War and Peace of Languages and Cultures?

Topics: Linguistics, Moscow, Second language Pages: 15 (3934 words) Published: December 25, 2013

Intercultural Communication Studies XVII: 2 2008

War and Peace of Languages and Cultures?

Svetlana Ter-Minasova, Moscow State University


The future of mankind depends largely on its ability to communicate. Technical progress provides mankind with an ever-increasing variety of more and more powerful devices and forms of communication: tele-conferences, multi-media bridges, His or Her Majesty – the Internet! However, “the human factor” presents a number of problems hampering the idea of international communication. Generally speaking it is a basic inherent contradiction of equality versus diversity (individuality). People are created equal, they want to enjoy equal rights but they also want to keep their individuality.

The most formidable obstacles on the way to intercultural communication are: language and culture closely intertwined in constant interaction. The paradox is that language as well as culture, stored in it, reflected and formed by it, are at the same time a barrier, a fence, separating peoples, and a shield protecting their national identity. Consequently, every language and every culture guard their subjects against all the “aliens” trying to intrude their domains. The paper deals with linguacultural issues hampering intercultural communication viewed as forms of “weapons” used in these wars.

The fantastic achievements of science and technology have got fantastic results in making people’s communication quick and easy. Technical progress has provided us with an ever-increasing variety of devices and forms of communication. The better, quicker and easier international communication is becoming technically, the more irritating are the obstacles, namely, linguistic and cultural barriers, undermining the possibilities of communication among nations.

The language barrier has been known since the time of the Tower of Babel when people were punished by the loss of possibility to communicate. It is quite obvious that nations are separated by their languages. Every language guards its people like a three-headed dragon in a fairy tale. You cannot outwit, bribe, deceive the guard, but you can learn it. Millions of people shatter the barrier. Many more millions are trying to do so. However, learning a language does not guarantee the luxury of efficient communication because the cultural barrier is looming large behind the language one. Thus, nations are separated by two barriers (walls, fences) interfering with their communication. The two guards defend their subjects from numerous intruders trying to penetrate into the domain of the nation. They do not let peoples work, study, build, live together in peace and friendship. However, the language and the culture of a nation are not just guards fighting anybody approaching it; they can also be regarded as shields protecting the nation, saving it from the loss of national identity.

Interestingly, the threat of globalization has given rise to a burst of national self- consciousness which generates a growing public interest in national values – first and foremost, in the national language and culture.
This, in its turn, raises some doubts whether the Tower of Babel incident was actually a punishment or a blessing in a very clever disguise: we are having multicolored meadows of


Intercultural Communication Studies XVII: 2 2008


various languages with specific visions of the world instead of a neatly cut green lawn of just one common (global?) language.
Thus, the double fence of language and culture protects its subjects from any intruders (foreign language learners, interpreters, translators, spies) regardless of their goals: languages and cultures fight both friends and enemies with the same enthusiasm and the same weapons. Developing the metaphor of “War and Peace” (mostly – alas! – war), the aim of this paper is to register and investigate various kinds of linguistic and cultural...

References: Benson, E., Benson, M., & Ilson, R. (1986). The BBI combinatory dictionary. Amsterdam /
Philadelphia: John Benjamin’s Publishing Company.
Daglish, R. S., & Taube, A. M. (2001). Russian-English contemporary dictionary. Moskva:
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