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Languages and Globalisation (From Mrs PORGHO, Lycée of Kongoussi)

Languages have come and gone since the early day of human history, but the wave of destruction today is unprecedented. It’s happening wherever technologically advanced societies overwhelm less powerful groups. Australian colonizers helped wipe out more than 150 native languages over the 222 years, and more than 100 others are on the brink. In South America, Spanish and Portuguese have overwhelmed scores of native Indian languages, and pioneers pursuing «manifest destiny" helped to destroy most of some 300 languages native to North America. Of 100 languages that once were spoken in what is now California, only half remain and most of those are spoken by only a few tribal elders.

Globalisation is probably helping to fuel the destruction. English, in particular, is quickly becoming indispensable language of successful people from different countries and cultures. That’s partly because a disproportionate number of the world’s rich speak English, and also because English is the language of the technological revolution. Even before the Internet, television, telephones, air travel, other innovations helped the languages of dominant cultures and economies to spread. The French are indignant about what one academic calls "an insidious dispossession" by English, but speakers of the regional Breton language in north west France are equally ruffled by the dominance of French.

The obliteration of small languages might seem inevitable and irreversible. But languages, unlike people, can be resurrected. The last speaker of Indian died in the 1960’s, but Daryl Baldwin has nursed Miami back to life. As a student at the University of Montana a decade ago, Baldwin immersed himself in research on his ancestral tongue studying texts by missionaries. With the help of a linguist, he taught himself Miami vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation and then he brought the language into his home.
Now Baldwin, his wife and their four kids have a rule: whenever possible, they speak only Miami among themselves. About 80% of 3 year old Emma’s vocabulary is Miami Indian. Baldwin doesn’t want his kids to learn Miami at the expense of English, however.

"A language is what makes you part of a country" he says. «It would be wrong to say no English, no French at all in Africa". The issue is the relationship between languages. Now, she marginalised languages are being forced to die.
If present trends continue, Africa as a cultural identity will eventually cease to exist.

Jeffrey Bartholet, Newsweek, June 19, 2000

Guided Commentary

1) What causes the disappearance of languages around the world, according to the text?
2) What difference (s) exists between people and languages? Justify your answer.
3) Why doesn’t Baldwin want his children to stop learning English?
4) According to the text, how can a language be resurrected?
5) Why with globalisation must African languages have disappear? What should we do if we do not want "Africa to cease to exist as a cultural identity"?
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