Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Not Just Language, but Context is Important

A few hours ago, ran across "Speaking English" harder than just speaking English from Ars Technica. It talked about the complexities of a world standardizing in English. Nate Anderson argues that it isn't just knowing the language but also adding context to it--- especially with regard to local culture (or the person's culture to whom you are engaged in conversation with).

Here's a snippet (I strongly suggest reading the piece in its entirety):
English has long been the dominant language for international business and technology; heck, even a hat I picked up in the Czech Republic that was made and sold there said "Made in Czech Republic" on the label. When English becomes an adjunct to a native language, it can be a powerful tool for business and cross-cultural communication. The focus on English has its critics, though, who worry that it will eclipse other tongues, especially in immigrant communities in English-speaking countries. Such a view, long a staple issue in postcolonial literature, was put forward again today by Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), who wrote in a newspaper column that keeping another language and culture even has economic and political benefits.

"Contrary to what anti-immigrants argue, I know Vietnamese, Filipino, Indian, Latino and Chinese children in my district who have actually lost their family's native tongue," he wrote in a piece for the Mercury News. "When they grow up, they would be better equipped to carry out business relationships south of the border or in the Pacific Rim, had they kept their native languages. This would be even more important if they went on to help shape global U.S. policy."


missingpoints said...

Which is why us language / literary types refer to them as "englishes" (small 'e') when talking about the American, Filipino, Singaporean, etc variants.