U214A Book 2: Chapter 6 English and other languages Kay McCormick Dr. Amel Salah • 6.1 Introduction • As you know from earlier chapters, English has coexisted throughout its history with other languages across nations, institutions and communities. Earlier chapters have discussed how contact with other languages has affected the development of English — from the influence of Scandinavian languages and Norman French on Old and Middle English (Chapter 2) to the distinctive features of New Englishes in several parts of the world (Chapters 3 and 5). This chapter continues the discussion of language contact, focusing on the status and use of English alongside other languages in contemporary multilingual contexts. • Bilingual individuals and communities commonly deploy their languages in complementary ways, using one language for some functions and others for other functions. The selections are often made unconsciously, being based in habitual patterns. The patterns, in turn, are shaped by the circumstances under which English came into the community, by practical considerations, and by qualities associated with each language. As a result, people may be very ambivalent about a language. • For example, they may value it because they see it as giving access to certain economic benefits and upward social mobility, but also dislike it because it is the mother tongue of people -who oppress (ed) them. English has been and still is the subject of this kind of ambivalence, particularly in former British colonies. Thus, as we will see in this chapter, the spread of English among speakers of other languages receives both support and opposition. • A note on terminology: • Most of the phenomena discussed here occur in both bilingual and multilingual communities. sometimes the terms 'bilingual' and 'bilingualism‘ are used as general terms to avoid awkward repetition of 'bilingual and multilingual', or 'bilingualism and multilingualism'. • By home language(s), the writer means the language(s) habitually used in a home and acquired by its children. The scope of the term is similar to 'first language', but it allows for the fact that in some homes it isn't clear that one language is 'first' in the sense of being acquired first or in the sense of ranking. • Sometimes the writer refers to people who use English, rather than to people who speak English, for two reasons. First, the term reminds us that in the contemporary world, there are many people who frequently read English (on the internet) but seldom speak it. Second, it is an appropriate way of referring to people who use some of the resources of the English language for limited purposes, but don't have sufficient proficiency in it to be seen by themselves or by others as 'English speakers'. • 6.2 Encounters with English • In countries where it is a foreign language, such as those in Kachru's 'Expanding Circle' (Kachru, 1992), the school classroom is the main site where speakers of other languages meet up with, learn and use English. Where opportunities for face-to-face teaching and learning in English are very limited, people might still be able to gain some ability to read and write the language through a combination of self-instruction manuals, CDs and DVDs. Their main use of it may be for accessing the English language radio and television programmes, available through satellite technology. Formal teaching and learning favours standard Englishes, whereas radio, television and the internet are more hospitable to other varieties of English. • As you saw in Chapter 4, English is the language most widely used on the internet. People do not need to have an excellent command of the language as a whole in order to navigate and participate in the virtual worlds of the internet. Starting with basic vocabulary and grammar, they can pick up the style appropriate to the domains they enter. Reading and writing in internet communication may be all that many people will use English for — they may never need to speak it. The rest of their lives can be carried on in their other languages. • Although informal access to English is becoming easier, pressure to have access to classes where English is taught systematically and intensively to adults is on the increase throughout the world. The British Council and hundreds of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) language schools provide resources and classes which cater for the needs of adults who want to interact with business, professional or academic colleagues internationally. As has been discussed in earlier chapters, English is very widely used as a lingua franca for communication between people who do not speak one another's home languages. • 6.3 Regulating English: policy and planning • Obviously, English could not be the practical lingua franca that it is in international communication if it were not already a prominent language in a large number of countries. As you saw in earlier chapters, in Kachru's 'Inner Circle' countries English has a high profile because it is now the mother tongue of the numerical majority, who are also the most powerful group politically and economically. • National language policy and planning in multilingual countries • Language policy is the set of broad goals political, social, economic, linguistic - that policy developers hope to achieve by focusing on aspects of the use of languages in particular countries or institutions. Language planning identifies the processes of policy application. • English has a long history of serving as an official language or a language of education in many countries. As a result, its corpus is highly developed for those functions. This has put it in a position of advantage over many other languages in situations where new language policies are being considered. However — and this is very important - it has not automatically ensured that English is accorded high official status in multilingual countries, nor even that it is retained as an official language in countries where it once had an established presence. • As we will see in the examples below, pragmatic considerations are not the only ones that shape language policy: perceptions of historical legacy and desired national identity are also taken into account. • After they gained independence, many former British colonies initially retained English in key domains. In some countries there was little or no organised resistance to the retention of English, but in others there was. Two former colonies where the status of English was challenged are Pakistan and Tanzania. • During the period of British control, English was the main language of administration and it became fairly widely known through formal education. Also during that period, several other languages of the region were used as identity symbols for various ethno-nationalist and religious movements. Because English had not been associated with any of these movements it could be seen as neutral in relation to them. This was ideologically useful to the post-independence government of Pakistan, which was trying to unify a newly established political entity while at the same time carrying on the day-to-day tasks of education and administration • These factors favoured keeping English as an official language. However, its retention was strongly opposed by religious parties 'who felt that maintaining the status of English symbolized a new form of colonization' (Mahboob and Ahmar, 2008, p. 245). They wanted an Islamic state which used a local language spoken by Muslim communities. Of the possible contenders, Urdu received the strongest support. • The East African country, Tanzania, gained its independence from Britain in 1961. Although it had been under British colonial rule for far less time than Pakistan — only forty years — English was already firmly established as the language of colonial government. The postindependence government wanted to turn away from Western capitalist models and build a classless society based on Ujamaa, an African form of socialism and self-reliance. The unifying linguistic vehicle for this was to be an African language, Swahili, rather than English. • Recognising the need for more political and economic interaction with Britain and other countries of the West, the government put measures in place to facilitate this. In 1974, as part of the process of political and economic liberalisation, President Nyerere advocated equalising the status of English and Swahili. Since then 'English has regained its pre-1967 prestige, while Swahili has attained an unprecedented level of spread and importance in use' (Blommaert, 1999, p. 98). This is not surprisingsince both languages had been and still are used in modernisation. • Former British colonies are not the only multilingual countries where English has been elevated to the status of official language. This has been done in Rwanda, Madagascar and Namibia, none of which had ever been part of the British Empire. • In these accounts of the changing status of English in Pakistan, Tanzania and Namibia, some general points about the positioning of English in a multilingual country can be derived. For instance, we noted that there may be pressures between ideological and pragmatic forces which can cause mismatches — if not contradictions — between policy and practice, and may even prompt (rapid, quick) a series of policy decisions and reversals. We also saw that, in the contemporary world, national language policies in multilingual countries should take account of both the country's internal situation and the wider regional and global contexts within which it is located. • 6.4 English and other languages in communities and families • Language policies may influence but they certainly do not determine how people will use languages and the resources that come with them. Communities and families are key sites where relationships between languages are established and challenged. Thus, we turn now to an exploration of the ways in which English may be incorporated into the linguistic repertoires of communities and families which also use one or more other languages. • Stable bilingual or multilingual communities which use English but do not neglect their own languages are to be found not only in predominantly English-speaking countries and former British colonies such as India, but also in countries which have no history of control by Britain. Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands are examples of the latter. Members of such communities learn and use English for some purposes (such as access to ideas spread primarily in English) but not for others. They move comfortably within the English-speaking world without wanting to identify with it at the expense of their own. • The movement of English into the home domain is often facilitated by children. It is more likely to occur when they don't just study it as a subject, but have all of their schooling in English. In such cases, children often speak English to their siblings and friends in the playground, and out of habit, they continue to use English with their siblings at home when talking about things associated with life outside the home. If their parents can also speak English, it is possible for 'home topics' to be spoken of in English. In this way English becomes a home language. This process is occurring in Singapore, South Africa and many other parts of the world, particularly among urban middle-class families. • Where communities' own languages seem to have little currency in the wider world, younger people may not want to continue using them. In a community, language shift may take several generations to run its course. In Wales, for example, efforts to stop the shift to English and to revive the use of Welsh have met with noticeable success during the past three decades. Cooperation between strong civil society organisations and the Welsh Assembly Government has been a key element in this success. The process of revival is complex and is affected by political and economic factors, and by differing perceptions of the connection between the Welsh language and Welsh identity (Coupland and Aldridge, 2009; Williams, 2009). • Some people regard the revival of the Welsh language primarily as part of a long process of resisting political and economic domination by English speakers. Others do not see English as an outsider language since many people whose families have lived in Wales for generations are English-speaking and speak very little Welsh, while regarding themselves as Welsh. Williams's interviewees express a range of views on the centrality of the Welsh language to a sense of Welsh identity. • In the United States, the shift from indigenous languages to English seems to be ongoing in communities whose language of origin has not already died out. However, some Native American communities are trying to prevent their languages from dying out. The Linguistics Department at the University of New Mexico offers assistance to such communities by working with community members to develop descriptions of the languages and dictionaries. These involvements alone, however, are not enough to stop or reverse language shift — that would require wider and more intensive community involvement and extensive state support — but they can provide resources for those who want to learn the languages. • Families isolated through migration often undergo language shift in as little as three generations. This is the time frame seen in many immigrant families who settle in Englishspeaking countries and live in neighbourhoods where their home language is not known. A typical pattern in such cases is that, if they do not already know English, the adult immigrants speak their language of origin at home and try to learn as much English as they need for their daily lives outside the home. • Children born in the new country speak the language(s) of their parents, but also have to learn and use English for educational and social purposes. When they in turn have children they may choose to use English in interactions with them at home, so that they will settle easily at school and integrate with local English-speaking children. It is in the second generation that decisions are taken which lead to language maintenance or language shift in a family. • Although across the globe there is evidence that English is in high demand, it is not seen only as the bringer of advantages. There are also concerns about its effects on other languages and the cultures with which they are associated. In recent decades the promotion and rapid spread of English throughout the world has lead to a fear that it will inevitably result in the eventual death of the languages with which it comes into contact. • This fear has been strongly expressed in metaphors of war such as the 'invasion' by English into the territories of other languages; English has been labelled a 'killer language', and its effect on other languages has been seen as a form of 'linguicide' (Skutnabb-Kangas and Phillipson, 2001). It is important to note that while the contemporary spread of English is threatening the survival of other languages in some places, it does not always have this effect. Even where English is accorded high status nationally, it may not precipitate language shift towards English, as we see in Tanzania, for example. • 6.5 Speaking bilingually: switching between English and other languages • Bilinguals do not always have to choose only one language for a conversation — they may switch between their languages within one conversation. The moment-by-moment alternation between languages is termed codeswitching, where 'code' may refer to a distinct language or language variety: for example, a dialect, or accent. • A speaker may switch from one code to another for just one phrase, or for much longer. Switches may occur within sentences as well as between them. Codeswitching may be planned or unplanned, conscious or unconscious. There is evidence to indicate that bilinguals are not always aware of which language they are speaking, or of when they are switching. • You can read the rest of this section where the writer explores different forms and functions of switching between English and other languages pp.264-273. • 6.6 Conclusion • In the early twenty-first century most speakers of English in the world have another language as their first language: language contact phenomena are, then, common rather than exceptional in the lives of people who speak English today. In the many multilingual countries where English is an official language, it is usually also the main language of post-primary education and is thus perceived as the language of access to higher education, to well-paid employment and to the wider world. While there are fears that such positive associations will lead to neglect or loss of a community's other languages, this is not necessarily the case. • For instance, local languages may be regarded as the only appropriate languages for important cultural domains. In contact situations, speakers may also frequently, even routinely, draw on English alongside other languages, switching between these in everyday conversation to a range of stylistic and interpersonal effects.