2.2. English and the rest: are we discriminated against?

The dominance of English in international relations as a medium to facilitate communication is a matter of concern for states and organisations. Voices against the dominant position of English among other languages, seen as a master-slave relationship, have little chance to reverse the trend. Yukio Tsuda, Professor at Nagoya University, Japan, while recognising that English is the de facto international language, insists that we should not take it for granted. His diatribes against the hegemony of English (in English, of course, how else would we hear about these?), seen as an expression of neo-colonialism and globalism, inequality and discrimination, call for a counter-attack against an Anglo-Americanisation of world culture. In his opinion, the English-dominated Western academic community do not seem to care that native speakers of English take full advantage of the linguistic and communicative inequality to their own benefit. In international conferences, they tend to push non-native speakers out of discussions, by speaking quickly and using a large amount of jargon and idioms:

'It seems that native speakers of English in the English-dominated conferences, use their linguistic advantage to magnify their power so that they can establish the unequal and asymmetrical relationship with the non-English-speakers and thus push them out of the mainstream of communication ... Thus, native speakers of English reign as a prestigious ruling class of international communication: they can easily express their ideas any time, while non-native speakers and people who do not speak English constitute the "muted" working class of international communication: they are slaved to learn English and have difficulty in expressing their ideas' (Tsuda 1997).

Tsuda is but one of the militants for a more equal international communication and linguistic pluralism, although his critics and solutions are a bit chaotic and unrealist.

The website 'Language Futures Europe', maintained by the Dutch political scientist Paul Treanor, is a portal which collects links to texts and essays, EU policy, national policies, and research sites on language policy, multilingualism, global language structures, and the dominance of English. According to Treanor, at least three trends can be identified in language matters:

In reality, we rarely face such extreme standpoints on linguistic issues: there are more refined mixtures, changing in time and location, according to the balance of power between centres and regions, majority and minorities, control and autonomy, local people and newcomers, economic development and stagnation, democracy and oppression. States are the big players in language policies:

'Language policy ideals are usually associated with geopolitical visions. Nationalists support national languages, regionalists in Europe support regional languages, supporters of a cosmopolitan ethic often hope for a universal language. The desired language future corresponds to the desired geopolitical future'. (Treanor 2004).

Study of the history of Europe sometimes emphasises the difficulties of maintaining sensible judgements in language matters.


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