A Museum of Linguistics? Sign Me Up!

I was really excited to learn that there is soon to be a museum of linguistics in Washington, D.C. According to the article, “’Planet Word’ will be an interactive center dedicated to language arts, in the vein of the National Museum of Mathematics in New York.” My first reaction, of course, is to stop myself from immediately planning the trip – it’s not built yet. Let’s give them time to have some actual exhibits before I show up on their doorstep, shall we?

Reading further, I’m a little wary, though.  The exhibits listed suggest that visitors will get to “[i]dentify accents, tell us how you say soda and hoagie, learn tips from professional dialect coaches, and climb a Tower of Babel or tunnel through a prepositional playground.”

I can see that this is meant to be kid-centric, and I’m all about gaining their interest. I was just hoping for some more in-depth content. I also really hope that there are exhibits on the types of linguistic careers that kids could explore. Teaching them a little about historical linguistics, developmental linguistics, and computational linguistics, for example, may inspire them to consider those professions.  I’m also hoping that the “Tower of Babel” is just a playground with a bunch of languages represented rather than presenting the Biblical metaphor as accurate history. It’s kind of antithetical to the field.

I’ll probably still end up there, once it’s built. I want to see what they decide to include, and I’m sure I’ll learn something. I’m also just curious to see how they present these concepts in engaging ways. Inspiring interest isn’t always easy, especially getting kids interested in a science that can be abstract. It’s not exactly dinosaurs and robots. Some creativity is in order, and I’m interested in what the organizers come up with.

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