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Thu Mar 25 22:55:57 UTC 1999

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	      From: "David Harris" <dharris at>
	      To: <endangered-languages-l at>
	      Subject: ELL: Observation regarding two recent threads
	      Date: Thu, 25 Mar 1999 17:55:57 -0500
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	      I just wanted to make a brief observation regarding two recent
	      threads. One
	      thread involved Transparent Language Systems, a
	      computerized-language-tutorial producer who has evidently
	      expressed interest
	      in creating template programs which could be used for promoting
	      the learning
	      of endangered languages by making it easy for anyone to produce
	      materials for any language. The other involves accusations made
	      by a list
	      member (Matthew McDonald) against an American Baptist

	      What surprised me was how quick many list members were to jump
	      on TLS for
	      making this offer, simply assuming that, as a business, they
	      must be out to
	      make money off the situation and, therefore, didn't really care
	      endangered languages. In contrast, only one other list member
	      sympathy for Matthew McDonald's position which, other than his
	      allegations against a Mr. Lewis, involved general statements of
	      Christian missionaries trample on indigenous rights.

	      Now I don't know much about this Lewis fellow per se, but it is
	      a historical
	      fact that Christian evangelist movements have sought to rot out
	      languages and traditions wherever they have reached. (In some
	      ironically enough, one Christian movement may work toward
	      rotting out
	      another Christian tradition). Only rarely has a missionary stood
	      up for what
	      was right and criticized his/her church for its destructive
	      policies. So it
	      seems to me that people sympathetic to the cause of preserving
	      languages, cultures, etc. would have a natural mistrust of

	      TLS, on the other hand, has developed some very nice products
	      that are very
	      effective tools for language learning. Yes, they make money as
	      everyone of
	      you list members do unless you're living on the street or on the
	      dole or out
	      in the wilderness somewhere and just happen to have a computer
	      at your
	      disposal in order to read this mail. Making money is a necessary
	      evil in
	      this society.

	      Obviously, there is much to mistrust about
	      business. Particularly large and
	      powerful corporations whose undue influence I fear much more
	      than that of
	      "big government." But if it weren't for the endowments which
	      fund much of
	      the cost of running the universities where many list members are
	      (which come, almost without exception, from business) or the
	      taxes (which
	      come also from business, ultimately), those people would not be
	      able to be

	      Incidentally, I was a missionary in Europe for two years, so I
	      know a lot
	      about evangelism. I know that many of its goals are good, but
	      it cannot be denied that the Church, whether acting alone or as
	      a lackey for
	      political powers, has wreaked a lot of havoc on the world over
	      centuries. I don't think TLS is guilty of any of these offenses.

	          -David Harris
		       Washington, DC
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