Wed, 02 Apr 2003 00:46:28 GMT

The Imperialism of Language.

The Imperialism of Language

I got some interesting email responses to my post yesterday, “The Language of Imperialism” that got me thinking. I have no problem with people disagreeing with me, or making me look at any issue from a different point of view — Tom from Denver wrote:

> [After kindly mentioning he likes reading my blog and often agrees with my views, he begins:]
> “I have to comment though on your latest entry “The
> Language of Imperialism”. I grew up in England
> (I've been in Denver now for 22 years), and have
> many relatives there and in France. There are some
> extremely practical reasons for many other countries
> to teach English as a second language, which is
> exactly WHY they do. Being an Engineer, one of the
> most obvious reasons is technical communication.
> The majority of technical publications and
> proceedings are published around the world in
> English because re-creating the complex terms and
> ideas in such things in some other languages is a
> complicated waste of time as many technical people
> use English terminology anyway. Also, communicating
> these ideas via computer and other electronic media
> requires the use of a keyboard. If you are
> Japanese, for instance, this rapidly becomes and
> impossibility since you would need a keyboard with
> thousands of characters just to be able to generate
> the average document. They get around this by using
> either a Japanese shorthand, which in itself is a
> separate skill to learn, or English, which make
> communicating to your target audience (i.e. Western
> Consumers) much easier anyway.
> Don't get me wrong though, I agree with you that
> everyone should be open to learning a new language
> and making the effort to “do as the Romans do” as it
> were. I break out my rusty French when I go to
> France, but inevitably, the people I speak to take
> pity on me (and themselves) and speak English. With
> the world getting smaller all the time, English may
> become more dominant, but the mindset needed to
> grasp the ideas of a foreign land will always be a
> valuable asset. It is in fact the kind of thing
> that could prevent wars. Given that our current
> leader in this country can barely speak English, it
> isn't surprising that diplomacy failed when you
> think about it in these terms.
> If you haven't already read it, you might find Bill
> Bryson's book “The Mother Tongue” a fascinating and
> funny read about the history of the English
> language. Recently I have been very interested in
> language history along with word etymology, so this
> book was well worth the read for me. Considering
> where English comes from (Celtic, Latin, German,
> French, and others) it really doesn't surprise me
> that it has become such an international language.”

Thanks Tom, food for thought. I'll check out the book too.
[Halley's Comment]

neener neener neener I'm citing this in my dissertation, neener neener neenr