Cultural baggage

2024-06-16 @Languages

The internationalization of English sees the following. Nations (ie China, Japan, etc) hire foreigners to teach the language, but with possible preference for native speakers of one region over another. They might seek English in its skeletal framework without the associations, idioms or lexicon inherent to one particular culture. Call it cultural baggage, or even certain dehumanization.

This much I’ve gathered among the international crowd. It’s not unheard of for the US English to get the backdraft, preference for the coalescence of British accents or even the non-native.

This might appal or even incense particularly the US English teacher. On the one hand I sympathize. But I recognize that where one group is denied opportunity, another profits.

And the ethical dilemma? I don’t think there is one. Once a language spreads internationally to the level of a lingua franca, it enters public domain as far as I’m concerned: trampled, tossed, prostituted, manipulated, mutated, desecrated, consecrated.

The British empire spread its seed wider than most. It’s only natural that a speaker of English accept the consequence.

To compare with something like the Arabian expansion: the dynasties only expanded so far, and even so to substantial variation across the local vernaculars. But then the Arabic culture maintains Classic Arabic as a separate tradition, owing much to its being rooted in the Quran. English hasn’t maintained an analogous, frozen strain formally available for international exchange.

Russian has served as a lingua franca throughout many satellites, but otherwise maintaining a homogeneous autonomy over the tongue. French and Spanish, on the other hand, evince far wider diversity. And perhaps some pedagogic inequity here too builds nest.

However subjective, I somehow associate far greater sense of propriety among the latter group. But English, for what I see, is about as closed and regulated as HTML.

And then Latin springs to mind. Come the empire’s collapse and the regional strains ceased to be regulated; each vulgar variant followed own path and through centuries mutated into diverse romance languages. Whatever pride, whatever sense of ownership Latinists derived, the parent tongue long fell into the fugues of the public domain to do with it as it pleaseth.

But then Classic Latin continued to coexist as a frozen variant alongside the vulgar, leveraged in the higher academic spheres: until the further modernization/pollution of the middle ages and the renaissance (by now entirely independent of the Romance languages).

Unlike modern English, Latin long ceased to have native speakers beyond the empire; no one to complain of our language trampled; or our pedagogic opportunity exported. Though maybe before the Empire’s collapse and even centuries after (these trends develop over centuries), some Roman traditionalists took to severe contempt over the overall development throughout the satellite periphery.

Each case, though somewhat unique, found substantial mutation and unjust appropriation across the arena. Empirical ambition sees its share of byproduct.

Don’t misunderstand. I love English: or rather, the higher, the broader, the literary tradition; nothing of the simplified, baser international standard (though no such thing exists formally). But I also don’t really care what others do with it: provided I do as I please. Nor feel I the remotest ownership, having numerous language alternatives (most of empirical mien) to roam among.

So what now … I guess to anyone blighted or affected by what’s happening to your/our/my language and its international treatment, a few solutions might avail (or not):

Otherwise, I don’t know what to say. I indeed sympathize.

Questions, comments? Connect.