Managing linguistic diversity
Thread poster: Deschant

Deschant
Local time: 20:48
Aug 13, 2007

Years ago, I studied at high school the four possible models of linguistic policy which a country (=state) may apply, in regard to the officiality or co-officiality of 1 or several languages:

-Monolingualism. This is self-explanatory: one language which is the only official language of the whole territory of the country. For example - France. Rather than a model for managing linguistic diversity, it could be said that this model actually ignores linguistic diversity.

-Two languages (A, B) official in the whole territory of the country. This is the case of Ireland, with English and Gaelic being co-official.

-One "A" language official in the whole territory, with other or other languages (B, C, D...) co-official in certain regions of it. For example, Spanish is an official language in the whole territory of Spain, but some regions have a co-official language as well (Galician in Galicia, Catalan-Valencian in Catalonia, Comunidad Valenciana and the Baleares, and Basque in Euskadi and Navarra).

-The territory is divided in two or more regions and each region has only one official language. This is the case of Switzerland (though there are some cities, such as Biel, which are officially bilingual).

I am curious to know which of these models (or combination thereof) is applied outside Europe (as I know something about the situation in European countries, but much less in other multilingual scenarios). Also, which are, in your opinion, the advantages and disadvantages of the selected model in the individual scenarios? Does it really make a difference for a language and its speakers to be official or not (I am now thinking of the United States, which, as far as I know, do not have an official language)?

Regards,
Eva

[Editado a las 2007-08-13 16:33]


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
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Local time: 15:48
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Some models Aug 13, 2007

emoreda wrote:

I am curious to know which of these models (or combination thereof) is applied outside Europe


The United States has never had an official language, though the de facto language is English. Many government publications are available in a variety of languages.

In Israel, I'm pretty sure that Hebrew and Arabic are co-official throughout the country, though obviously Hebrew seems to be dominant for official purposes. Israel's linguistic reality changes every couple of decades. For example, in the 1970s, Israelis used to joke that they lived in a country where the people "talk Yiddish, read English, and write Hebrew."

[Edited at 2007-08-13 17:12]


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Deschant
Local time: 20:48
TOPIC STARTER
Official languages in Spain Aug 13, 2007

Steven Capsuto wrote:
Is that still the case? I thought the law had changed and that all of those languages were now co-official throughout Spain.


To this regard, the Section 3 of the Constitución Española (1978) still prevails:
Section 3
------
1. Castilian is the official Spanish language of the State. All Spaniards have the duty to know it and the right to use it.

2. The other Spanish languages shall also be official in the respective Self-governing Communities in accordance with their Statutes.

3. The richness of the different linguistic modalities of Spain is a cultural heritage which shall be specially respected and protected.
------

So the perception and the establishment de facto of Spanish as the common language still prevails, and I don't think it's going to change soon. Whereas this makes sense (Galician, Catalan and Basque are confined to their respective regions, i.e. there isn't a significant Catalan-speaking community in Andalusia or a Basque-speaking community in Galicia), invariably the common language or lingua franca (Spanish, in this case) will have a superior status over the other languages in certain situations. For example - as far as I know, it is not possible to use a language other than Spanish in the Parliament, even if some MPs would probably feel more at ease using Catalan, Basque or Galician.

Regards,
Eva


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
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Local time: 21:48
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South Africa Aug 13, 2007

emoreda wrote:
I am curious to know which of these models ... is applied outside Europe. Also, which are, in your opinion, the advantages and disadvantages of the selected model in the individual scenarios?


South Africa prior to 1994:
Official languages were Afrikaans and English. All citizens were compelled to study both languages at school until the final year of school, and proficiency in both were entry qualifications for universities. It was assumed for legislative and administrative (but not judicial) purposes that everyone could speak either of these languages.

South Africa after 1994:
Eleven official languages, and legislation requiring all administrative bodies to treat them equally. It is assumed (incorrectly) by the government that everyone can speak or understand English, therefore official communication is often in English only. Different provinces can decree that certain languages be taught at school, and these often include English and Afrikaans in addition to a third language. Entry to university generally requires some level of English only.

The three language with the most native speakers in South Africa are Zulu, Xhosa and Afrikaans. Zulu is often favoured by government above other black languages, but it is unclear why, as both Xhosa and Afrikaans are more widely spoken.

In the Republic of Transkei, Xhosa was the only official language, but government communication was often done in English, Afrikaans and other black languages. The official languages of the Republic of Ciskei was Xhosa and English, but Afrikaans was widely used.

Does it really make a difference for a language and its speakers to be official or not ...?


Well it all depends on how aggressively it is implemented. In the new South Africa, all 11 languages have equal status, but English is promoted by government, and Afrikaans retains its position in academia and business. Even the most prominent media channels (newspapers etc) aimed at the black population of South Africa do so predominantly in English, not their own languages.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
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Language in the US Aug 13, 2007

Steven Capsuto wrote:
The United States has never had an official language, though the de facto language is English.


I have heard a story about a Japanese firm in the United States that wanted to make Japanese the only language used within their company, and a US court overruled them, forcing them to make all communication available in English.


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lexical  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:48
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One should never underestimate the ability... Aug 13, 2007

...of the Spanish to disagree with one another linguistically. It's not just Catalan v. Castellano or Castellano v. Basque - they can't even agree within the same linguistic family. Here in the Comunidad Valenciana, people claim that the only pure Valenciano is spoken in such-and-such a village or such-and-such a town, and the rest are heretics.

Only a few years ago, the police had to be called to the Real Academia de la Lengua Valenciana to separate two eminent professors, both in their 80s, who were brawling on the floor in a heated argument over the use of a preposition in Valenciano.

One can't help feeling that a lot of this is poseur behaviour. I'm thinking of the two Gaelic speaking Irish MEPs who have saddled the European parliament with a bill running into thousands of euros to translate papers into Gaelic when I think we can be fairly sure that they speak and understand English perfectly well. Similarly, I know of someone who had the misfortune to appear in a court in North Wales on a fairly simple matter. It dragged on for days while every word was laboriously interpreted backwards and forwards between Welsh and English, though there can be no doubt whatsoever that every person in that courtroom from the judge to the barristers, witnesses, court officials and the defendant were thoroughly competent in English.


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Williamson  Identity Verified
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3 A-languages. Aug 13, 2007

It is not exactly outside Europe, but in the political center of Europe. Belgium has three A-languages: Dutch, French and German (www.eupen.be).
A creative lesson can be learnt from the linguistic legislation of this little country. Usually Belgian (Dutch and French speaking) politicians are quibling over the regionalisation of issues such as employment policy, social security, .... and they always come up with a "creative" solution.
This linguistic situation is the perhaps the reason that in Belgium you can find 7 institutes for translators and interpreters. If one community has something, the other needs to have something too.

[Edited at 2007-08-13 21:50]


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Heidi C  Identity Verified
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Don't forget Canada¡ Aug 14, 2007

You have the presence of French and English, and a lot of work in standarization, translation and having all official documents in both languages is being done.

Check http://www.pch.gc.ca/progs/lo-ol/legislation/01_e.cfm

(just a quote: The basic tenets of the current official languages policy are set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) and the new Official Languages Act (1988).


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Parrot  Identity Verified
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Coping in the Philippines (can't pretend to manage) Aug 14, 2007

1899 – optional use of the languages spoken in the Philippines and language regulation solely for administrative and legal purposes. Provisional official language is Spanish.

1935 – bases laid for the adoption of a national language based on one of the existing native languages. Provisional official languages are English and Spanish.

1943 – Japanese Occupation (establishment of Greater Asia Co-prosperity Sphere). Tagalog identified as the basis for a national language.

1973 – English and Filipino (based on Tagalog) as national languages; Spanish and Arabic as optional legal languages; promotion of dialects spoken by over 50,000 people.

1987 – Filipino as national language, medium of official communication and language of instruction. Second language: English. Voluntary and optional languages: Spanish and Arabic. Establishment of language commission for the development, propagation and preservation of Filipino and other languages. (The Institute of National Language is called now the Institute of National Languages.)

Source: http://www.chanrobles.com/philsupremelaw.htm

emoreda wrote:

which are, in your opinion, the advantages and disadvantages of the selected model in the individual scenarios? Does it really make a difference for a language and its speakers to be official or not (I am now thinking of the United States, which, as far as I know, do not have an official language)?


More than the real scenario, the "model" (if any) reflects a historical scenario of relevant legal and administrative systems. It does not really seem to have made a difference for the languages and their speakers (presumed healthy at a number of 50,000+ speakers). Proof of this is the unofficial status of Cebuano as de facto lingua franca of the south.

Constitutional texts would further indicate a reluctance to legislate language use.

A similar historical model with simultaneously co-official languages is reflected in Article 153A of the Singaporean Constitution: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/non_version/cgi-bin/cgi_retrieve.pl?actno=REVED-CONST&doctitle=CONSTITUTION%20OF%20THE%20REPUBLIC%20OF%20SINGAPORE
&date=latest&method=part&sl=1


This may be contrasted with the Indonesian position, which reflects a different response to similar diversity.

See: http://inic.utexas.edu/asnic/countries/indonesia/ConstIndonesia.html

Cambodia follows suit: http://www.constitution.org/cons/cambodia.htm



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Deschant
Local time: 20:48
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Aug 14, 2007

Thanks for all this interesting information! As said by Parrot, some states seem to "cope" with linguistic diversity rather than "managing" it.

It is not exactly outside Europe, but in the political center of Europe. Belgium has three A-languages: Dutch, French and German (www.eupen.be).
A creative lesson can be learnt from the linguistic legislation of this little country. Usually Belgian (Dutch and French speaking) politicians are quibling over the regionalisation of issues such as employment policy, social security, .... and they always come up with a "creative" solution.
This linguistic situation is the perhaps the reason that in Belgium you can find 7 institutes for translators and interpreters. If one community has something, the other needs to have something too.


I was under the impression that Dutch, French and German were official only in certain regions of Belgium and not the 3 of them throughout the country (that is, similar to the Swiss model), is it so or are the 3 languages official in the whole territory?

lexical: The Catalan vs Valenciano issue is a complex one, and I suspect most of it is politically (not linguistically) motivated.


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Parrot  Identity Verified
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Political agendas are hard to avoid Aug 14, 2007

and time was when every five years or so you would find a politician capitalising on the issues of language perfection (you raised this question in another thread, I believe) to knock a pluralistic system.

I would personally prefer the pluralistic system, but in cases such as the Indonesian one, I can understand the need (it's an extreme case, no longer just a token of unity) to find a common focal point of communication.

However, having experienced the extent to which the monolingual model can be used to exert a fundamentalist type of social pressure -- sometimes, over and above family affiliation -- I can't help admiring Singapore.


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Binnur Tuncel van Pomeren  Identity Verified
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Officially managing Aug 14, 2007

Samuel Murray wrote:

Does it really make a difference for a language and its speakers to be official or not ...?


Well it all depends on how aggressively it is implemented. In the new South Africa, all 11 languages have equal status, but English is promoted by government, and Afrikaans retains its position in academia and business. Even the most prominent media channels (newspapers etc) aimed at the black population of South Africa do so predominantly in English, not their own languages.

Correctly Samuel and it makes sense if there are 11 official languages... Giving equal status enacts the respect for each others' language (as a result the respect and tolerance for cultural differences) in the country.
Turkey is officially monolingual. Turkey, a shrunken Ottoman empire, having been home to various cultures, it accomodates Laz, Kurdish, Armenian, Arabic and other ethnical groups that also partially know their language and speak. Yet they are not official. Kurdish, as is considered a language of a group wanting to have its own independent state is especially facing the most criticism. As to other ethnical groups, as they don't seem to have such claims, they are not bothered. Yet, the fact remains. Turkey is monolingual.

Which one would be the nicest? I think, a liberal solution as in South Africa would be the best. I think everybody should be allowed to speak the language he dreams with. Depending on the necessity, location and condition, he/she will need to use a common language anyways. Then why shall we upset the person?

[Edited at 2007-08-14 11:35]


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