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Teoria i metodologia

World Language Policy in the Era of
Globalization: Diversity and Intercommunication from the Perspective of 'Complexity' by Albert Bastardas i Boada


Promoting the effective polyglottization of individuals also involves taking new decisions that must be studied and debated, as well as the need for research and effective imagination in methods and strategies for learning second languages. One of the first decisions that must be taken is which second language or languages need/s to be learnt; such a decision obviously depends on the language/s we adopt at the various levels of communication - general or planet-wide, regional or continental, and local. As we are all aware, many international organisations and countries have already taken decisions on this aspect that clearly tend to favour the adoption of English, as we pointed out earlier, although often in conjunction with other codes. I do not believe that this aspect should not go unquestioned, simply to become an inevitable and irreversible fact that irrationally feeds off contemporary North-American hegemony. Mankind as a whole needs to ask itself what it wants to do, communicatively-speaking. What is best for us? To continue spreading the knowledge of a language of a specific human group (which clearly asymmetrically favours those with this language as their L1), or to focus on a language of intercommunication that is not the L1 of any human group? What is best for the continuity of linguistic diversity? To continue learning the language of a group or series of groups that are hegemonic at this point in time, or to think about adopting a new language that belongs to nobody, for all of mankind? Many people may think that these questions have already been answered de facto by reality. However, I sincerely believe that our species cannot adopt decision of this importance unless the organisations that represent us and the citizens themselves debate, deliberate, evaluate and finally give their verdict on the issue.

English-speaking countries and individuals clearly benefit from the current situation and, depending on the conditions, social development can lead to increasingly more individuals imitating native English-speakers and, as we said earlier, adopting English as their habitual language and as the L1 of their children. At the moment, a product in English – even if it is not only local, but also localist – is immediately an 'international' product, whereas the same product in another language has a restricted circulation. Clearly, if a neutral code that is not the L1 of any group was adopted, people would be less likely to see a code of intercommunication as an L1, thus guaranteeing further the level of conservation of historical linguistic diversity. This would also make humans more equal in terms of their initial language competencies, since everybody would have to learn the language. Moreover, as we saw in Ferguson’s diglossias, complementary distribution contributes to maintenance: the formal variety is not habitually used in everyday communication and therefore rarely becomes an L1.

However, here we may face problems such as the linguistic distance between the languages of each group and the structure of the language of intercommunication that is finally adopted. How can we create a neutral code that will be equal for everybody? Perhaps the issue is not that easy to solve (as we have seen in India, for example), and the debates between the different linguistic groups may make it impossible to ever reach the point of adopting this neutral code. In that case, the continuity and expansion of English would be guaranteed, at least until some other power in the future decided to challenge that language and try to impose its own.

If the prevailing solution was continuity of the international use of a language belonging to a pre-existing human group, I think that we would then need to think about introducing some clear counterweights, not only as regards clear regulation and the establishment of an authority to supervise abusive usage, but even 'taxes' for usage; the resources obtained in this way could then be used to benefit languages with more difficulties. The exportation of English knowledge and the fact that products written in that language can encompass a significant part of the world market provides an enormous amount of financial benefit for this group of countries, particularly for Great Britain and the United States. The sharing of these benefits and returning them to other linguistic groups is not too far-fetched an idea to imagine it becoming a reality in the immediate future as planetwide integration advances.  

5. Immediate priorities for the general maintenance of linguistic diversity

Without setting aside the reflection and action required to shape the future of the linguistic communication of humanity, we need to concentrate on more immediate problems and try to act in coordination on smaller scales, which are, for the moment, more often decisive. International group action is required both by the organisations common to humanity at this moment in time and by the most local of public authorities. These must make people fully aware of the linguistic diversity crisis and undertake action at every level of government to change the current, inadequate conditions. However, although we can conceptualize the phenomenon of language contact as a unit, the situations and stages of development of the various cases can be very different, and thus require very different types of action. Currently, we find contact ranging from that of the language of an important group (i.e. with solid demographic expansion, economically-developed, with full political sovereignty) that uses English as a technical and scientific interlanguage, to that of a group with few individuals that is economically and politically minoritized, in constant contact with the language of the dominant group in all of these aspects. It is evident that the problem of diversity is aggravated as we near the lower end of this continuum of situations, i. e. cases with maximum political, economic, demographic, educational, mass media and even ideological subordination. One of the most urgent aspects that needs to be studied and solved, therefore, is knowing exactly which policies to apply in the diverse situations all over the planet.

By way of example and for provisional study, we need to at least distinguish between these different situations (by combining variables such as group demographic volume, level of political subordination, level of economic development, everyday contact with other groups, and representations of the situation): (16)

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