Monday, March 7, 2011

Radio Vaticana: What? Only 38 Languages?!

Exploring the Holy See's official website (, I found Radio Vaticana, Radio Vatican's site: Unlike the Holy See, where the only options from the home page are 教廷, Der Heilige Stuhl, The Holy See, La Santa Sede (Español), Le Saint-Siège, La Santa Sede (Italiano), Sancta Sedes, or A Santa Sé; Radio Vatican's home page offers this selection:

The only language of the 38 options that I understand at all well is English, so I selected "English."

From there, I had to choose English World, English for Asia, or English for Africa.

What's so special about English, that it gets three subsections?

That has to do with what's happened over the last few centuries. Somebody said the British empire happened because England's weather was so - "dreary" might be a nice way to put it.

As the fellow said, "everybody with get-up-and-go, got up and went." I've discussed why folks often choose English when they want a global audience in another blog: "Why isn't there More Mandarin on the Web?," Apathetic Lemming of the North (April 4, 2008).

English: Africa, Asia, and Overlap

There's some overlap in topics between the three English language sections, but from what I saw, the "English World" is more likely to cover events, people, or issues that aren't directly connected to Africa or India. Like I said, though, there's overlap: like the killing of Shahbaz Bhatti.1

The English for Africa option includes English content, and articles in Kiswahili: like "Barua kwa Makleri katika hija ya Kipindi cha Kwaresima 2011." And yes, I know: Kiswahili is just one of many languages spoken in Africa - and that's almost another topic.

Languages, Relevant Angst, and Getting a Grip

There are a whole lot more than just 38 languages in the world. There's quite a list on Wikipedia, from Mandarin to Yaghan. Just one person, according to the article, speaks Yaghan: and that individual may not have Internet access, which might explain the lack of a Yaghan option on Radio Vaticana's website.

Even so, I could be dreadfully earnest and "relevant," by the standards of American culture - well, by the standards of an influential subculture - and wax indignant over Radio Vaticana's appalling insensitivity at not providing, say, Yaghan - or Tamil - or Lithuanian content. 'How dare they disenfranchise folks who speak those languages!'

But I won't. First of all, I've had quite enough of 'victimology.'

More to the point, Radio Vaticana does provide content in Lithuanian and Tamil. Not Yaghan, though: as far as I could tell. So the 1/6,928,198,253 of the world's population who speaks Yaghan could, I suppose, feel insulted at being left out.

Me? I'm not wracked with guilt at having grown up speaking a dialect of a language that's rather widely used. And I'm not affronted at having English stuck in between Deutsch and Español in a list of 38 language options. I certainly don't mind that Radio Vaticana doesn't seem to have a special section focusing on what's happening here in central Minnesota.

The Catholic Church: Universal, Really

It's "Radio Vaticana - La Voce del Papa e della Chiesa in dialogo con il mondo." ("Vatican Radio - The Voice of the Pope and the Church in dialogue with the world" in Italiano) I'm just glad that my native dialect is among those accommodated by the Catholic Church's websites.

Somewhat-related posts:

1Shahbaz Bhatti was Pakistan's minister for minority affairs, a Christian - and was killed last Wednesday. His killing was the "latest attack on a high-profile figure who had urged reform of the country's blasphemy laws, which make insulting Islam a capital crime." ("Islamabad bishop responds to assassination of Pakistani minister," Vatican Radio (March 2, 2011) And that's another topic.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.