Will the Internet Make Most Languages Go Extinct?

Alex Mayasi:

If you ever find yourself at an Internet cafe in the Middle East, you may be surprised to find that you can read the letters on people’s screens—even if you don’t know Arabic.

It’s not just that many young people write in English. It’s that they often text and email in Arabic using latin characters. Rather than write مبروك, which means congratulations, they’ll write “mabrook.” They simply transliterate every word, writing Arabic in the same alphabet that English uses. Many shop signs in capital cities like Cairo and Amman do the same.

Observing this while living in Cairo, this author wondered whether the use of Arabic script would decline, like cursive writing in the United States.

A number of nonprofits and scholars are devoted to studying and protecting the world’s linguistic diversity. They focus on languages with dwindling numbers of native speakers, and try to preserve a record of tongues that die out.