Tomorrow is the concluding part of a fascinating five part BBC documentary series called Fry’s Planet Word. In this series, Stephen Fry explores aspects of linguistics and how we learn and how our skills develop, and he travels across the world investigating different languages. I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t seen it, but each episode is quite a broad range of different topics under the umbrella of a different theme for each episode. For example; in episode one, entitled “Babel,” Fry covers sign language, animal communication, visits the Nilotic speaking Turkana tribe in Kenya, speaks to a psycholinguist, and explores talks to man who taught his son Klingon as his first language! The programme is not a tool to help you learn other languages, it’s rather a study of linguistics, and will be of interest to anyone studying languages as further information. The series is shown on BBC2 and you can also catch up on iPlayer. Here’s a taster on Youtube.
Have you been watching? What are your thoughts?
On a recent episode of Mind Your Language, Konnie Huq discusses something that I can relate pretty well to, the losing of your native language to English as you grow up. For me, I lost the majority of my Cantonese around the time my older sister left me alone at kindergarten to start her primary school career. For Konnie Huq, she lost her native Bengali when she started at an English speaking school. While there are clear advantages to speaking more than one language fluently, are there any advantages to dropping your mother tongue to speak only the local language? Does assimilation outweigh the loss of language and culture? Have a listen to the audio and see what you think.
Speaking of losses, this show was originally broadcast on BBC’s Asian Network, which was slated for closure earlier this year. It’s a pity that it wasn’t shown more support, especially with the large Asian population in the UK. I’m not sure what kind of message the BBC is sending out by shutting down ethnicity-based channels, but I hope that there will be some kind of alternative available after the Asian Network closes.