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Review of Language in Contact
The story of the Tower of Babel in the Bible serves as an origin myth to explain why people in different parts of the world speak different languages.In the context of globalization,however,English has emerged as the lingua franca of the world.On the one hand,the fact that English is permeating all corners of the globe as the common language results from globalization.Regions and countries are increasingly interlinked in aspects such as trade,finance,and politics.There rises a necessity of a common language or languages among speakers whose native languages are different.On the other hand,the worldwide adoption of English expedites the the process of globalization.As more and more people can communicate effectively using one language,economic productivity enhances and cultural exchanges speed up as well as spread wider.The trio of articles examines our languages in light of globalization,with each placing an emphasis on a particular question.
Borodistsky’s article,as its name suggests,investigates the question of how our language shapes the way we think.As a professor of cognitive science and symbolic systems,she has carried out research of human communication with data input that spans from Russian,Mandarin,Turkish,and Aboriginal languages in Australia.By comparing Russian,Spanish and German,she discovered that the male and female forms of nouns have a pronounced effect on whether speakers think of objects as masculine or feminine.By studying the Kuuk Thaayorre speakers and comparing them to Mandarin and English speakers,she concludes that language also influence our spatial knowledge and navigational ability.Using other data,she points out that our language can also shape the way we think of time,colors,actions,and sizes.To further ensure that it is our language,rather than unique aspects of our respective cultures,that engenders our differences in thought processes,she conducted research to see if teaching people new languages can change the way they think.The result confirms that new way of talking generates new way of thinking.Borodistsky states that the way we see the world is indeed shaped by the idiosyncrasies of our respective languages,and“even flukes of grammar”can make a profound difference.
Sharma’s article“The New Language Landscape”looks into children’s adoption of English in India.As a country with two official languages at the national level,English and Hindi,and twenty-two other official languages at the state level,plus a multitude of regional languages,India is incredibly linguistically diverse.However,as the writer points out,a surging number of children in the country now only speak English,despite the fact that their parents speak other languages as their mother tongues.The writer discovers that the rise in inter-regional marriages is one factor that causes this phenomenon.Another contributing factor is the push for speaking English in urban areas.Fluency in English can give a child a leg up in terms of getting accepted into good schools and,later in life,develop a better career.And yet,Sharma poses the concern that not teaching children in India the languages their parents speak can lead to the losses of those regional languages.Acknowledging the conveniences that speaking English can bring,She also hints at the profound drawback of speaking only English,which is losing native tongues and corresponding cultures.
Both articles shed some light on the intricate relationship between our languages and our societies in the lens of globalization.Both recognize that our diverse languages are what makes up the unique characteristics of our different cultures.The Borodistsky article analyzes that languages have significant influences on our thoughts and behaviors,and serve important functions in forming the differences from culture to culture.In contrast,Sharma’s writing focuses on the potential disappearance of these cultural differences in a world where one single language—English—has become to predominate communication.
Considering the role of language in an age of globalization is of vital importance as it brings forth the question of how to balance preserving individual cultures as well as making the world flatter and smaller for efficient and effective economic cooperation and social collaboration.In my opinion,the ability to balance the two sides is critical to humanity if we are to achieve a globalized world in which there still exists diversity,equality,and sustainability.As Borodisstky’s research suggests,different languages shape the way we think in different ways.Through lessons from history,it is indisputable to say that different ways of thinking are essential for generating scientific innovation,creating technological advancement,and finding solutions to socioeconomic problems.In the process of globalization,we risk of losing different perspectives and valuable insights if one dominant language kills off the other languages.However,the inability to communicate with speakers of languages has been one of the most obstinate obstacles we face in workplaces,governments,and personal relationships.A common language shared by all people has the power to increase productivity,to enable teamwork,and to unite nations.Without it,it would have been almost impossible for people who speak different languages as mother tongues to communicate,cooperate,and make this world a better place.
So,is bilingualism or multilingualism the key to balancing preserving diversity and spreading unity?Maybe.With proper education and awareness from parents and society at large,it should not be difficult to achieve.
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