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English was already the lingua franca of science, business and academia. Now English appears to be fast emerging as the media language of choice. Al Jazeera is preparing to debut a 24-hour news channel in English. A TV station in Russia also started English broadcasting this month (but got hacked down).

Recently, an ex-FIFA sports official praised the French newspaper, L'Equipe, for some of it's hard-hitting doping coverage, including revelations about Lance Armstrong. But, he added, they just don't get the same notice because their reporting is in French.

His implication: If news is not in English, it didn't happen.

Have you seen any examples of growing use of English in media or backlash against it?

Disclosure: This question is asked in preparation for writing a story for the IHT, so I may get back to you for follow-up.

53 Comments

Thomas, out here in India, regional language News is pretty big. India is a country of many languages and the regional language TVs and Newspapers still have a strong hold on news.

English is a strong connector amongst Indians but its restricted to Urban India.

My 2 cents.

I'm not that sure English is that dominant at all. Yes, it might be if it is your own working language, but I'm mostly amazed about how limited the information is that crosses cultural and linguistic barriers. Only three percent of the Chinese internet users visits websites outside the mainland, mainly because they cannot be bothered. I see similar cultural entities all over Europe. I guess most French journalists want to make an impact in their own community and are not bothered by the English-language media they cannot read anyway.

Kiruba/Fons: But do either of you have any examples of backlash against English in the media or support for English in media?

No really a backlash. There are a few sites that would translate some English news and information into Chinese or the other way around, but mostly it is a matter of mutual ignorance I would say.

Thomas, there has been sporadic attacks on english by some regional fanatic political parties. They fear that english is creeping into regional languages and that these languages lose their identity. Don't have a link yet that I can pass on. Will do when I lay my hands on them.

Cheers.

What I find interesting is how English language has morphed and acquired various regional flavors in the world of blogsphere. Like the world of blogs and podcasts, English language is constantly morphing and changing in a dynamic way, and the recent inclusion of new words in the Oxford Dictionary reflects that trend.

I notice this in the Indian and South Asian blogsphere where regional phrases and words are used frequently used. Even the choice of blog names by South Asians who live outside the country reflects their South Asian background. One example is "Chapati Mystery" (please check), and the other is "DesiPundit."

I grew up in India and learnt English right from childhood, and like many Indians think in English, and find myself writing in H inglish, Tamlish or Inglish frequently.

My podcast: http://talknewsindia.libsyn.com/

Bah. Outside france, perhaps - but in France, if it isnt printed in French news, it just didnt happen, looks like - with all due respect to the IHT being published out of Paris, of course.

Ditto with the CJK area and local languages in the region.

The local language media, at least in India, gets tagged as "vernacular" .. with an added if unspoken implication that it is rustic, untutored, a country cousin of mainstream english language media. Standards of journalism aren't too high in local language newspapers these days [well, mainstream english papers in India, are mostly dumbed down tabloids with little or no news these days .. quite a change from even a decade or two back]

As for bloggers deliberately choosing "ethnic" english names for their blogs .. well, who cares? They think it looks trendy I guess.

Personally speaking I try not to mix two languages when I write. *Especially* when I write something that goes where someone can see it. English is a bastard child of several languages, and assimilates words from more than one language routinely, without the Oxford English Dictionary going out of its way to compile new "indianisms"

And I teach my staffers (email support, natch) to do the same, so that they don't write hinglish or chinglish in any email they send out. The best way to do that is probably to get them started on not going "OK lah" or "Please revert back to me after doing the needful"

Most "indianisms" like that "do the needful" thing are more often than not archaic (50..60 year old) english words that still find themselves getting used, thanks to school children learning English grammar from PC Wren and H.Martin's "High School English Grammar and Composition", and thanks to idiots who think it is "standard business english".

Wren was also the author of "Beau Geste", if it serves to more or less date that grammar textbook.. its been around for decades, so that at least one of my friends back in school was using his grandfather's copy of Wren & Martin.

English is the unofficial language of the world.
Since it is the most popular international language on earth.

It is the official language of my country Nigeria. And without the English language there would be no Nigeria. Because there are over 250 different native dialects spoken by over 100 ethnic groups in Nigeria. Without the popularity and national acceptance of the English language, most Nigerians would not have been able to communicate and interact as one nation.

There was an attempt to stop the official use of English by a former Minster of Education who was a Muslim and he proposed that subjects should be taught in the major mother-tongues of the three major tribes in Nigeria. But his proposal was rejected, because of the negative consequences. In fact the minor tribes preferred English to the imposition of the native dialects of the three major tribes of Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. So, English has remained as the official language of choice in the most populous country in Africa, Nigeria.

thomas: Most of the response seems to be coming from the African and Asian theater !! These are the regions is where english appears to be a second language.

The question is if its not reported in English, then its not news.. is way out of wack !! Why should that not be news ?? E.g. Most of the news that I used to get during my stay in the middleast was from my driver who used to read the arabic paper "al watan" and "Khaleej times" - He then translated into broken, but comprehensiable information /english.. But that was news ..correct and it was 'correct new' too !!

suresh : "As for bloggers deliberately choosing "ethnic" english names for their blogs .. well, who cares? They think it looks trendy I guess"
nope its not trendy, when Googs or any other bloggin s/w creates the methods to blog in tamil, kanada, guji or bengali or any other language, then you will see the pwoer of conversations and the linkernet becomes active.

So suresh, why is not your webpage in Tamil ??

Thomas, you should be talking to Ethan Zuckerman at Harvard, if you haven't done so already. He's doing fantastic research on media attention to different parts of the world, using various crawling techniques. He's writing a piece on the differing attention profiles of media and blogging for a book that I'm co-editing, which is well worth a read - but I also know that he's got a lot of data under his belt which isn't publicly available.

Regional languages out here in India are big within states in India. However, you must understand that the importance of a regional language (as far as news go) is in context - it's restricted to that particular state.

Peter - thanks for bearing out a bit of what I said.

Tamil? Its my mother tongue. But I've grown up in several states near tamil nadu (capital - madras), so never did learn Tamil at school.

Grew up speaking english, hindi and a couple of other south indian languages (telugu and kannada)

Can speak and read / write english, ditto hindi (though writing any hindi, or reading hindi outside of, say, a sign in an airport or train station, is not something I do at all, after I stopped learning it in high school .. speak it fluently though). Can't write tamil. Can't read too much either (print on shop / bus signs is all). And my spoken tamil is so weirdly accented, at least two different people, over a period of several years, have asked me if I'm actually _bengali_ (no, never been to calcutta and i dont speak / read / write bengali, not even to follow Satyajit Ray movies, my next favorite parallel cinema after Kurosawa .. Ray met Kurosawa at least once btw, and was strongly influenced by him)

But I digress. Anyway, that's the reason I wouldn't blog in anything but English, even if there was a standardized enough charset and usable keyboards to input that charset in (and http://ta.wikipedia.org shows that's already there, more or less)

As a matter of fact, India would probably fall apart without english to conduct business in, and hindi movies for people to see, I guess :)

And I prefer English, somehow. My hindi has a strongly hyderabadi flavor (which is to say, the accent, the words used etc are as typical, unique and hard for outsiders to understand as, say, Strine instead of regular english), so I'd rather not inflict it on people outside Hyderabad.
Orikinla - yup, good point. During a brief visit to Lagos / Abuja a few months back, I found that out first hand. Probably the most fluent english I've heard, and I love the accent. Hmm.. Obasanjo might just decide to improve the connectivity there and set up call centers, draw off all the market that's coming to india. If that gives educated + unemployed kids usable jobs and saves them from sending 419 spam to make a quick buck, my users would thank him, I'm sure :)

About the only "locally flavored english" I managed to hear was a series of "Yoruba man say..." type jokes by a local standup comedian called "Big Mouth", at a dinner reception. But what the hell, I understood quite a few of those too, somehow.

The thing about English is that is incredibly common as a second language in many countries. I have no problem trying to learn the languages of countries I visit, but sometimes you just can't remember the word in French or German or Chinese or Japanese or whatever and you sort of revert to English and many times you can get your point across in a mishmash of their native langauge and English, with a bit of hand gesturing.

On my recent trips to Asia, I've had more than a dozen Chinese people tell me that in China if you want a good job, you need to learn English. Kind of odd.

Yes, English itself is the killer app, as Dan Pink (www.danpink.com) noted in his A WHOLE NEW MIND.

In many cases I think this is true and a new story is more likely to become globally important if it started out in, or was soon translated into, English.
Maybe the countries that lose out are those that are more protective of their languages, such as France or Japan. It certainly seems that here in Japan a story has to be in Japanese for it to become relevant and some important international stores are lost due to the emphasis on National news.

Thomas, the conundrum is that English (as a language) is both a uniting factor as well as a contributor to why there is little adoption of other languages.

Perhaps it has got a bit to do with colonial history and colonialism. Over time, the English language became predominant. Historical accounts have shown that when the colonial powers came, they promoted their own languages and this resulted in the relegation of local languages.

This situation was further propogated when the citizens of the colonial powers went for higher education in English speaking countries. They then came back and told their children that they should also learn the language.

Consequently, with that sort of background, it is not a wonder that "if it ain't in English" it ain't news.

Also I agree with the earlier commentators that since the primary medium of contact on the Internet is still English or more accurately ASCII scripts, English continues to prevail.

Given China's recent rise and given the large Chinese populations in most parts of the world other than China, that may well change in 50 years. I don't know, but I am getting my kids educated in both English and Chinese (just in case)

.

The drawback with the whole concept of an international language for news is that the country that is most powerful in that language can end up controlling the agenda.
They can end up picking which foreign language stories become important in this global language, and thus control which stories become globally recognised.
This may be what happened with the "revelations" about Lance Armstrong: it was a story that would not go down particularly well in the US, and was thus not given much coverage.
PS. L'equipe is a great paper; I used to read it all the time in France. Good luck with the article....

Notre histoire et notre rayonnement mondial durant ces siècles génèrent chez nous cette espèce "d'arrogance culturelle" qui fait que nous voulons croire encore en la portée de notre belle langue. Le français fut l'une des langues les plus utilisées au monde et cette déchéance (malheur à nous) est dure à avaler. Voilà pourquoi nous français, au delà de la volonté de ne pas perdre notre identité, nous nous accrochons à notre langue. Mais soyez persuadé que de plus en plus de mes compatriotes sont maintenant familier avec l'anglais et plus encore avec le globbish ! D'ailleurs comme nombreux d'entre vous l'ont dit, l'anglais littéraire est amené à disparaître pour un langage international basée sur cette langue qui déjà au départ qu'un doux mélange. Désolé d'écrire ce billet en français mais je fais partie de ce petit village gaulois, qui avec ses amis Canadiens, se bat pour survivre.

I apologize to write in French, but I would like to check if the prediction (If news is not in English, did it happen?) is true and will be validated. ;->
Best regards to all.

Seeing french beyond my imperfect understanding of it (enough for cab drivers and restaurants when I'm in Geneva or Paris is all the french I can lay claim to), I babelfished what Didier said.

True. Very true - but I guess there are lots and lots of french words in English, courtesy the normans (and the breton sailors, I guess).

Oh, would I have babelfished a french newspaper that linked to a story in google news, instead of clicking on an english paper reporting the same incident? Probably not.

One interesting experiment to try if you are multilingual is to see how the media in each language slants its reportage of a particular event.

Someone had a great piece about arab journalists in the USA and their reportage of Katrina, in Joi's blog .. reportage by a group of people who stay glued to washington and are completely out of touch with realities in other parts of the USA, plus have some pet themes on which they try to harp rather than doing a more nuanced treatment of any story.

Similarly - I have a feeling that the chinese / japanese / korean media treats anything that happens / gets reported in english press with a sort of disdain - perhaps an extension of the insularity in Japan (and the rest of the CJK area) that Joi blogged about recently ..

Suresh: It certainly is true - to paraphrase Tip O'Neill about politics: All news is local.

From this discussion, it sounds almost like English is the killer app when it comes to communicating.

If you want your message out there, it needs to be in English.

Thomas, I would definitely mention teleSur as a countertrend to the rise of English-only international news agencies. Looking forward to the article.

You might also want to mention prominent non-English blogs like that of Chilean Senator Fernando Flores who consistently translates articles from major English dailies into Spanish thus, in a way, promoting further the ubiquity of English only news, but also making it not "English only."

Oso: Very interesting concrete examples. Thanks!

I'd like to turn the question around and ask, "It may happen to be in English, but is it news ?"

One might argue that for a piece of information to be "news", it has to be brought to the attention of a fairly large number of people. An English-language blog that is read by only a handful of persons, for example, is not really a news outlet in the ordinary sense of the word "news".

So, for something to be news, it has to be created and made available, i.e. "knowable", at least in theory.
English isn't a necessary condition for this, as e.g. a Finnish newspaper or TV might have a correspondent in Brussels, or a German entity have a correspondent in Moscow, or a Spanish news corp have a man in Buenos Aires, or a Japanese entity have a reporter stationed in Beijing.

Furthermore, for something to be news, it has to be broadcast, published, "made known".
English isn't a sufficient condition for this. In most countries, reporting by the local media focuses on locally or nationally relevant issues, with international topics (the most likely to be reported in English) typically taking up but a few percent of TV time, or one page in a newspaper. Besides, some of these international topics might also be reported by that media outlet's foreign correspondants, instead of being based e.g. on an English-language news agency dispatch.

So, even though there's a vast ocean of English-language information that is produced daily, only a ridiculously small part of it actually manages to seep into a country's news media outlets. As significant selection and filtering will take place at the local level reflecting e.g. cultural preferences or biases, the influence a powerful English-language country might wield on what gets to be submitted to a non English-speaking audience seems quite limited.

Maybe it's offtopic, but i just wanted to say, that it's really interesting to read everything this with comments... You discuss here a lot of interesting things on different news =). Thanks for that =)

Recently, an ex-FIFA sports official praised the French newspaper, L'Equipe, for some of it's hard-hitting doping coverage, including revelations about Lance Armstrong. But, he added, they just don't get the same notice because their reporting is in French.
I suspect that they didn't get much notice because L'Equipe is known to operate on the fringes of respectable journalism, not because they were published in French. The epilogue to the story is that the International Cycling Union is now investigating the conduct of those associated with the Armstrong allegations.

My question would be, how many of us here are either born Brithish, Australian, Canadian, American ... or former colonies of the British?

Therefore we (including me) inherited the langauge by hooked or by crooked. But what if the same question is asked in French or Spanish, for example? Then the readers would be in that particular language(s), would their resposes the same as we read/write here??? Something to think about, isn't it?

Would the Chinese, Korean be disdain if the news is in English. That depends. If they understand the langauge (English in this case), I would assume they are more concern about the contents than that language itself. Unless the person is a linguist??? If the person does not understand English, well, I would think it would be 'Greek' to the person, don't matter if it is English, Singlish, or Tamlish???

Language barrier is one of the biggest barrier of digital divide. But I have another theory about English being the dominant language on ICT at this point. The REST of the world would know what the English world is doing, BUT would the English world knows what the rest of the world are doing? So much good stuff lost and barried without being discovered. Isn't it sad to a world that claims internet would connect the world?

"digital divide" is a much misused term for what you describe, I think. "Communication gap" would fit the bill better, and it is something that people are able to resolve, daily and routinely, without holding conferences on it :)

Though international cooperation to resolve communication gaps and build channels of communication is something that keeps getting addressed by one conference after another.

Thomas - there are some vibrant sources of local language news that are really good, really well known for their reportage. Just as there are some good English news sources.

This is again an illustration of sturgeon's law (99% of everything is crap). There are some quite interesting 24x7 news channels in local languages (such as NDTV 24x7, a hindi news channel [and another english news channel] that has a reputation for quite decent programming - http://www.ndtv.com) that do manage to stay on the 1% side of sturgeons law.

As for the rest? all the papers, online portals etc have access to the same information (international wire services like Reuters, AP and AFP, syndicated columns from various large newspapers like the NYT, Guardian etc ...) that gets recycled

Beyond that it all boils down to the reporter's call on whether to print / recycle the story or not, and the newspaper's "priorities", whether they are insular and disdainful of non local news.

Forget japanese media and insular japanese disdain for english.. take CNN for an example. CNN does tend to hark back to its cable channel news, and putting blithering idiots like Lou Dobbs on primetime national TV to rant about how all those nasty immigrants are ruining America's economy is something that harks back to their days providing cable to trailer parks in the backwoods deep south and dirt farms in the bible belt. .. they're very careful to leave him out of their international programming, though - that's probably a mercy.

OK. "communication gap" as you termed it. But what is the real difference one term or the other? The reason you and I are both here is because we know English. Or rather you have good command of the English langauge ... so what 'gap' would that be to the rest that do not have that ability?

Quote ... and it is something that people are able to resolve, daily and routinely, without holding conferences on it :)... unquote. I am not so sure it is true. If I understand you correctly, I would think it all depends on what kind of 'communication gap' one is dealing with. Some can easily solve with the help of hands and feet (that is if one is face-to-face), some not (especially if it is online communication).

Cindy

It is true that if a news item is not reported in your language, then you would not be aware of that particular event. Someone in Germany could ask: "If news is not in German, did it happen?" Not if you only speak German and no one provides a translation. The question then is whether an item is news worthy enough so that it gets distributed by AP, AFP, DP, etc. and then translated into your regional language. The barrier to distribution may be lower if no translation is required, but I am not sure how much this matters.

It sounds like the L'Equipe article was not interesting enough to be reported in the States, while the indictment of Armstrong in Italy was. I am assuming that Italy and France are similar in terms of who speaks English, which then means that the claim that the original source has to be in english is not supported.

What I find curious in Germany is that english words are sometimes used when equivalent words exist in German. This may create an international aura, or it may define an "in group." I have also seen this in the US (mainly in academic articles), but the effect and use is smaller since fewer people here speak a second or third language.

"Now English appears to be fast emerging as the media language of choice" seems to be a bit of an overstatement, but I only know the US and Europe. in Europe it certainly is not the media language of choice outside of England. In regards to Al Jazeera and "Russia Today" one has to ask whom they perceive as their primary audience? It is obviously neither russian nor arabic speaking. Also, how are they funded, and with what intentions?

Here's a dichotomy of thought. Let's say "news" is only cut in sanskrit- aka mother of all languages, would this be news and would all media accept this ??

Just askin- as most language expert say that one of the root langagues is supposed to sanskrit. Nope, I have not checked the factiod. However, I am digressing my thoughts to ask myself a simple question- which was the first known language that was spoken and written and should not that be used as the offical medium of communication ??
Yeah, I know its a wierd thought - but any comments would be nice !!

/pd: Perhaps all news should be in Esperanto!

But on the point of the influence of English language on news, I think Reinhard raises an interesting trend: English-creep.

Here is France they are very sensitve to English words creeping into the language. (Advertisers for a time were force to use "coussin gonflable de securite" instead of "airbag")

English creep happens frequently with high-tech terms, but is it happening with other forms of information?

Cindy - Please do bear in mind that reporters from chinese / japanese / arabic or whatever newspapers quite likely are fluent in english, given that they have to run a newspaper that covers international news

It is more like "given a choice between an english paper and a japanese paper, do you find someone who hates english so much that he will make it a point not to read the english paper"? -- one sort of communication gap

Another thing is "if the reporter / editor reads something in an english newspaper, wont he apply his own perceptions and slant to the news so that he may print what is basically a grossly distorted version of the story, even allowing for loss of some meaning in translation".

Thomas: you bring up an interesting. I live in canada and work for an f50 company. We have a branch in montreal and one fine day-the language inspector strolls in and says all the signage has to in french. Now, I understand the sentiments of the francophonics-but was that really required ? Or they went 1 step further- all keyboards had to have dual lexigrams on it. Ouch- that was rubbing the nose into the mud- why becuase in quebue its the law to have it in french andthen in english !!

Is this a social barrier or a cultural stance which is rigidly being consumed by the french and/or francophonics ??

Language enforcement in bilingual places is fairly common. And if it is in India, well, it becomes a circus.

A lot of the political parties currently in government in the south indian states (all partitioned on the basis of language, back in the 60s) cut their political teeth on "anti hindi" campaigns that were aimed at stopping the government from enforcing hindi to what, they considered, was the detriment of local languages.

They of course did this by having anti hindi "demonstrations" that turned out to be rather interesting case studies in riot management, and having their party members "volunteer" to go around with cans of black paint, painting over all the hindi signage they saw [with signs in railway stations, airports and govt buildings and being trilingual, english, hindi and say, tamil in tamil nadu // capital -> madras / chennai back then]

Yes, language barriers can have a huge impact and the French do not have a monopoly in erecting them.

When I visited Jaffna five years ago it was very striking how many of the Sinhalese soldiers could not speak to the Tamil population.

The common language policy of Sri Lanka (promoting English) had been phased out a generation earlier, meaning that people on the two sides of a national conflict literally could not speak to each other.

I do not fully understand the French obsession with stopping the creep of English, apart from national pride.

Heck, we tamils from Tamil Nadu, India (aka Chennai/Madras) can't speak too easily with the sri lankan tamils, they've got this weird sounding accent and particular words that come in quite useful for a comedy track in movies :)

Suresh: I think that the spoken tamil of the southindian states would sound as wierd as to the srilankan tamils too. Just a different flavour.

Thomas: yes, national pride is something that needs to taken into consideration. French is spoken in many north african states- I really don't see that type of nationalism in those countries - not allowing english creep into their spoken french. Using that as a bias, I then am forced to think that the french in general are snobbish and its part of being the culture of being french. The bests wine are supposed to be french. The best food is supposed to french. In the old days, the centre of the world was paris !! So this type of soci-pychosis is part of the french identity and then it cascades into the oldest rivalry in the world. France and england. French and english..

Ok that's was my mini thesis :)-

Here in Brazil, most, if not all, news is in portuguese. The problem is that the source for news that are not from Brazil, comes from english (mostly US) sources. Even some local news come from these sources.

One thing that annoys me is that we hardly see "another view" of something. Most newspaper, TV, radios, are "aligned" to a view and its hard to find other opinions on the same subject.

/pd isn't it the case that most cultures think that they are the center of the world? Which makes sense as they create their own shared truths and biases, which may differ from other countries. From where I sit I am certainly the center of my world.

I love Louis De Funes, he is certainly one of the funniest comedians. That scene where he eats cabbage soup and then the aliens show up is **the funniest** scene I know. Voltaire is also terrific.

I think it is useful that languages differ. Certain concepts do not translate well into other languages, or in time within a given language, because lexical taxonomies differ or change over time. For ideas to develop you want people to think in different directions, so differences in languages are a good thing. For example, if you are into computer science then you have mental structures which you apply to problems, and everyone who understands comp science understands you. If you are a statistician or historian you have different mental models and you approach certain problems differently, which then creates different solutions. This difference in thought applies also to different cultures and languages, which, again, is good in my book.

You can make a case that if cultures which share a language produce a lot of ideas then a certain number of people will adopt the language of those ideas directly without going through a translation process. But, if a culture does not "value" other languages then there will be few "foreign" artifacts in that language, because there is limited access to "foreign" ideas before they go through translation. There will also not be the problem that many "unintelligible" words are being adopted by the educated class.

Didier, was the last sentence a reference to Asterix?

Thomas, what is your working Thesis so far?

Rienhard: can two different people think the same thought ? Yes. Can two different people think the same thought in different languages ? Yes. Can two cultures have the same belief in two different languages ?? - I think yes. Now to the question- english has so many french words in it- e.g she is tres chic , yet in french its so difficult to find the same. I mean french has creeped into english. So what about the other way around ?? What is stopping it or why is it being stopped ??

Reinhard: Some things that came out of this discussion:

- English is dominance and usefulness internationally.

- There appears to be no rivals to the preeminence of English.

- People are concerned (Rafael Jeffman) that the dominance of a single language in news can make it seem difficult to get alternate viewpoints.

- France (and not even other French-speaking countries) appear the most exercised about the dominance of English.

As for the article itself, a colleague will likely be working on it when I am on holiday. I will definitely post it when it comes out.

Feel free to highlight any other findings you saw as key in the great discussion. Thanks to all!!


There are common elements to some of our languages because they are Indo-Germanic (or "Indo-European" as it seems to be called in the UK). Some elements are common due to war and occupation. In Bavarian we have words like "trottoir" which is not widely used, but does exist as a result of the napoleonic wars. I do not think that people take issue with words originating from these sources.

I went and read a couple of articles of the "Verein Deutscher Sprache" to understand some of their arguments. We do cherish great writers because they have a great command of their language. They are able to express their thoughts precisely and with great beauty (e.g. Jorge Luis Borges). Usually this means work, attention to detail, and, I guess, artistic inspiration. We therefore have some sort of literary standard that is admired.

We do to some extend devalue people who cannot express themselves clearly and who cannot spell ("do the needful" sounds like someone taking a crap). I greatly enjoyed a PBS program called "Do you speak American" which investigated they different ways English is spoken within the US. I especially enjoyed the parts about "Chicano", "Valley Girl," and "Surfer Dude" in California. Some people in the US do have the tendency to use "like" a lot. For example: I was like "why don't you go to the mall," and then, he was like "I don't know" ... and then, I was all like: "whatever!"

There therefore is some sort of language ideal, and there are clear violations and misuse of language. Some parts are a result of local cultural differences (as the PBS program points out), or laziness, or an environment where you adopt poor use of language.

The "Verein Deutscher Sprache" (society for German Language) does not seem to be some intolerant nationalistic group, but they point out that some use of "anglicisms" is confusing, does not make sense, uses the words incorrectly, and violates rules of grammar. Most examples originate from product marketing. For example, Germans call their cell phone "handy." Or, just in as in English, you have a music "hit." But, "Hits for Kids" may take on a different meaning. The complaint is that some "bad english" is integrated into the German language, meaning that the use would not be acceptable within british or american English. Some English words like "E-mail" are simply used because they are shorter than "Elektronische Post" (German has some long words, maybe E-Post?). They connect this use of "anglicisms" with consumerism and call it "McWorld-Kauderwelsch," i.e. McWorld-Juxtaposition which refers to the blandness of McDonalds' food.

The writer compares language to music, and make the case that improper inclusion of foreign words makes the language imprecise and disharmonious. They say that France seem to be more concerned about their language than the Germans are, but I get the feeling that the writer thinks that Germans should be more concerned.

Yes, English is clearly useful and dominant internationally, and a global language which enables everyone to more or less communicate. I think it is great because English is easier to learn than other languages.

"There appears to be no rivals to the preeminence of English" at this point in time. In the past you had other languages that at least dominated science, and a global media is a somewhat of a recent phenomenon. Historically, things are always in flux.

"France (and not even other French-speaking countries) appear the most exercised about the dominance of English." Quebec seems to have laws that regulate the use of English and French, and some people within Quebec want to be independent of Canada.

Recognizing concerns that some cultures have into the adoption of incorrect english into their own language is important. It does not make them snobbish. Is a linguist who says that the english language is going down the drain snobbish? Maybe, maybe not.

/pd: yes, yes, yes, but that does not mean that people think about problems in the same way. I believe that your thinking is deeply embedded in your language and it goes beyond words being mere labels. But hey, I am no Chomsky, so I do not know the details. I live in the US and I have not heard "tres chic" being used anywhere. You do not have German marketing speak that invades your language, and which is used in a way that would make Germans shudder. Ok, there was "Vorsprung durch Technik", but that's about it, and no one started to say: "boy, that's a big vorsprung." Trust me, you are better off without it.

...back to work ...

Reinhard: good conversations, could this ever happened if we both we not writing in english ??

Yes -"Quebec seems to have laws that regulate the use of English and French, and some people within Quebec want to be independent of Canada." , this is very true, yet the same quebucios folks are the ones which renegaded against the french during the early days !! :)-

I would question the assertion that the Lance Armstrong story is not being covered in the U.S. or English-language press. There has been quite a lot of coverage. Perhaps the French language journalists have an unrealistic expectation that the world stop spinning for everything they write.

A couple factors to consider are that (1) bicycle racing is not a major sport in the U.S., only being followed at all because Lance Armstrong is known, so scandals involving that sport are not going to get top billing, and (2) the perception among the few that do follow the sport that there is a bit of anti-American jingoism creeping into the reporting.

As a french-canadian - or quebecer - living in scandinavia, I must say I agree with the nigerian model - also the model adopted here in Denmark: everyone speaks perfect english and uses it for communicating with its neighbour without any fear of loosing its 'culture', or identity.

The problem with languages is that they represent both cultural identity and a mean to communicate. Having been in Europe for 5 years now, I can only state the obvious and conclude that international English should be made the common language of Europe.

Here is my case about Europe (and how it answers the question above).

The problem with Europe today is that it remains an intergovernmental organization of member states stuck in their monolingual narrowness: most states face the same economic and social problems, yet there is no collaboration on solutions due to language barriers. Insightful editorials by locally renowned intellectuals are of no value to the outside world because they are published in the local language only. Denmark has no clue what Germans are up to, whom really know nothing about how Danes deal with their own immigration or traffic issues. And they are direct neighbours! The only synergy in europe today is through the slow, top-down, stubbornly multilingual institutions of Brussels. But how can everyone European be expected to learn 25+ languages??

There is a lot of potential for creating synergy between countries. As I see it, the only way to enable this from grassroots level is to embrace and encourage the teaching of one common language, spoken and understood by all. If this common language was chosen to be Esperanto, all governmental services and publications at all levels would be offered in Esperanto as well as any local languages, all products would be labelled accordingly, all public spaces would be minimally bilingual, and most importantly all newspapers would publish in Esperanto as well as in their usual language of publication.

Outside Europe, since hardly anybody speaks Danish or German or Esperanto, the only view on Europe is through the British prism.. in English. However the UK is "frequently not in the mainstream of European thinking but rather the odd one out": the world was surprised that the EURO was successfully launched given the tone of the euro sceptic British media (See 'World has a distorted view of Europe' in FT some while ago).

SO TO ME THAT ANSWERS THE QUESTION: if news is not in English, it might have happened, but noone can really learn from it and act upon it. The rest of the question is purely philosophical (is reality a cause or an effect of perception? ..)

This leaves only one option to improve both intra-Europe cross-communication and international communication: to embrace English as a mean to communicate, and to keep our own mother tongue as a mean to express our unique identity.

So how about measures to 'protect' or encourage linguistic diversity, like in my Quebec home?

It is nonsense to me as it perpetuates the tradition of immature and paternalistic governments who intend to force 'culture' on its people. It is also rooted in an absurd fear: I will always speak french, and so will my children, wherever I live. I see languages like religions: one should be free to choose to speak the language it feels expresses the best his/her identity. Governments should be decoupled from religion as well as from languages - like in Nigeria - and offer its services equally to all, possibly in all languages spoken by linguistic communities in a given area, independently of the Nation State tradition..

Reinhard - about foreign-language-creep and Germans who should be more concerned: back in the 18th century, prominent German linguists such as the Grimm brothers were very concerned about French words commonly used in German for two centuries, a bit the same way as English words are now being used - or stopped from usage - in German and French and possibly a lot of other languages as well in the 20th and now 21st centuries, so this problem is not anything new in itself, and it just confirms the assertion that historically, things tend to be in a perpetual flux. It just happens that for a number of reasons, English is the prominent language nowadays. Which has its advantages (more people being able to communicate with each other in a larger space thanks to the existence of a "lingua franca") and its drawbacks (other languages, which means other ways of perceiving and interpreting the world, being relegated). In fact, this whole problem of language dominance is nothing new in itself. The only thing that changes is the specific language in the dominant position.

yannick - yes, news may not be in the dominant language (English in the case here) and still exist, but I agree with you, the real point is how many people will be *influenced* by knowledge of the news - how many people will be brought by it to change their minds, opinions, statements, behaviour, or just to take specific targeted action upon it. This is why news dissemination is so important - and that's where language dominance may be a point: in the breadth of news dissemination it allows. Change is brought by our perception of reality, even if our perception does not change reality itself - but our perception is the basis on which we take action, which in turn contributes to shaping reality. It is a feedback effect, which makes the whole philosophical debate amount to a chicken-and-egg issue :-)

yannick wrote @48:
So how about measures to 'protect' or encourage linguistic diversity, like in my Quebec home?

It is nonsense to me as it perpetuates the tradition of immature and paternalistic governments who intend to force 'culture' on its people.


I disagree strongly. Proficiency in the local language is essential if you want to effectively communicate your ideas, and is thus a valuable asset. I see thus nothing wrong with a government, or private sector entities, or individuals to try to make people understand the value of their own language, and make efforts to encourage its correct use and prevent its obsolescence.
Besides, the use of English words in a non-English language is more often than not a sign of sloppiness from the speaker's part, and is an issue quite separate from which language is the dominant one for news in a particular community.

Jackieh wrote @49:
This is why news dissemination is so important - and that's where language dominance may be a point: in the breadth of news dissemination it allows.

The worldview of English-language news writers in e.g. India, Nigeria or the US will typically be very different. The fact that their prose might share similar vocabulary and grammar constructs is thus not really a unifying factor, or very relevant.

News, by virtue of being written in English, will in theory be made available to a wide audience.
In practice, the probability that a particular news item will be considered pertinent enough to be actually translated into the local language and published by the local media in some country — and thus have the opportunity to inform or influence — is vanishingly small.


Here in Ireland we still have news broadcast in Irish, but not many understand it. The signposts all have Irish placenames in them also.

The Irish language is also costing the EU a lot of money because it is one of the official languages, thus requiring translation for official documents.

Thanks!!




I am going to take part in it frequently!

just tell me something ,how I can express my mind well ~~~

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