Globalization and Language

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Globalization and Language

Globalization is the process of something becoming global, being transformed from a local or regional phenomena into a global one. With globalization, there is a movement of people coming together, unifying into a single society and functioning together. This process is not only an economic one, but also affects the technologies, politics, and cultures of the entire world. It is facilitated by the media of communications. Through radio and satellite information, we can reach the entire globe almost instantly; important events, or those deemed important by the people controlling the media, are broadcast around the world. This rapid flow of information around the earth is the globalization of knowledge, which is generally a good thing. However, with globalization there is the fear of homogenization when it comes to local cultures and customs. With popular culture being broadcast everywhere and imitated, the entire world is slowly starting to look, sound, smell, and even taste the same, no matter where you travel. This effect of globalization is commonly seen as a negative consequence of the modern world.

Since the sharing of information is an integral part of globalization, the language or languages this information is transmitted in is fundamental to the process. Currently, experts believe there are around 6,500 languages in use today. Out of those, however, only 11 languages account for more than half of what the world’s population speaks daily. Those languages include Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Hindi, French, Bengali, Portuguese, Russian, German, Japanese, Arabic, and English. On the flip side, it is believed that more than half of the world’s languages have fewer than 5,000 people currently speaking it, and on average one language is lost every two weeks. Since language is one of the major signifiers and connecting factors of a culture, it can be inferred by just looking at these statistics that so many languages being lost and barely used is an indicator of the loss of those cultures as well.

It is easy to see that with globalization, imported cultures can push out the indigenous ones- wiping out the smaller cultures and languages while homogenizing the local linguistic varieties. A good example of this is Canada. When the area was first colonized in the early 1600s, there were over 60 active languages being spoken. Now however, apart from the domination of English and French, only one native language has succeeded somewhat in staying alive: Inuktitut, spoken in the Northern regions of Canada by approximately 35,000 Inuits. Extreme examples such as this, however, are due to a very forced kind of globalization whereby the new culture has taken over and, in many cases, purposely wiped out the native customs. Left to its own devices, though, similar results will occur, just over a longer period of time.

There is evidence, on the other hand, that this theory of linguistic homogenization may not be the case. Recently, steps have been taken to help preserve those minority languages that are at risk of being lost like so many already have. The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML), for example, is a treaty adopted in 1992 under the Council of Europe to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe, applying only to those languages traditionally used by the nationals of the specific country, thereby excluding languages used by recent immigrants. These protected languages cannot be merely local dialects of the official or majority languages, though, and must either have a territorial basis, traditionally spoken by populations of regions within the State, or be used by linguistic minorities within the State as a whole, thus including languages such as Yiddish and Romani which are used over a large geographic area including multiple countries. The treaty sets out a number of specific measures to promote minority languages...
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