25 and he did this mainly by reading Frisian books and studying Frisian at the University of Groningen, where he first studied English language and American literature. Frisian is a language spoken by half of the population of Fryslân, but about 4% can actually write Frisian and maybe 20% can read it. 'Why would you want to write for such a small audience?' is a question he is often asked by his Dutch colleagues and Bruinja answers 'because it is the language that my mother spoke.'

Live music with Asia Kowalewska, a Polish singer and songwriter.
Moderated by Aleksandra Parcinska

the future of Languages
- more than just words
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Registration: 18:30-19:00, Conference: 19:00-21:15
Location: OBA - Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam, Oosterdokseiland 143, 1011 DL Amsterdam (east of Amsterdam Centraal Station), 7th floor, Het Theater van 't Woord
In collaboration with the British Council and OBA - Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam


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