June 6, 2008
Regarding ‘Teachers back ‘personal adoptive’ language proposal’:
In your article you cited me as ‘complaining’ about not knowing what the EU programme on multilingualism will look like come September. Since we are speaking about languages, the word ‘complain’ has a specific meaning in this context.
To set the record straight, I did not complain but made an obvious point that when a public hearing takes place, we shall not know what the European Commission will finally adopt as main points.
Besides, I made several other points at this public hearing, one of which was picked up by the report issued by the Commission after the public hearing took place, namely not to underestimate the English language. Too many tend to argue against use of the English language as if already an imperial one. Moreover, cultural diversity and hence multilingualism tends to create a trap with people thinking only their own culture and language is good, hence no need to bother about other cultures and languages.
The American writer George Crane (‘Bones of the Master’) would furthermore stress a crucial point in what a language can do if it comes in from the street and allows the integration of people. He obviously refers more to the language of Mark Twain than that of T.S. Eliot.
There are distinctions between how integration of people is made possible by language not being a social code and their articulation possibilities enhanced by joining creative movements e.g. in Poland people had a very reduced vocabularly before Solidarnosc but once active they attained a new level of sophistication in the use of language.
Coming back to the European Union, Simon Mundy in ‘Making it home’ put it very well: Euro-speak is a language reduced by the institutional mechanisms to such neutrality that no one can object anymore to the statement made, but then like a flat tyre the air is out and the European vehicle does not go anywhere nor does it move people in the way they are if really addressed in their understanding of the situation.
If multilingualism is to become a directorate general of its own standing (and not cities apart from regions to my regret), then a departure point could be Jean Pierre Faye’s ‘Totalitarian Languages’ in which he makes an analysis about what happens when people are made so malleable by such a language that they are ready to unload their self-hatred upon a suitable scapegoat at any given moment.
I also referred to one important experience made by Kids’ Guernica when bringing children together from Greece and Turkey, that is when they do not have any common language except by painting together a peace mural. Averbal communication based on trust and openness is something Europe needs if we are to anticipate how in future all our languages will develop.
If European cultures are to enrich use of different languages, then it would be highly recommendable that we start from such interesting questions why in German you have male, female and neutral definitive articles while in English there is only ‘the’, or why in German ‘Erlebnis’ and ‘Erfahrung’ is merged in English into ‘experience’.
I think working with these differences will give a comparative advantage which will enrich the other languages as has been the case over centuries. If language development hinges on poets making their voices heard, then it should equally be remembered that their different voices fall still short from hearing the ‘human voice’.
There are different languages, including the ‘slave language’, which divert attention from that important task, namely to create such spaces that the human voice can be heard and is listened to.
I wish some of these points would have been picked up in your article rather than reducing my voice to that of a complaint.
AthensAuthor : sylvane_casademont