“The greatest impediment to recognizing, valuing and utilizing our language potential is a persistent monolingual mindset. Such a mindset sees everything in terms of monolingualism being the norm, even though there are more bi- and multilinguals in the world than monolinguals” (Clyne, 2005).
Add to the monolingual mindset the view that English is the only language worth knowing, then it’s too easy to end up with an incredibly powerful combination leading to skewed thinking that’s self-generating and hard to crack.
Sad to say it but the monolingual mindset is common amongst inhabitants of the English-speaking world. Here’s a good example:
“The new national curriculum will, after establishing Italian and Chinese, also teach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. Why? Can’t someone explain to the bureaucrats and educators that this is a massive waste of time and resources? English, as anyone who regularly travels will tell you, is the universal language of business, diplomacy and entertainment.”
This quote is taken from an opinion piece by a Melbourne-based media personality and press columnist that was published by the influential Herald-Sun (Feb 3, 2011). It appeared in an article titled ‘Let’s ditch the study of languages’.
He’s critical of current policy on teaching languages in Australian schools – and there is no doubt there are many problems and failings.
But to claim stridently that English is the UNIVERSAL language of business, diplomacy and entertainment is just plain WRONG. This person appears never to have ventured outside the Anglobubble……
I can assure visitors to this blog that LOTS of languages are used in business, diplomacy and entertainment – in every moment of the day….. Like many of you, I have seen it with my own eyes – and much of it can also be observed from inside the Anglobubble.
Here are some simple examples:
(a) BUSINESS: Chinese trade networks operate internally around the world in Chinese (and are becoming stronger each day)…. Even where they use other languages to reach the public in other countries, e.g. French in France or English in Australia, the appearance of signage in Chinese characters common in Chinatowns around the world shows that Chinese business are also happy to take your business in Chinese wherever or whoever you might be.
Most people doing business of any kind in the world, down to a cash transaction in the market, do it in local/national languages.
(b) DIPLOMACY: the French have their own diplomatic network operating in French (alongside English and other languages when needed). French diplomats speak French to diplomats from Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and many other countries. They call that network ‘la Francophonie’. The British call theirs ‘the Commonwealth’. The Russians have their own diplomatic network, centred on the former USSR, that operates in Russian….
(c) ENTERTAINMENT: Bollywood, well Bollywood does most of its magic in Hindi and other Indian languages……. The French do theirs in French… The Chinese in Chinese and the Koreans in Korean (it’s called the Korean Wave)…..
It’s going to be a fun ride as we gather and dissect other examples of the monolingual mindset in the Anglobubble in future blog posts……