20
Apr
09

On air: Does the language you speak affect the power you have?

BelgiumDoes the language you speak give you more power? Today WHYS comes from Belgium where they speak Dutch (Flemish), French and German. But the rivalry between the languages has almost torn the country apart.

It’s not just there, where your language is important. Humberto Lopez predicts the USA will have over 110 million Spanish speakers by 2050 and says Spanish should become an official language, maybe even replacing English as the first language. But this blogger thinks it’s vital to keep the US as an English speaking country and this group say they need it to forge one nation out of millions of immigrants.

Urdu is the national language of Pakistan even though only about 7% of people speak it. Whereas 44% of Pakistanis speak Punjabi, which has no official status.

This article argues that imposing Urdu on Pakistan has been disastrous and having English as the official language creates ‘a state of mental slavery’.

Should countries boycott the UN conference on Racism? The US, Canada, Israel, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany and Italy aren’t going. But France and the UK are. President Obama says there is a danger the meeting will express antagonism toward Israel in ways that are, “completely hypocritical and counterproductive.” But the Pope has praised the conference and urged countries to join forces.

Do the Chinese need to be controlled? The Hong Kong movie legend Jackie Chan thinks so. He told Chinese business officials that the Chinese people may not deserve freedom “…If you’re too free, you’re like the way Hong Kong is now. It’s very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic. … I’m gradually beginning to feel that we, Chinese, need to be controlled.”


85 Responses to “On air: Does the language you speak affect the power you have?”


  1. April 20, 2009 at 14:30

    Hi WHYSers!

    Interesting! We have been having this ongoing problem in Jamaica for years, especially given our relationship with colonialism and African slavery, where it is generally felt that any of the languages that vaguely depart from English, in this case what we call ‘Patois’, is not supposed to gain any real recognition in the country. Middle class Jamaicans and many traditionalists argue in favour of retaining English as not only the official language of the country but to retain Patois as ‘something that we all know but do not need to learn in school’. I disagree with this view, as I feel that so many people are denied an opportunity to properly learn to speak English by the refusal of the state to see it as a second language and to acknowledge Patois, accordingly. In that regard, it is not the competition between how these two languages are viewed is tearing us apart, as much as it is denying a wider cross section of the population a real opportunity to learn and appreciate English use, effectively. That is an overall comment on the state and its success not only in educating its citizens, but also in terms of development.

  2. April 20, 2009 at 15:09

    Language is a part of one’s identity.However there are many languages that are marginalised even by their own speakers in favour of a dominant language. Many countries have tens if not hundreds languages like Nigeria and India. Deciding a national language is always linked to political considerations and influence.

    In the case of Morocco, although classical Arabic is the national language, there is Moroccan Arabic (which is in most cases understood just by the Moroccans and to some extents by the Algerians.) as there is Amazigh which is made of three main different dialects.

    However, in Morocco, foreign languages mainly French, English and Spanish are also important, especially in the world of business. Many jobs, especially in business and tourism require at least one foreign language. Administrative papers are in most cases both in Arabic and French.

    In general, a language is a source of power if it is linked to an economic and cultural activity. Just speaking multiple languages doesn’t make one multimillionaire.

  3. 3 Roy, Washington DC
    April 20, 2009 at 15:10

    The more people who speak the language(s) you speak, the more people you will be able to interact and do business with; this factors directly into “power”. Obviously, people who speak English are at an advantage on the world market, since so much business is done in English.

    Speaking a minority language can also be useful, even if you aren’t all that fluent in it. I used to work at a construction company in the southern part of the US, and I found it helpful to be able to speak Spanish with the Mexicans on the job sites. We were able to socialize in Spanish, and we were able to say things like “give me that hammer”.

  4. 4 Patti in Cape Coral, FL
    April 20, 2009 at 15:57

    My husband was in the U.S. illegally when we got married. He learned English in two months and only allowed me to speak to him in English, because he said that when it came to advancement, speaking English was more important than being legal. He told me the language of commerce and business was English, and whoever didn’t learn it would be left behind. If you are an ambitious person, it’s important to speak the language where you live, whateverthe majority of people speak, and of course, the more languages you speak, better still.

  5. April 20, 2009 at 15:59

    Language is still a source of power. Acquiring a language can open different opportunities. But it is the practicality of a language that makes it dominant. There are very powerful economic countries whose languages aren’t as widespread as English. In China, due to its economic boom and openness on the outside world, there are more than 300 million English learners. The Chinese can export their products, but they can’t export their language at a scale as large as that of English. The same applies to Japan and Germany. French is retreating. This is embarrassing for France which is spending more and more money to keep French “afloat” at least in its former colonies through its cultural centres.

    At the personal level, speaking more than one language is an opportunity to be open on different cultures. Personally I can speak three languages, Arabic French and English. Still I have the wish to learn Spanish. I more than once made myself the promise to learn it but I failed. Still I enjoy its rhythm without understanding a single word.

  6. 6 Phillip K
    April 20, 2009 at 16:02

    I think it does! Here in Uganda, many people think that everyone speaks Luganda( a local dialect) and you’ll find it even in the offices. This nags a lot and the Luganda speakers think they are always above everyone BUT in reality, this is not the case!!

  7. April 20, 2009 at 16:13

    The case in America is such, if you go shopping in Miami and you speak in english, the sales person will more than likely tell you ‘ why dont you speak spanish’?. Rediculas as it may seem, a spanish speaking cuban telling an american that he should speak spanish.
    The same situation can be found living in a country where a language causes friction that has no common language spoken. The question does the language you speak effect the power you have?, to put it simply, gives you artficial power only.

  8. 8 VictorK
    April 20, 2009 at 16:18

    WHYS will sometimes raise a subject and miss or confuse the issue.

    How can language by itself give ‘power’ to anyone? It can’t. Languages spoken by people with advanced cultures is another matter, and the question then becomes why are some countries more advanced than others? Likewise the references to Belgium, the US and Pakistan make more sense when related to the right issues, which concern things like the viability of artificially created states, the value of multiculturalism, and immigration and national identity. All topics, I note, off-limits to the left, who presumably don’t like some of the views that might be expressed about them.

    I expect that the leftist spin on this subject will be the oppressivieness of English as a world language and the ‘imposition’ of French, Portuguese, Spanish as the official languages of former colonies. Anything to nourish a grievance and encourage a dig at the West.

  9. 9 Orsi from Hungary
    April 20, 2009 at 16:24

    Although Hungary is very small country, we also have many minority languages and dialects. The main minority are the roma (or gipsy) who have their own language.
    Politicians who try to please and defend this minority have even tried to make it an official language but they do not realize that many roma do not even speak their original language. Their words have assimilated into the Hungarian.
    This minority-majority issue is also a big topic here in Hungary and it is not easy to solve this problem. Language variety makes it even more difficult..

  10. April 20, 2009 at 16:27

    (1) I lived in Taiwan for a total of seven years. The Chinese people I hung out with frequently had their own stereotypes about people in the various provinces. On the other hand they seemed to me to be very forgiving in regard to language, class, ethnicity, etc. and to put a high premium on one’s demonstrated character, morality, etc. People in the West are frequently not up to their cultural level.
    (2) When I came back to the U.S. I once went to interview for a job in a community center in a less fortunate area of the city. I dressed in my scruffy student attire on the assumption that a suit and tie would be out of place. When I got there something had come up and the staff were on their way to a meeting with members of the city’s Board of Education — dressed in their Sunday best. I was dragged along and was totally ignored by the bigwigs until I began to speak. If the ideas I expressed had been the same but my language had matched my attire I think I would have been heard only with condescension.
    (3) It’s a real talent to be able to express the same content in linguistic forms that are easy on the ears of many different audiences. Stokley Carmichael was famous for being able to talk to Senators and sharecroppers in target-appropriate language.

  11. 11 Ibrahim in UK
    April 20, 2009 at 16:38

    The say knowledge is power, knowledge of languages would fall under that too. The more languages you speak and the better you can communicate, the bigger the audience available to you. It increases the opportunity for power, but you still need to be able to take advantage of that opportunity.

  12. 12 John D. Augustine - WI USA
    April 20, 2009 at 16:43

    In the context of Belgium, you’re talking about three European languages which are virtually identical on a global scale. That dispute sounds like a petty argument with little linguistic significance.

    But language has frequently been used as an instrument of power and control. This is why Native Americans in recent US history were kidnapped and forced into boarding schools where they were beaten for speaking their native language. Their language was a threat to the dominant US state, because it was the foundation of their way of life, which was inherrently in conflict with the European world view.

    This was perhaps the worst kind of genocide the world has ever seen and ignored: to leave the persons alive to watch themselves as a people destroyed. Then again, a few of these words do still survive… but who cares?

    Que sera, sera.

  13. 13 Nengak
    April 20, 2009 at 17:02

    Language is a little bit more than a communication tool. With language, control is established in any relationship. When people from different areas meet, they end up adopting a ‘lingua-franca’ which could well be the language of the most powerful in the relationship.
    In North-central Nigeria, the systematic entrenchment of the Hausa language as the unofficial, but commonly spoken language has resulted in the effective domination of these areas by the Hausa speakers. Now it seems all one needs to belong in these areas, is speak Hausa.

  14. 14 Morf
    April 20, 2009 at 17:10

    Fairly or not, we are all judged – and defined – by how we express ourselves in public.

    The Susan Boyle phenomenon is a recent example of how our expectations based on physical appearances may say vastly more about ourselves than the person we are evaluating.

    I am a teacher of writing and English (and sometimes EFL/ESL) and I marvel at how native speakers of English struggle with the nuances of grammar and spelling. The English language (especially the American version) seems particularly easy to learn at the basic level, yet astonishingly complex and difficult to master.

    I write an ESL based blog (http://www.esl-lesson-plan.com/) and find myself focusing on the difficulties and historical oddities and contradictions inherent in a language with remarkably few rules (and most of them developed well after the usage was established) and where many, if not most, of the rules have layers of exceptions.

    Many linguists argue that the “simplified” grammar of English (non-gendered nouns for example) makes it even more difficult for English speakers to learn other languages. True?

  15. April 20, 2009 at 17:10

    ‘My country’ is Britain and you have to live in west Wales to discover how powerfully important language is. I lived there 13 years (connected with my husband’s work). My children were obliged to have daily Welsh lessons in an English-speaking school, which discouraged them from attempting to learn other languages, finding Welsh so difficult. (The only two compulsory sub jects at ‘O’ level were Welsh and Religious Education.) My English friends who were experienced teachers, could not get jobs in Wales without speaking Welsh. My husband’s colleagues spoke Welsh in front of him to the farmers he was advising as a specialist, leaving him out of the discussion. Every Welsh person speaks English, but only when it suits them. I understand their desire to preserve their language (a language is precious, a unique means of expressing one’s culture) but the hostility is palpable and unfortunate.

    The country I live in now is North America. Few Americans speak other languages (they are in disbelief when they realise I speak Spanish and French). The proportion of Hispanic residents is increasing exponentially. The English-speaking-only are often limited in their understanding of other countries because they travel abroad so little, and when they do so, expect to be spoken to in English.

    The English have an obnoxious sense of superiority about their English-speaking influence, and are usually lazy about learning other languages, even though they have the privilege of Europe on their doorstep.

    The rest of the non-English speaking world is somewhat handicapped in its ability to influence international thinking. We will all come to realise the ramifications of this debate when Chinese takes over.

  16. April 20, 2009 at 17:11

    Hi Ros,
    Language’s power! YES! To speak a laguage it’s one thing, to speak it very well it’s another thing, only this can affect those who speak modern languages all as official in one country.
    A place like Africa where people are caught in middle struggling to speaking either French or English and local dialects…finally only very few master one of the official languages. Any time I speak English people pay attetion.

  17. 17 deryck/trinidad
    April 20, 2009 at 17:24

    Definetely, english is the lingua franca of the world so if you want to do business you must speak it or at least have access to someone who does. Even when you look at the media they tend to highlight the english speakers during conferences and summits.An exception occurred when they played Ahmadinejad’s speech but there was still an interpreter.

  18. 18 Luz Ma from Mexico
    April 20, 2009 at 17:36

    Language is part of the culture, and some societies think that if they let people bring other language to their society they will lose their identity. Rather than open themselves to other cultures, they close and impose their own.

    I am not against of preserving languages, but I don’t think that people should be so defensive about the use of other languages in their societies or even how people that have other mother tongue speak their languange (e.g. English spoke with an hispanic accent)

    Sometimes it becomes an obsesion that frankly I cannot understand.

  19. 19 LondonAndy
    April 20, 2009 at 17:38

    I was astionished when I visited Mauritius some years ago to find that while creole was the language, the only language, that absoultely everyone spoke, it had no official status. It was used in nursery school but not in primary or senior schools. And of course for those who spoke only creole, that was a huge, huge disadvantage.

  20. April 20, 2009 at 17:42

    The language you speak affects very much the power you have…look at the leaders of world powers, even speaking to millions of people who hear thousands of laguages they still speak their own first language…who ever heard Bush or Obama speaking French? who ever heard Sarkozy or Chirak speaking English, I never heard Paul Kagame of Rwanda speaking French, I never heard Paul Biya of Cameroon speaking English!!!

  21. 21 Tom K in Mpls
    April 20, 2009 at 18:04

    It is a simple fact that we are all different. Therefore we all have strengths and weaknesses. We are not equal. Also when people deny themselves good options based on a blind judgment known as racism, they hurt them selves as much as those they choose not to deal with. Racism based on any perceived difference is a simple fact of human nature.

    To me it is something to be fought, but only when it is an action taken against others. If someone chooses to not join someone in some form of activity due to racism, it is an unfortunate choice that needs to be respected as their right.

  22. 22 ecotopian
    April 20, 2009 at 18:08

    Language is also cohesive. It binds a society together. The US is a heterogeneous society. The one thing that can bind us together is language. I am not saying that other languages cannot be spoken or learned. What I am saying is we need one language to bind us together as a nation. We are a nation of immigrants, if we give official status to Spanish, it will open the floodgates to other languages wanting the same standing. We are a combined people. We don’t have history that stretches back a couple of thousand years that tells us who we are. All we have that says we are Americans is our language.

    Culture is reflected in language and language reflects culture. There is fear among linguists that as languages die out, and they are dying out, that we will lose those cultures as well. Keep this in mind during today’s discussion. We must do our best to preserve these languages. The knowledge in their cultures as told by these languages can never be replaced and relearning that lost knowledge can be a pain.

  23. 23 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    April 20, 2009 at 18:13

    Switzerland has four national languages, but it doesn’t have the linguistic rivalry that exists in Belgium.

    I know many Swiss couples–a French-speaking man with an Italian-speaking wife, for example, or a Swiss-german speaking woman married to a Romansch-speaking man–who communicate in English as a way of avoiding linguistic rivalries.

    Around here, the more languages you speak, the more empowered you are.

  24. 24 Philippe
    April 20, 2009 at 18:15

    Well, I am from Belgium where there are officially 3 national languages.
    Being a French speaking native does not really help you on the job market.
    On the other hand if you are Dutch speaking, you should certainly benefit from being able to express yourself in French, simply because the Flemish language does not open you up to a very large market, so to speak.
    In anyway, the education system on top of local political – minor – problems made it very hard for people to be able to express themselves in at least two of the most spoken Belgian language. In fact less and less Flemish native speak French while French native didn’t really ever made much of an effort to learn some Dutch.
    In my case, I think it’s a lack of education – I can’t speak Dutch while all of my business in Belgium is in the North, Dutch speaking area…
    So it’s almost like I am in a foreign country, living here.
    However, I never suffered really from this situation, the Flemings I work with don’t care, as we speak the language of ideas, and of course English.
    If you can’t speak English then I guess life will be harder for you in this country.
    In my line of work, there is absolutely no future in the French speaking part of Belgium, no jobs, and not enough entrepreneurship which can also be linked with the mentality and the language of course.
    The language issue in Belgium is a little bit of a joke, in my opinion.
    Linguistic border doesn’t make sense.
    I won’t even get into it, it’s really too boring and politically stirred thing.
    As long as you speak English and learn the more different languages as you can, even just a few words, your spirit will grow and you’ll be just fine.
    Cheers.

  25. 25 saad , Jaffrabad Pakistan
    April 20, 2009 at 18:16

    English in Pakistan is symbol of status. So language has drastic effect on almost everything. Language can you secure you from trouble and the language can put you into trouble. So language has great importance. We should be multiliguastic. And language should be promoted. Many language have been extinct because they were just confined to basic speaker. Confining language will be gross mistake when can ever make.

  26. 26 vijay
    April 20, 2009 at 18:26

    Punjabi is the 11th most widely spoken language in the world maybe yhe BBC World Service should broadcast in Punjabi(the Russians do) especially if you want
    address terrorism,forced marriages,drug trafficking and human trafficking

  27. 27 Scott [M]
    April 20, 2009 at 18:32

    LANGUAGE IS BORING….

    Languages are often divisive and learning multiple languages is a largely superficial endeavor. We shouldn’t encourage people to learn multiple languages, quite frankly there isn’t enough time for that! Humanity will be better served with fewer languages and more time spent educating people in the fundamentals of intelligence and thinking. Language is a tool, you don’t need multiple tools, when the first tool can accomplish the job.

    One world language is the modern, cutting edge and functional solution for many of our communication and cultural problems.

  28. April 20, 2009 at 18:32

    Hi,

    I’m second generation American, but still have relatives over in Europe and have a great interest in world politics and cultures. The large majority of Americans do not choose to speak more than just English, but I think that’s a big mistake.

    All four kids in my family grew up in the States, and yet also grew up speaking at least French, and as we grew up, my brother and I went on to study and improve our Arabic and French and other languages. I studied several other languages, including Japanese, Chinese and several Asian and European languages just because I find it fascinating to cross borders and integrate more seamlessly.

    I don’t see languages as only a way to do business, but to also be able to broaden cultural understanding and understanding communities and the world around us. Different languages have different ways of making their points and illustrating the fineris of life.

    Peace is much more built on commonality of opportunity of communication, and divides are most often built more on refusals to bridge some of these divides.

  29. 29 vijay
    April 20, 2009 at 18:34

    Pakistan imposes urdu as a national language,but India imposes Hindi as national language and this causes resentment amongst non hindi speaking majority and agrowth in regional political parties,this phenomenon can be viewed in the current Indian General Election.

  30. 30 Orsi from Hungary
    April 20, 2009 at 18:36

    There is a linguistic theory called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that says that the language you speak defines the way you understand the world.. this is very true I think! I speak Hungarian, German and English and it really helps me getting on in life..

  31. 31 Kathy Carlson
    April 20, 2009 at 18:42

    I live in Indiana–and have taught English at the University level for over 30 years.

    As a child of of immigrants, I was taught to speak ONLY English, but I now speak Swedish (my heritage), Spanish, and a bit of Italian. I wish that I spoke more languages because they open up the world to me.

    What I have observed in my students is that those who study another language become more proficient in English. They also become more open-minded.

    I hope that the US never has an “official” language and that we continue to encourage American children to speak more than one language–to be engaged with the world.

  32. 32 Joe
    April 20, 2009 at 18:42

    Hello,

    I was working in a government office in California for a few weeks. In this particular office, the civil servants had to know spanish, because of all the public that couldn’t speak english.
    I thought it was fantastic. Some people were older etc, I don’t think its necessary for them to know english at this point.

    You can get by in a lot of communities around the country, only knowing spanish I believe, especially in states bordering Mexico,
    Cheers,

    Joe
    Colorado

  33. 33 Jeff DeLeon-Benham
    April 20, 2009 at 18:45

    To the caller who says that the government should have a choice in whether they provide services in the native language of the consumer, I wonder what we are to do with people who’s native language is American Sign Language? This has been recognized as a real language and it’s “speakers” are unable to simply learn english to adapt.

  34. 34 Will
    April 20, 2009 at 18:45

    In the US we are in a somewhat unique position as we do not have a national or official language that must be learned by anyone. Of course English is favored by many in social, professional and business circles. That being said, it is also important to note that there are entire sub-sections of local economies all across the US that operate almost entirely in a language other than English. Whether it be Chinese, Korean, Spanish, Ethiopian, Sudanese, Arabic, Hindi, Tamil, or any other language, they contribute to the local economies in a significant way. Also, most local governments offer almost all forms and services in multiple languages as well, depending on where you are and what language comprise the local community you can have more than just English and Spanish represented at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles, the courts and the social agencies.

    There is little question, however, that English is the language of the powerful in the US, but speaking English AND another language will often place you at a professional advantage over those that cannot speak any language other than English. Personally I have been rewarded for speaking English, Spanish and some French on more than one occasion both personally and professionally. Not having an official or national language is a great advantage for the US because it creates an environment in which people are encouraged to learn more than one language, for personal reasons as well as professional. Lastly, it’s also important because a person need not feel pressured to learn English to become an American, rather, they choose to become an American because they believe in what the US stands for instead of what we literally speak (majority speaking of course).

  35. 35 TETTEH LAWERH
    April 20, 2009 at 18:45

    Hi there, I am really enjoying the programme. I speak 6 languages but 4 of them are from my native Ghana and I also speak English and French.

    My hobby is studying languages and it is my dream to marry someone who speaks a foreign language.

    I love all kinds of languages.It is a beautiful thing to be able to communicate with someone in his/her own language.

  36. 36 MIGUEL (California)
    April 20, 2009 at 18:45

    I speak perfect English an Spanish, I agree that people that live in US should speak English but due to the Immigration issue with Mexico, a lot of people who have no formal education in Spanish are incapable to learn Eanglish and are mistreated by people Americans who only speak one language. American culture believes that every one should speak English with the exception of the few that speak more than one language.

  37. 37 vijay
    April 20, 2009 at 18:47

    Gordon Brown should ban French from the state sector in the UK an replace it with Mandarin chinese.It might be interesting if special language zones were created in the UK for example (as well as English and Mandarin) ,HAUSA in Halifax could be taught at the primary and secondary school level.

  38. 38 Mark - USA
    April 20, 2009 at 18:48

    Languages can both unify and divide a culture. If there is a commonly accepted social history, multiple languages can enrich the culture. However if there is no commonly accepted history, it becomes devisive and dangerous. One of the greatest examples of this is the India government, which has chosen English as the “official” language, due to it being the only language tribal groups could agree upon. Hindi, which was originally scheduled for the official language, became decisive.

  39. 39 XuQuan Sun
    April 20, 2009 at 18:48

    I think this is a two-sides-of-the-coin issue.

    On the one hand, language diversity should definitely be encouraged. What embedded in languages are the history and culture of our human kind. Losing any of them means losing one of our valuable culture heritage.

    On the other hand, I think one official language should be for one country, just like one country one identity. In China, in spite of many dialects, Mandarin is the only official national language. It is the teaching language in almost all schools. And almost everyone understand and speak Mandarin. For example, a Mandarin speaker in northern China usually understands little Cantonese, but a non-Mandarin speaker usually can speak some Mandarin with a strong accent. Surely, ideally It should be decided by democratic public poll by applying majority vote principle.

  40. 40 Tom D Ford
    April 20, 2009 at 18:48

    If I understand correctly a newborn baby has brain neurons expressly for recognizing some 146 different phonetic sounds and if that baby does not hear and use all of those language sounds the unused neurons get pruned out as unneeded. That is why The Japanese have problems with the American “L” and “R” sounds.

    Now imagine if the babys’ whole brain was trained in all of the sounds available, wouldn’t that baby grow up to be potentially more powerful than a single language speaker?

  41. 41 Sarah, Cleveland Ohio
    April 20, 2009 at 18:49

    Surely there is a relationship between language and culture. And culture reflects history, and also attitudes to religion and how a government is structured. For instance, english speakers in the UK and the US, would identify with a history mostly shaped by Protestant beliefs, in which the poor are given (not necessarily adequately) rights to basic necessities. Spanish speakers, I would guess, identify more with Catholicism, which basically views the distribution of wealth as a form of admired charity by the rich, for which they will be thanked in the afterlife. This surely affects the importance of a ‘national’ language?

  42. 42 Francois Pariseau
    April 20, 2009 at 18:51

    Just one correction on your previous caller’s comments; French Canadian do not speak a peculiar French. Most speak a very good French with a slight different accent then Parisian and nobody within French CAnada laughs about it.
    As for creating divide: we don’t read the same books, see the same movies or are tought the same history. We have very little in common culturaly and that creates a divide.

  43. 43 Byron
    April 20, 2009 at 18:51

    I appreciate the wonderful diversity of culture and thought that a diversity of languages can bring.

    On the other hand, I was startled to find that the city of San Francisco has a student population that speaks over 200 different languages and shoulders an incredible expense in trying to deal with all of these English-as-a-second-language (or maybe not) students.

  44. 44 CJ McAuley
    April 20, 2009 at 18:52

    I am beside myself at an American named Eric in Toronto who phoned your show and exhibited old ideas about the French/English divide that, according to him, makes Canada “unstable”! I was born in Quebec, have lived in BC, Alberta and Ontario and by NO means is my country “unstable”. We have internal spats, but that is by no means unusual. What we are united on is not welcoming American comments about our nation, as are so many around this world!

  45. 45 Holly
    April 20, 2009 at 18:54

    I’m a high school Spanish teacher in East Palo Alto, California. Many people speak little or no English here. Most of them have a harder time economically than those who speak English well.

    I have many native Spanish speaking students, as well as native English speakers learning Spanish. At least it’s easy to teach Spanish here, as there is a lot of motivation for them to learn and/or improve their Spanish.

    Multiple languages make life so interesting. Each language someone learns (like all sorts of education) creates more mental flexibility.

  46. 46 Jonathan Camacho
    April 20, 2009 at 18:54

    i think if humanity goes for one language (very improbabable) the pick has to be a a very non use one so nobody fells on advantage. and this also proves the point on there is no need one comun language as much as we dont need one single country an the word.

  47. 47 Zoe Kraus
    April 20, 2009 at 18:54

    I spent some time working and traveling around Eastern Europe, and I felt so inadequate as an American who could not speak other languages. Friends I was with were able to speak Czech, Russian, German or French and were able to find common ground with Bulgarians. This experience pushed me to want to improve my languages and be practically fluent as well as having an intellectual reading knowledge of a language.

    I am now a Russian language major, and I think that learning other languages is an incredibly rewarding and important skill. Learning about the way a language functions helps you learn so much about people, other cultures as well as the way your own language and mind function by comparison. Russian is my fourth language, and I plan on learning more.

  48. 48 Fred in Portland OR
    April 20, 2009 at 18:55

    We’re all headed over a cliff!

    I routinely encounter late teens and 20 somethings who haven’t learned how to speak “American Standard English” and supposedly they have graduated High School in the States.

    What hope do we have that we will get a future generation to speak two or more lanugages in the states when public school graduates can’t form a sentence with their 200 word vocabularies?

  49. 49 Tom K in Mpls
    April 20, 2009 at 18:57

    To Jeff DeLeon-Benham, is your choice of ignoring the written word a bit of sarcasm or ignorance?

  50. 50 Carmel
    April 20, 2009 at 18:58

    I disagree with the caller from Canada.
    I grew up and went to school in Northern British Columbia where we were taught to speak and appreciate french. Not only is french taught in schools but the languages of the local First Nations are also available to learn. This is key to returning power to a people previously dominated by a primarily English speaking culture.

    I, as a Canadian am proud that we have challenged ourselves to having a multilingual society.

  51. 51 Dan, DC
    April 20, 2009 at 18:59

    The multi-lingual problems of Canada might be difficult but they provide a basis for a vibrant and true debate on rights and identity.

  52. 52 Scott [M]
    April 20, 2009 at 19:00

    LAUGH ALL YOU WANT, THE JOKE IS ON YOU….

    Most of your guests and callers are really cliche, un-modern and traditionalists. They should stop clinging to language by implying it is something more than it is, it is a functional tool—nothing more. It is not something to proud of, or something to preserve like fine china. Truly intelligent modern people don’t have time for the superficiality of multiple languages. You think Einstein really cared about learning all the worlds languages? Please. Multiple languages are a hindrance, a wall between cultures. Trying to preserve them is archaic and sentimental—it is also very similar to being a nationalist. I hope these views are not representative of the shortsightedness of “The World” or we are all in trouble.

  53. April 20, 2009 at 19:01

    An additional point in relation to this topic. The issue of languag, access and the state are effectively discussions about power, both within as well as outside of such a context. Where there is no acknowledgement of how language helps in maintaining the power imbalances between diffferent groups of people, often in the specific case of a diverse language community, such as those socieities in which more than one language is spoken, this too helps to reinforce many of the elements of the disproportionate power relations within the state by the various speakers. Eliding such realities do nothing to change the ways in which language, as a tool, can be used to deny people real access/ benefits from and by the state.

  54. 54 Jessica
    April 20, 2009 at 19:01

    I am an American Citizen living in Houston, TX. I speak Cantonese at home and am also fluent in Mandarin Chinese.

    Over the past years as I have watched China grow as such a power on the World Stage, I have many observations about China’s culture.

    Language in China is a power political tool. Mandarin Chinese is the official language in China, but China has such a diverse population with so many ethnic groups. For China, Mandarin Chinese is the government’s tool to suppress other cultures. China’s government wants to expand the image of the Han Chinese to create a unified China and to justify the superiority of the Han Chinese and Mandarin-speaking over other groups and Chinese dialects. China hopes to create a superior, culture and language.

  55. 55 Phillip Hall
    April 20, 2009 at 19:05

    I feel in the US its hard to KEEP a 2nd language. I spoke German with my grandmother when I was a child, studied it in High School and for 2 years at a university but after 10 years of not speaking it on a regular basis I would have a hard time holding a conversation. Most parts of the US only speak English and its almost futile to learn a second language.

  56. 56 teobesta
    April 20, 2009 at 19:29

    Circumstances in my life have led me to learn and/or use 11 languages. Not only have they enriched my life, opened my mind, sensitized me with respect to international issues and concerns, provided me with lots of opportunities, helped me in my travels, got me out of trouble or let me witness how kind people can be when you have put in time and energy into learning their language, but as Wang Meng once said:

    “To me, language is an art form, a kind of music. It is a key to other minds and other cultures. Studying another language is like growing another set of sensory organs or getting a whole new brain.”

    Imagine the power when understanding different peoples around the world well beyond the words they are using. If only I was spared the sadness that usually follows when I can also see in what ways they are misunderstanding each other to the level that they do.

  57. 57 Jay
    April 20, 2009 at 19:54

    Thank God I can speak English, though English is my fourth language but I wouldn’t have working in all my four jobs that I have been into as speaking English is always a requirement. At the moment am working with Finish,Swedish and local (Zanzibari) we all speak our own languages but we are united and work together in the same project under the English umbrella, can’t imagine if we were forced to learn Finish as this is a Finish funded project. We need to speak as much languages as we can, I speak Haya (my local) Swahili, Arabic and English

  58. 58 Dinka Aliap Chawul,Kampala
    April 20, 2009 at 19:55

    Hi Ros.We all know that mothers are responsible for they diversity of languages so if we needs to reduces that then all young girls should be taught in one language before the become mothers and that how one world and a one will be achieved.

  59. 59 Jennifer
    April 20, 2009 at 20:32

    Well, I think here the language does affect the power that one has. It is hard to be connected to the community unless your language is the dominant one. That is why I think it’s important that people who come from other countries learn English; so as not to be left behind.

    Personally, if I could choose any universal language; it would be Spanish.

  60. 60 Anakor Gozie
    April 20, 2009 at 20:57

    no doubt yes that the better you are at speaking the Dominant language in your environment, the better you can achieve.
    it applies to Persuasion in business, relationship, just everything. and that is why I have a goal of learning many languages in this life.
    have I contributed in line with the topic?

  61. 61 Bert
    April 20, 2009 at 21:05

    Knowing multiple languages is great, because it is almost impossible to understand other cultures weil, without knowing their language. And the world would be a more boring place if everyone spoke exactly the same.

    However this doesn’t mean that incoming waves of immigrants should impose their language on their new host culture. It’s one thing for Belgium and Canada to have their two national languages. Difficult as that might be, it’s been that way throughout their histories. It’s quite another thing for immigrants to expect their language become a second national language in the country to which they have immigrated. That is the sort of in-your-face arrogance that only the most politically correct and timid apologists can accept.

    As do many Europeans, I speak four European languages. In this day and age, though, it almost seems to me like they are one language. Mandarin, Hindi, maybe Tamil, maybe Cantonese, are spoken by so many 100s of millions and even billions of people that one can’t help but wonder when they will become staple foreign language courses in schools throughout the West.

  62. 62 Luci Smith
    April 21, 2009 at 01:02

    Of Course!

    Sometimes people cannot tell how stupid a politician is because the translator makes the person sound better!

    I wish I understood Farsi, because I would like to understand what Amadeinjad really says. A lot gets lost in translation, I find. That is why despite speaking a lot of languages fluently, I have always worked with written translation and would never work as a simultaneous translator.

  63. 63 Luci Smith
    April 21, 2009 at 01:07

    I totally disagree with Scott M. about multiple languages.
    Any new language you learn is opening you to thinking in new ways. Einstein knew at least German and English and my guess is that if he had had more time off from physics, which is a demading subject, je would have learned others.
    Growing up in Texas, I had Spanish and German in school and those are two of the languages I speak least and least good today.
    Every new language opens up a world. When you read Hans Christian Andersen in Danish it is not the same as an English translation. Scott does not know what he is missing.
    Learn other languages and you will discover this for yourself.

  64. April 21, 2009 at 01:28

    No. It should not affect the power people have.

  65. 65 Listener
    April 21, 2009 at 03:24

    Language is culture and the communication channel, it leads the people from one culture to another, and without speaking the certain language you can never understand their culture and custom deeply in the root. People communicate differently when they talk in their own language.

  66. 66 Dihan from Sri lanka -Galle
    April 21, 2009 at 07:19

    I suppose that it’s better if common language can be used for a whole world. So that it solve lot of existing problems in present world. It can directly
    affects to mentality of people. So every body will be able to interchange their ideas. So , it will make a better place for you and for me as Michael jackson says in song of “Heal the world”
    But according to my opinion it is not practicable.Some people don’t like to change their initial states. But it can be done by starting to teach a common language throughout the world. If it starts,English will be the most appropiated languge to teach.Because some valuable resources such as internet, Encarta have been made in English.So if English become a common language, lot of people can get more knowledge by using these resources.
    How ever according to my opinion is to be learned more than 2 languages.Because it will simplify the effort of living anywhere in the world.If only one language is known, have to be enclosed for limited space .That mean cannot be gone to any place in the word as the languages are unknown.
    Thank you.

  67. April 21, 2009 at 09:25

    it does affect,and thats why the english have an official english language and an original english language.each is used where necessary.

    TAMBUA VILLAGE,
    HAMISI,KENYA.

  68. 68 John D. Augustine - WI USA
    April 21, 2009 at 10:03

    Since this *is* the cyberland of the BBC:

    Regarding my earlier reference to US linguistic “ethnic cleansing,” and since colonial and US histories have been so closely interwoven, it should also be noted that some important distinctions have been known to exist between US Federal and British Royal international policies.

    In Black Elk Speaks, a biography and account of history as told by Black Elk and written by John G. Neihardt, Black Elk refers to Canada as “Grandmother’s Land,” a place where, for a time, some of his people resettled to escape the US Army and the wars of The Western Plains. (at least I’m pretty sure that’s where I read it)

    Good night, mother crown.

    “We mean it, man.”

  69. 69 Gill
    April 21, 2009 at 11:10

    I am a linguist and teacher of English as a foreign language at a university in Italy.
    As well as the debate about languages per se, it’s important to consider your proficiency in language(s). Having a smattering of a foreign language leaves you at the mercy of those who have a better command – and it doesn’t matter if they’re native speakers or not. If we go a bit further than just using language socially, or using it to communicate at a basic level in the workplace, it becomes clear that the better your command of a language, the easier it is for you to get what you want, or get your own way.
    I speak a number of foreign languages well enough to communicate socially, but only one (Italian) well enough to hold my own in a heated argument, or to recognise that others are trying to twist my words.

    The reason why world leaders generally don’t speak publicly in a foreign language is not because none of them speak foreign languages at all, but rather because they do not speak them as well as they speak their native language. In addition to the ever-present worry of making a stupid grammar/vocabulary mistake, it is extremely difficult to control for things like register (the right tone and words for the audience and occasion), and nuances of meaning as you do in the language(s) you have been educated in, and work with. Mistakes and inappropriate expressions can be, and often are, interpreted as weakness, insecurity, lack of professionality, even stupidity, and you’d be surprised how many people pounce on language as a means of pigeon-holing others. Maybe you yourselves have thought badly of a foreigner trying to comminicate in your language, making mistakes, pronouncing words wrongly, or using words which don’t exist. Maybe you failed to consider that the same person speaks another language, probably well as you speak your own, possibly better.
    I’d be wary of anybody who tried to convince me that language and power are unrelated.

  70. 70 Peter
    April 21, 2009 at 14:12

    Srilanka is good example as to what language can do. Before getting independence from the British in 1948 English was the official language and there was less problems,though a vast majority 90% did not understand English.
    However as Sri lanka was under colonial power the Sinhalese and the Tamils lived amicably. Sinhalese and Tamils together agitated for the freedom and got it without much struggle. With the passage of couple of years the Sinhalese politicians surely and steadily started their discriminative policies by denying the the Citizen ship rights to Tamil Tea Estate And Rubber estate workers, who were of Indian Origin.. Further they started colonizing the Tamil home land by the Majority Sinhalese to change the texture of the population thus reducing Tamil representatives in the Parliament.
    From the the time of independence it was agreed that Sinhala and Tamil shall be the official languages with English as the link language,. by all political parties
    .But in 1956″ Sinhala Only’ was declared the official language and a bill was passed in Parliament to this effect, despite peaceful protests by the Tamils.
    Peaceful protests were were met with riots and civil commotions by the Sinhales against the Tamil, encouraged by the state.
    Today the Tamils are paying the price and all Tamils are considered TERRORISTS.
    To Cut the Story short over 80,000 Tamils have been killed up to date and a genocide of the Tamils is is taking place right now with the blessing of India.

    You are aware that Protest against this genocide is taking place in all parts of the world and the International community is playing a game. Perhaps they will act only after the damage is done.
    The language is the main cause and the colonial British government is responsible for this situation. Because for their own governing convenience the Britishers merged the the Tamil Homeland , North and East of Eelam with Srilanka.
    Today Tamils are paying the price for Britishers folly while the British Government is a mere spectator.

  71. 71 John D. Augustine - WI USA
    April 21, 2009 at 17:48

    Hey! Now, this is getting interesting. Thanks to Peter, April 21 at 14:12, I’ve just learned more about the fighting in Sri Lanka than I have from a lifetime of news reports from the global community of professional journalism.

    And this should be no surprise. The root word of news, after all, means that which is recent in development. This is specifically the job of the news media, to report on the news. We’re hosted here by the BBC after all, not The History Channel.

    Still, some fine tuning might be in order. I don’t see why, if we can develop the technology to read a muddy license plate from the moon, we can’t discover the intelligence to measure a better balance between looking forward, looking recently backward, and focusing on the greater distance of the relevant recent past.

    Perhaps we could start a campaign. Shall we call it the less recently blind leading the children right behind? …or, y’know. Like, something like that?

  72. 72 Luci Smith
    April 21, 2009 at 18:22

    I liked what Gill wrote. ALso because I thought of the buffoon Sylvio Berlusconi and Queen Elizabeth II at the G 20 meeting.
    It is what I like about living in a country with a Queen. A real Queen who is born to rule over her people and show them dignity in manners and language. Since language is a very important part of our manners.
    Our Danish Queen does not answer reporters who yell at her from the sidelines. When she makes a speech or chooses to be interviewed, her subjects listen. The now former PM of Denmark said so much spin that I quit listening ages ago. The language of power and spin does not fly anymore.
    Obama keeps talking about transparency in government and I think that goes for language, too. People are tired of being bamboozeled by politicians who offer just spin or buffoonery or, like Sarkozy have to get a model-wife to cover up the fact that they are bureaucrats that rose to a situation over their abilities. To me, Sarkozy and Berlusconi are like the AIG bosses, trying to cover up their lack of. That is what you can get out of being able to understand what they are saying and how they say it. I do not want to buy any used Euros from those guys!

  73. 73 Hanne Baeyens
    April 21, 2009 at 19:35

    Ofcourse language is power. Since I’m from Belgium and in particularly from Flanders, I grew up with the language difference. But to me, the main problem of the rivalry between our regions isn’t about the different languages but about the different cultures. OK, we all live in a modern civilisation still there are big differences between the Flemish and Walloon people except a language. Due to these more local but still cultural difference, it is for policians hard to make decisions together and work as an unified government.
    Belgium has language or cultural problems and these aren’t going away in a couple of years. Even though Belgium is a small country, you can draw lessons of it. Nobody can deny the rivalry between Flanders and Wallonia but there is still a mutual respect. And this respect is the start for a better co-operation.

  74. 74 John D. Augustine - WI USA
    April 21, 2009 at 22:59

    A few people have mentioned politicians, and I think we must remember when John F. Kennedy supposedly meant to say: “Ich bin Berliner,” or “I stand with the people of Berlin,” but actually said “Ich bin *ein* Berliner,” or “I am a jelly donut.” But then he said this as the US was busy airlifting food, so maybe he was just being clever.

    But even when a “Great Communicator” speaks in his native tongue, it is far more important to understand the ideas being put into words. Perhaps the most dishonoring words of a US president were spoken by Ronald Reagan when he said on behalf of every American taxpayer: “I am a Contra.”

    The problem is, I truly believe he meant to say “I am defending freedom,” and it was only blind faith which prevented him from knowing that what he said was “I am arming terrorists undermining a democratically elected government, as certified by international observers, including former president Jimmy Carter.”

    Still, I believe language is the key to overcoming the entrenchment of such ignorance. Noam Chomsky is a linguist by profession, and anyone who has ever heard him speak can not help but be amazed at why it is not so simple for every US citizen to see through the lies and half truths and speak only the whole truth of their own history. Or at least remain silent, and pray for no witnesses.

  75. 75 primal convoy in Japan
    April 22, 2009 at 02:29

    Here in Japan, I feel that if you cannot speak Japanese, then you simply cannot live comfortably in areas outside central Tokyo.

    It has been said that most Japanese people believe that Japanese is so hard and unique, that foreigners cannot and will never be able to speak it.

    Recently a “comedian” (I use the term loosely) duo made fun of how they perceived foreigners’ attempts to speak their own language. To those unfamiliar with Japanese, the duo are basically doing the “Harro! Harro! Me Chinaman! Me no supeek INGURISHU!” stereotypical impersonation of “Oriental/Asian” people attempting to speak English:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hsck6mKyYs

    Regardless, the perception here is that “foreigners cannot speak/understand Japanese (correctly)” and so this can lead to racial discrimination, where foreigners can be refused entry (legally) to any establishment. The “reason” given usually in these cases is “We cannot speak English” (ie: The foreigner is probably ignorant of Japanese/Japanese culture).

    So, I would say that foreigners learning more Japanese or teaching more English in Japan is VERY important for Japan’s ability to attract more foreigners to live there.

  76. 76 globalcomedy
    April 22, 2009 at 03:59

    Ideally, everyone in the States should be multi-lingual. Japanese is my best second language. And Spanish is third.

    But even though the States are made up of immigrants, there’s still that superior-American attitude. Why should we be like everybody else?

    Because it’s a global economy. And, there’s value in being multi-lingual and cultural. If you worked in the U.K. and got offered your dream job overseas, would you take it if you had to study another language? I keep seeing surveys that say the number of people emigrating from the U.K. is going up. But how many of these expats in (fill in the blank) can actually speak the local language? Or, do they fall into the we-are-superior Brits attitude?

  77. April 22, 2009 at 09:02

    Of course it does. Or at least, the language you speak, as well as your command of it, affect the INFLUENCE you have.

    A good measure is to check the “Recommended” tally under messages (e.g. in BBC News – Have Your Say): Posts that show a clear difficulty with English expression have notably less support, irrespective of their main argument, although cultural empathy also comes into play.

    The importance of getting that fine nuance right is extremely important in business, e.g. negotiating and marketing, whether in spoken, written or audio/visual form, and your capacity to do that can determine wide swings in your control of the marketplace and/or public opinion.

    This realisation, however, remains very understated within monolingual societies (most countries with one major language).

  78. 78 Ravichandran
    April 22, 2009 at 09:32

    In India we have several languages and Hindi is spoken by the majority of the population. India being a vast country with very deep cultural roots, language is a very tricky issue. After independence, the parliament in the country, dominated by Hindi speaking zealots voted for Hindi being the official and national language. A large southern state went to the verge of seceding and immediately New Delhi relented and agreed to retain English till the time Hindi is ripe enough to be accepted by all. In a poor country where people live on one square meal a day, millions is being spent to spread the tentacles of Hindi and the New Delhi has almost succeeded.

    Few years back I encountered a software engineer who was speaking in Hindi to a person who was struggling to give him a reply in Hindi. There was a big fat book on Oracle software on the table. I asked this Hindi zealot, ” Frankly tell me, can the book be translated in Hindi?” He said, “No”.

    In this era of globalization any country will have to chose and support a language spoken by the global community. English qualifies for this very easily. If some country including the US wants to push English down, it will push itself down. Because it takes a long time for a language to evolve and mature to suit business, science and cultural growth. English we like it or not is the language.

  79. 79 Jan - Flanders
    April 22, 2009 at 09:57

    Hi,
    I’m a Flemish.
    I know for a fact that a friend of mine, who didn’t get a job, applying for one, being a Dutch speaking Belgian. Dutch speaking people didn’t fit into that particular firm…

    Now what’s the problem of language in Belgium? We can discuss this for hours, because it’s a problem that goes way back in time. So let’s stick with the present situation, where everything starts in Brussels.
    Brussels has always been a Dutch speaking city. Proof of it, is that it lies as an island inside the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, Flanders ; the names of the 19 communities, which make out Brussles, are Dutch; the Brussels dialect is a Dutch dialect…
    Brussels being the administrative centre of the country, even Europe, attracts people from all over the country, looking for a job. Dutch speakers even as French speakers. Working in the metro pole, no problem, but living there is another question. So people look for a place to stay outside this city. And so they arrive in the small, quiet and green villages around the capital. Dutch speaking, Flemish towns. The French speakers, not having learned the Dutch language at school (although an official language in Belgium, the Walloons are not obligated to learn Dutch ; on the other hand, the Flemish (who are a majority 6 to 4 in Belgium) must learn French from 10 years of age), come to settle in Flanders, in some villages they outnumber the Flemish, and demand so that these villages become from one day to another the status of French speaking town, chasing the Flemings and their language…
    Reminds me of Native Americans, Palestinians etc…
    This is not done, this is a lack of respect, and create the community tensions….
    So far for the brief situation in Europe’s capital…

  80. 80 John D. Augustine - WI USA
    April 23, 2009 at 06:31

    “You don’t need many words to speak the truth.”

    I saw these words on a bumpersticker, so I only remember that it was a Native American who said this. I can only assume it was in the context of being lied to by a person speaking English, or perhaps the language we call “legalese.”

    One thing I do know about Native American culture is that it teaches listening as the ever present other half of speach. If parents and schools everywhere could learn to make this the focus of teaching, (and the best way to teach is by setting an example – to listen ourselves) then the differences in the words we used wouldn’t matter all that much.

  81. 81 Syed Hasan Turab
    April 23, 2009 at 16:55

    Urdu is a common language in entire subcontent of Asia & commonly understand in India, Pakistan & rest of the region.
    As the world knows that this region is heavely populated & may not be understand like Europe. Any way language is sign of love & peace.

  82. 82 L
    April 24, 2009 at 20:00

    In Ireland, Irish is our official language, having being reclaimed after centuries of enforced English.In our daily lives most of us speak English, but to be a teacher, civil servant, garda (policeman) and so on, one needs Irish.At school we learn Irish, even foreign kids 11 and under must learn Irish.

    In ways this is similar to Wales, but unlike the Welsh, we do not snub non-Irish speakers.On a visit to Wales, my family were ignored until we got fed up and started to complain amongst ourselves in Irish.At that stage they coped they we too had another language and that we weren’t English (Irish accent is very different), and became very friendly.. needless to say we haven’t returned.Eileen in Virginia is correct about the Welsh.

    I attended an international school with people from USA, EU, Russia, Caribbean, UK, Africa, Australia and so on, meaning that I learnt a lot of different languages and cultures.Sometimes a new pupil would have difficulty speaking in English so we would communicate in another language instead.At primary school, I learned Irish and French. At secondary school, I learned Japanese and German, while continuing the Irish.

    A few years back on holiday, I was annoyed to hear two English women loudly assume in front of me and my family, that my were obviously “German or something” just because we were speaking Irish.We are their neighbours and they don’t even know what Irish is.Also they felt free to discuss us in front of us.How rude!

  83. 83 Janeen - Brussels
    April 25, 2009 at 10:27

    Reply to Jan. Brussels used to be more Flemish than French speaking. Nowadays the lingua franca in Brussels is French (only 10 % of the population as Flemish as a mother tongue and the vast majority of these people use French as well), so let us forget about the past and speak about the present situation!

  84. 84 lotte renders - belgium
    April 26, 2009 at 16:37

    I am as well living in the flemish part of Belgium. I don’t believe that language is a major problem in Belgium. It is particulary a problem of politics. In a country where different cultural groups ive, it is normal that there are tensions from time to time, but politiciens and media tend to stress the differences rather then the similarities.
    On the other hand it is a fact that there’s a difference in ability to speak the other national languages between Flemish and Walloons. Although it isn’t true that french speaking schools don’t teach their pupils dutch, the majority of the Walloons isn’t able to speak Dutch very well. I believe this is more of a problem for the french speaking part (when they want to apply for a job etc) then it is for the flemish part of society. Because being able to speak multiple languages does affect the power you have in this country and in a world of multiple languages and cultures. Much attention is being paid to language skills in Flanders. I learnt Dutch, German, French, English and Spanish at school.

  85. 85 Dennis Junior
    April 27, 2009 at 03:28

    Does the language you speak give you more power? (Yes)

    Should countries boycott the UN conference on Racism? (On this thing…Yes, since certain countries will be spewing racism comments….towards other participating countries)

    Do the Chinese need to be controlled? (I am not going to comment on this item….Since it is very touchy situation)….

    ~Dennis Junior~


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