Thursday, March 1, 2012

Musing on Globalization of English

I was on a brief business trip to Basel last week and on my way back, I read an interesting article on globalization and English (“Why the French are right to resist global English").  The author builds an argument taking the example of schools in Montreal, Canada wanting to introduce English to a predominantly French speaking environment.
I guess most of the resistance to English is towards preserving linguistic and cultural identity; there is a similar conflict in Europe over adoption of English. I had experienced first-hand the "resistance" to global English during the 6-months that I had spent in Switzerland sometime ago.  Most of Europe is economically connected thanks to being a part of the EU, but individual countries and regions still cling to their languages and distinct cultural identities. They do this while tacitly recognizing that English is the "link language." The younger generation is certainly keen on imbibing English, wanting to be a part of the global and regional economies where English is the lingua franca.  
This is a issue that Indians (and even non-resident Indians) continue to struggle with: being proficient in English while also maintaining one’s cultural identity. Case in point is the identity crisis being faced by politicians and others in my hometown Bangalore. The global hub of offshoring and offshore sourcing that depends on attracting millions of English speaking technologists to work for global clients out of call centers and IT shops. While benefiting from globalization and being a role model for other cities and regions trying to attract offshoring business, policy makers also want to look back on the roots, so much so that they decided on officially renaming the city to Bengaluru. Those trying to desperately hold on to Kannada culture also try to incorporate protectionist measures including restricting screening of movies from other regions in India. (ref)


  1. Just not in the west, even in the east too there is stiff resistance towards the language.
    I realized this when in Taiwan recently. My clients were so uncomfortable interacting in English (only a handful could actually do it!) that they decided to hand over the project to a local vendor purely on the basis of language advantage!

  2. Issam,
    The local vendors may have realized that language is a niche for them! This said, I think instances like this are fewer and far between. Or at least that's what English speaking techies like us would like to hope. :-)

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