On my last day in East Berlin, Germany, Edith, a friendly German colleague, gave me a quick tour of Alexanderplatz and Nikolai-vierte. I stood and gazed at the World Clock monument overlooking Alexanderplatz which shows simultaneous times in cities around the globe and the word “Weltanschauung” came to mind. I had ventured across the Atlantic and flown beyond time zones to get an overview of the multilingual world at the Languages & the Media Conference and the International Conference and Exhibition on Languages, EXPO, held in Berlin, Germany, November 20-23, 1996.

The theme of this conference evolved around the use of language(s) in the context of social challenges, modes of communication, and technology present for tomorrow, given that language(s) can serve dual functions as assets or obstacles to communication in the media. To what extent will new kinds of telecommunications impact language(s) and other forms of linguistic interactions? The concept of multipoint language diffusion, telematics, and distance-learning have become more prevalent in the global community.

In a multilingual environment, multipoint cooperation is promoted over bilateral collaboration only because the latter can become too limiting. Since the multipoint use of language has changed systematically in time, the existing tradition and knowledge is not satisfactory; consequently, there is a need to research and update knowledge on worldwide telecommunications and media to maximize linguistic diffusion within cultural contexts. “The medium is the message,” words of Marshall McLuhan, the media guru, echoed in the background. Or, can the message be perceived as the medium, “language as a medium”? These rhetorical questions and proposed new queries se the tone throughout the symposium for the panel discussions and the topics for the international team of speakers who attended the sessions.

The closing remarks at the end of this conference, called for media professionals and linguists to consider the consequences of multimedia and study the challenge of “language(s) without the media” or “the media without language(s)” in order to provide
viable solutions for a multilingual world.

Language and the Media Conference
Held in Berlin, Germany

Written by Gardenia Hung-Wittler for THE CHICATA News, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.