If you start to combine these four dimensions (social vs. private market value, private non-market value vs. social) with the above, we see the complexity that must be taken into consideration. Hence, with the current state of knowledge, the difficulty of accurately assessing a language’s exact value : “In short, it is not possible, for the time being, to truly calculate (I) the ‘value’ of a language, (II) the ‘value’ of one linguistic area in relation to another, (III) the ‘benefits’ (market and non-market) to expect from a Michal Oustinoff particular policy ; (IV) many of the costs, direct and indirect, associated with such an initiative” [GRIN IBID. :21].
This does not invalidate all economic analysis, quite the contrary. In particular, Franois Grin reveals a major drawback to English-only policy that David Graddol [GRADDOL 1997 AND 2006] also signals when it enters into competition with other languages : “It can be rightly argued that even if English is cost-effective, to promote learning this language will render knowledge of it more banal, and the salary benefits enjoyed by Anglophones will gradually erode […] This trend will in all likelihood affect most of the countries where English is (increasingly) taught as a second language and judged as essential to economic activity. In other words, convergent evidence suggests that knowledge of other languages will gradually become more profitable as English spreads, implying that language teaching policy should not be focused solely on English as a second language, but also on other languages” [GRIN IBID. :34].
In other words, the first collateral victims of the new circumstances of globalisation will be the Anglophone monoglots, but not only they. What is true for them might well, eventually, apply to the others as well. The following analysis can thus be generalised : “The cost of learning English by non-Anglophones keeps falling while the cost of learning other languages for Anglophones (and everyone else) keeps increasing. One consequence of the universal spread of the lingua franca would then be that Anglophones will face competition on their home labour markets with everyone else in the world, while having no real access to those labour markets in which another language remains required” [VAN PARIJS 2004]. In a post-American world, the marginal value (in the economic sense of the word) of English declines gradually as that of other languages correspondingly increases.
Given the importance of the language industry [RINSCHE 2009] and its growth rate that is predicted to hold steady at 10 % for quite some time, it doesn’t take a genius to understand the economic dynamics at play of languages in the contemporary world – issues that play out at the State level as well as the individual. It is thus also in political terms that the language question is posed, even in terms of international governance in the time of globalisation.
Michal Oustinoff CONCLUSION English-only policy was supposed to be the most practical solution and, consequently, the most economical [GRIN 2004]. Today, we are realizing that this is just not the case. Far from advantageous, this model actually represents a considerable loss, something that Anglophone countries are themselves realising, starting with Great Britain and the United States.
Once considered a question of secondary importance, the linguistic potential of nations now constitutes a major strategic asset in the era of economic globalisation. Suzanne Topping’s formula, “No translation, no product”, certainly requires some qualification, but it translates into no less than a major paradigm shift, which doesn’t consider languages as expendable, but lends them major market value, not only in terms of cost but in terms of profitable investment [GRIN 2009].
The language economy cannot be reduced to its linguistic dimension, in the traditional sense of the term. Its cultural dimension must be considered. The most prestigious Anglophone business schools have understood this since the early 2000s [EARLEY 2003 ; EARLEY, 2004 ; CHUA 2009], emphasizing “Cultural Intelligence” (Cultural Intelligence, or cq, “Cultural Quotient”) that Cultural Studies and Unesco have long recognised the importance of :
[…] The global village is a multicultural mosaic. Different countries have different cultures. It is therefore necessary for companies and managers to exercise caution in trying to establish the best way on a global scale. When such differences are not taken into account, companies adopt inappropriate strategies and policies. As managers, they take bad decisions, clash with local cultures, experience major cultural maladjustment and fail to carry out their initiatives. [rego 2009 : 34] Unfortunately, it is less certain whether States are taking necessary measures.
There are considerable delays, because the language policies introduced since Second World War have made the English teaching the primary objective.
In addition, the budget cuts currently affecting the whole of civil service are crashing down on languages other than English. This runs the major risk of aggravating what we call the “linguistic divide” over and above the digital divide : by relying upon the market’s “invisible hand”, the disparities related to fully operational multilingual access grow, with such access remaining confined to elites. However, in a global economy and in the era of mass Michal Oustinoff education, training only the elite is insufficient [OUSTINOFF 2011]. It is an obsolete model with disastrous long-term social and economic consequences.
This is what the language economy teaches us ; will policy makers listen Still, there is a promising area which is cause for some optimism, namely the digital space in which costs may be brought down drastically if not eliminated altogether thanks to the new information and communication technologies (icts). Wikipedia is a case in point. All you need is a computer and Internet connection to have access to a wealth of free online sources in the most varied languages. This is how Wikipedia defines itself online : “Wikipedia is a multilingual, web-based, free-content encyclopedia project based on an openly editable model […]. Anyone with Internet access can write and make changes to Wikipedia articles”. The model has been emulated by websites such as Global Voices, founded by Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, where the following explanation can be found : “Global Voices is a community of more than 500 bloggers and translators around the world who work together to bring you reports from blogs and citizen media everywhere, with emphasis on voices that are not ordinarily heard in international mainstream media. […] Global Voices is translated into more than 30 languages”.
Such initiatives are bound to multiply and their interest is self-evident.
It lies in making available to as many people as possible the countless applications of tics and allowing everyone to use them in his or her own language (not to mention language teaching and self-education). Even free use has a cost, however, as economists for whom “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” found it easy to demonstrate. This is further proof that relying on the law of markets alone would be the worst option.
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Michal Oustinoff Michal Oustinoff DANIEL PRADO & DANIEL PIMIENTA PUBLIC POLICIES FOR LANGUAGES IN CYBERSPACE Many recommendations and statements from summits, international organizations, meetings, etc. suggest multiple actions in the matter of the presence of languages in cyberspace in order to promote linguistic diversity in the Knowledge Society. We will review the appropriateness and feasibility of the proposals made, as well as gaps identified, and make a coherent synthesis.
Original article in French.
Translated by Laura Kraftowitz.
DANIEL PRADO is the former head of the linguistic unit of Union latine, an intergovernmental organization composed of 35 states whose mission is to disseminate and promote the Latin languages and cultures. He is the current Executive Secretary of Maaya, World Network for Linguistic Diversity.
DANIEL PIMIENTA was born in Casablanca. He studied Applied Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Nice. In 1975, he joined IBM France as a telecommunications systems architect. In 1988, he became Scientific Adviser to the Union Latine in Santo Domingo, where he manages a regional network project. In 1993, he founded the Networks & Development Foundation (Funredes). In 2008, he received the Namur Award (IFIP WG9.2) for his actions working toward a holistic vision of the social impact of ICTs.
anguage and culture play an increasingly important role in contemporary political projects, at regional, national and international levels.
L Our world has changed considerably since the partition of Yalta in the aftermath of World War II, when two different visions for the future confronted one another, and international relations were based on military, political and economic criteria. In that bipolar schema, culture’s value as the basis for society was completely ignored. Nor is the world any longer that of the late eighties, when under the misleading headline “the end of history”, a political and economic model was imposed that put forth a unitary culture and sought hegemony.
Now in the XXIst century, the world has become multipolar. Supranational alliances based on intercultural respect have grown stronger. Alliances between regions and nations that share a language or culture are born each day. If political and economic issues are ever present in international relations, cultural elements now play an increasing role. Religion, ethnicity, custom and language participate in international policy making, even if at times they can also be a divisive factor. The cultural factor is increasingly one of the elements of sustainable development and equitable growth, facilitating harmony between peoples and a common respect for dignity.