The Death of Language

Icelanders bought 47% fewer books in 2017 than they did in 2010, a very sharp decrease in a matter of only six years. In a recent poll in Iceland, 13.5% of those who responded had not read a single book in 2017, compared to 7% in 2010.

The source of the quote blames this sad phenomenon on the English language but I don’t for a second think that’s what it is.

According to a recent study, in the homeland of the English language, kids arrive on their first day of school lagging behind the preceding generations and behind the norm by a whopping 18 months (which is an enormous gap at this age) in terms of linguistic capabilities. Meaning, they can’t speak their own language in an age-appropriate way. That’s a whole generation of kids with severe issues in the realm of verbal expression.

Iceland has a wonderful tradition of giving books as Christmas presents, with people reading into the night on Christmas Eve. However, even this may be under threat: in 2005, an Icelander received an average of 1.4 books as gifts at Christmas; this number is now 1.1, with 42% of Icelanders not receiving a single book for Christmas according to the most recent poll.

No, it ain’t English, that’s for sure. Just like in the case of the UK study I mentioned before, smartphones are the cause.

9 thoughts on “The Death of Language”

  1. “blames this sad phenomenon on the English language”

    It’s not blaming, it’s giving credit to what it thinks is a wonderful achievement. Pretty much every single time English speaking media reports on any non-English environment they include information suggesting that daily and institutional growth of English is happening and is an unalloyed good (despite some concerned clucking about traditions).
    Language policy for English speaking countries inevitably revolves around displacing all other languages. The degree of success ranges from all but absolute victory (see Ireland) to moderate success (India) but the goal is always to achieve English monolingualism.
    Many English speakers have an almost religious commitment to spreading English, you hadn’t noticed this?


  2. “smartphones are the cause.”

    They do seem to be about the most catastrophic technological “development” known to humanity in the last how many centuries? A perfect machine for dumbing people down…


    1. Oh pish.

      It’s a supercomputer that fits in your palm and can connect to near any point in the globe. If people can’t find ways to make use of it other than to debase themselves, what good would a smarted-up version of them even be?


      1. “Oh pish”

        And to that, kind sir I say…. tosh! Yes, you heard me…. tosh!

        What I don’t like about them is that they’re not that good at anything…. they work worse as phones, worse as cameras, worse as computers (terrible unusable interface…).

        I have one but I find it intensely boring and only use it when there is no other very good option….


      2. Yes, let’s pretend that smartphones have no effect on us because we are too intellectually superior. 🙂

        Well, I’m definitely not. My reading was cut by half by the appearance of a smartphone. I’m not smart enough to resist.


        1. I don’t like those little cocksuckers either, myself
          …difficult to navigate, near impossible to type on, the screens are way too small …
          …and, yes, the average person abuses them to the hilt. Always shouting into them, loud “bells and whistles” sounding when keys are punched—contributing to noise pollution even when the user isn’t shouting into them
          …and people are so cult-like in their worship of these little micro-contraptions. I wouldn’t doubt they probably go to bed with these little bastards. If anyone ever offers to let you borrow their phone I wouldn’t accept—for hygienic reasons alone.


        2. I’m not pretending that smartphones have no effect on me because of my intellectual superiority (though it helps). I’ve simply never owned one.

          My twelve year old Nokia is finally giving out and I’m going to be forced to upgrade to a smartphone, and I’d damned well rather frame the purchase as getting a useful gadget than as shaving away bits of my prefrontal lobe.

          Just give me, like, a month with it or something, and I too will be one of the cool kids who is just so over this whole silly craze.


  3. Here’s the thing about us Finns: we haven’t traditionally been very good at branding. In fact, seeing the brand-led global success stories originating from Sweden (IKEA, H&M, Spotify, Skype, Absolut Vodka, ABBA, Stieg Larsson, etc.), we’ve been overcome with jealousy. In Finland, we’ve been known only for Nokia phones. Engaging in excessive promotion doesn’t suit the quiet, self-effacing Finnish spirit; in Finland, you’re expected to do your job well and then let the work do the talking. In some cases, that’s worked for us: you bought a Nokia phone not because it made you cool but because you could drop it in the toilet or throw it across your apartment and somehow, miraculously, it still worked. But then Nokia went down the drain.


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