It is generally recognized that technology may influence the incentive structure of people in different regions of the world regarding the use of a specific language. People using the same technologies are more likely to use a common language in their communication with each other. It is true that the amount of technologies controlled by a specific country directly influences the number of people speaking the language of the same country. However, this impact is neither mechanistic nor proportional. It is associated with people’s conscious decisions about the adoption of a specific language, and it requires some time lag. Thus, technology impact is serious, but it is not the only factor in this sphere.
Modern technologies are not neutral to people’s adoption of languages. They may either directly or indirectly encourage people to speak the same language. People sharing the same technological opportunities typically try to increase their communication, and the optimal way for achieving this purpose is using the same language (Hillm & Slater, 1998). As a result, the national boundaries do not play the serious role in this process anymore. Moreover, technologies do not affect all aspects of communication equally. Hui et al (2008) claim that listening comprehension skills may be negatively affected. Therefore, the overall impact of technology in each particular case cannot be determined on a priori basis. It should be assessed independently in each specific event.
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It is possible that technology influence is such that the number of people understanding a specific language tends to increase while the number of people speaking this language may decrease. Thus, these processes are very complex and may generate the unexpected results for experts or even its participants. At the same time, the impact of technologies on human behavior is not mechanistic. It means that some increase in technology use will not automatically lead to a higher popularity of a given language.
People always consciously select the mode of actions that addresses their needs in the most efficient way. This principle also exists in the field of linguistics, and people decide what language satisfies their needs in an optimal way. Although the availabiliy of technologies creates additional incentives for people to adopt a specific language, this decision may be made only by particular individuals. If some of them suggest that the costs associated with the acceptance of a specific language are higher than the expected benefits, they will not use it. However, in general, technology demonstrates additional advantages for people, and it may be awaited that in aggregate, the number of people using this language will increase.
Modern technologies provide a number of unique opportunities that are especially important for second language learners (Kating & Mirus, 2003). They may substantially improve their communication skills even without a direct intercourse with native speakers. Thus, technology impact may affect people’s decisions. Those countries that control technologies and their distribution may increase the popularity of their languages. However, this process is much more complex than it seems for a number of reasons.
First, technologies are controlled and distributed not by the countries in general but by specific companies. Therefore, the states do not “own” or “control” technologies in a sense as individuals do. Thus, this process is much more decentralized than it is generally recognized. Second, this procedure does not take place simultaneously (Lucas, 2013). In order to increase the popularity of a given language, technologies should become widespread. Moreover, during the adoption of new technologies, consumers have to evaluate them from the perspective of their current knowledge (usually their native language).
Thus, in making a decision about the expected utility of technologies, consumers do not typically plan to learn another language (at least ex ante). Thus, only useful and popular technologies may lead to people’s interest in new languages. It explains the reasons of non-proportional impact of technology development on the popularity of languages. For example, the increase of technology development by the second factor may lead to different situations. It is possible that the popularity of a given language only slightly increase if the introduced technologies do not adequately address the needs of the population. It is also possible that this increase will be very significant (more than twice) in case these technologies are extremely popular.
Therefore, it is problematic to determine a priori the ultimate results of technology in each particular situation. For this reason, national governments should not control the spreading of technologies and their development. If this process is organized exclusively by the private sector, commercial companies orient on the needs of ultimate consumers. As a result, technologies are more likely to become popular among consumers that will also lead to an increase in popularity of these languages. If the government tries to fulfill the functions of the private sector, the effectiveness of technology investments may decrease. It will also have a negative impact on people’s decision about the adoption of a given language.
Technology does not affect language directly, but it increases access to information and possibilities for obtaining new knowledge. Global virtual classes tend to become even more widespread nowadays; therefore, people try to determine new ways of improving their communication with each other. In order to reach this objective, they may decide either learn new languages or adopt even new technologies that may minimize this problem. It means that under specific conditions, technologies may even negatively affect the spreading of a given language.
It may be concluded that the impact of technology on languages is significant, but it is much more complex than it seems. Technologies affect the amount of opportunities and demonstrate the needs to communicate with each other. It means that people receive additional incentives to learn new languages. However, this impact is not mechanistic as people always compare all available alternatives and make decisions that may generate the highest benefits for them.
Consumers are active participants of this process, and they do not respond automatically to the emergence of new technologies. They make rational and emotional actions that affect their well-being. In fact, technologies have influence on the entire system of communication creating new incentives for more intensive communication. However, the actual outcomes, the structure of language skills, and their spreading may be different in each particular case.
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