Problem

Cultural domination through language

Other Names:
Linguistic imperialism
Dominant role of English language
Nature:

The conceptual terms employed by the international community, whether in diplomacy, commerce, intergovernmental organizations, or the media, are introduced and reinforced by the powerful countries using relatively few languages. These terms are culturally biased against the wider range of concepts current in the larger variety of languages used in developing countries. The term "development" for example, has a perjorative connotation when expressing the objectives of the South. It masks the root problems that have to be overcome. Thus while this term was articulated and disseminated by the industrialized nations, some in the Third World wanting to themselves name the critical target, have expressed it as liberation. There are not in this view developing or under-developed nations and regions, but ones in which suppression of freedoms and rights calls for a term that encompasses the need for radical change.

Incidence:

In 1993, approximately 800 million people spoke English, which has become the international language, thus creating undue advantage for natives of English-speaking countries. It is also hindering countries which are actively trying to eradicate vestiges of colonialism by English-speaking powers and rebuild a national language and identity. In Malaysia and Indonesia, for example, there is concern that the spread of English is undermining the preeminence of Malay and Indonesian.

The Internet, in terms of services, software and content, is increasingly dominated by the English language, giving English-speakers an unfair advantage as well as distorting understanding into terms articulated through English.

Claim:

More and more leaders from under-developed areas are coming to regard 'development' as the lexicon of palliatives. Their recourse to the vocabulary of liberation is a vigorous measure of self-defence, aimed at overcoming the structural vulnerability which denies them control over the economic and political forces which impinge upon their societies.

Counter Claim:

Dominance by a single language or group of languages provides a linguistic unity in a global society subject to tendencies to fragmentation, notably in the case of the Internet.

Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
Date of last update
09.04.2019 – 11:45 CEST