Clinging to separate languages

Wow, there are lots of articles on the importance of foreign languages for cultural identity.  Shouldn’t it be clear that we need to increase the visibility of foreign language programs and not just ones essential to our “national security?”  Here’s an excerpt from the article  “As Europe’s power grows, we need to cling to our separate languages” by Jonny Dymond from The Observer (Sunday 25 April 2010) [full article: Language is at the core of our European identity. People don’t give that up, whatever the ties between countries. “Everyone speaks English now,” you are told when you travel to continental Europe. It’s not true, not in the slightest. It is too easy to forget how important language is. Language matters because nations matter; both nations and languages contain stories and inspire loyalties. And that means more than folk dances and festivals.

There are those who argue that it was what took place in the aftermath of the two great bloodlettings of the last century that enabled Europeans to live together in some degree of harmony. First, after the Great War, when the Russian, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires dissolved into micro-nations of the Wilsonian settlement. Then, after the Second World War, when millions of “others” – primarily but not exclusively German-speakers – were expelled from ancestral homes.

Only after these two upheavals, runs the argument, did any kind of ethno-linguistic homogeneity come about; and only because of that homogeneity could the post-communist states of Europe be confident enough eventually to pool their sovereignty. The modern nation-state, secured by some kind of ethnic and linguistic purity, is, for good or ill, still the primary focus of popular loyalty. So those who long for a single European language to replace the armies of interpreters and translators in the EU are in for a long, long wait. Language still matters, dividing and unifying Europe at the same time.

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