Language and Globalization

Beware of some myths:

1) Globalization is not as recent a phenomenon as economists have generally led us to believe, although it has undoubtedly operated in faster and more complex ways since the late 1980s.

2) Globalization does not mean the same thing as its more common French translation mondialisation – it certainly does not boil down to McDonaldization or Americanization.

3) It would not be mistaken to characterize globalization as a new form of colonization.

4) Claiming that it is making the world more and more uniform amounts to focusing on some epiphenomena only, thus overlooking disparities and ever-increasing inequities that it has created between the haves and have-nots, especially between highly industrialized and less-industrialized nations. Such a position overlooks many populations that either have been marginalized from globalization or are little affected by it.

5) Globalization as talked about by economists has not endangered languages to the same extent around the world.

6) It is not always privileging major European languages, certainly not everywhere, although these have typically served as lingua francas.

7) Lingua francas compete within their league, among themselves, whereas vernaculars compete within their league too. One must look at languages in various ethnographic settings as similar species competing for the same resources on which they depend for their survival. They are in true competition when they serve the same communicative functions for the same population of speakers. The world-wide spread of English today does not necessarily endanger indigenous languages – not in former exploitation colonies, where it serves primarily as a lingua franca – though it is slowing down or reversing the equally imperial spread of other European languages.

8) English is a beneficiary of globalization, not a means by which this phenomenon is affecting the relevant parts of the world.

9) English is not about to become a vernacular in continental Europe, despite its increasing usage in the business and academic worlds. It is therefore not endangering the vitality of continental European languages in their vernacular function.

10) Why should anybody be led to believe that marginalized European languages will be revitalized by their usage as official languages at meetings of the European Union?

      This course helps us debunk such myths and others. It helps us understand how complex and polymorphic the phenomenon of globalization is, grounding it in a rich historical and comparative perspective.



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