Nowadays the existence of minor and major languages in the world led us to raise the problem of human rights. The discrepancy among the status of languages that is becoming the reason of intercultural disagreement was and is still the major concern of many researchers. In this blog I am going to share my views about the article “Derrida’s Le monolinguisme de l’autre: Linguistic Educational Rights” written by Denise Egea-Kuehne that aims “to explore Derrida’s Le monolinguisme de l’autre to discuss the impossibility of absolute monolingualism demanded by linguistic imperialism, and the multiplicity inherent in any language” (p.111). In my analysis, I emphasized the positive aspects of acquiring a “dominant language”. I do not consider the loss of language, culture, and identity, as a consequence of this “dominant language” being imposed to the detriment of the mother or native language. I would like to recommend reading the whole article with in mind the main question posed by author concerning the dilemma for educators to teach the needed main language, or the more widely known and used language, while respecting and preserving the minority languages. The whole article is divided into several subtopics dedicated to pertinent linguistic and sociocultural issues. This post particularly will dwell on one of the subtopics of this work which is called “The other language: linguistic imperialism.”
Egea-Kuehne (1999) in this chapter discusses the role of dominant languages in different linguistic contexts. She claims that there is a crucial necessity of using dominant languagues for minor ethnicities. The dominant language is the sole language with the help of which minorities are able to communicate with other countries and nationalities. As Crystal (2003) claims that linguistic imperalism strengthens the language itself, and it is beneficial for communities which are willing to be involved in the modern world society. Moreover, according to De Jong (2011), the language of imperalism is the way “to gain access to knowledge, international trade opportunities, cultural events” ( p. 93).
Further, Egea-Kuehne (1999) describes the occurrence of linguistic imperialism in different contexts. According to her analysis of different countries’ linguistic cases, Egea-Kuehne (1999) concludes that in most countries the acquisition of foreign language was mainly forced rather than acquired in a voluntary way. She presents the case of Indian children who were forbidden to speak their native language and forced to learn English by making them to forget even about their religion, culture and identity. Unfortunately, the same situation can be seen in the Kazakhstani context too. When Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union, the forced imposition of the Russian language (in that time it was the dominant one) led the Kazakh people to losing their national identity. As a result, after gaining independence, Kazakhstan was the only post-soviet country where non-titular nations were prevailing the native one.
Egea-Kuehne (1999) also maintains that preserving the national value of any language is very important as well as the education in the dominant language . She says that education in the dominant language allows to fortify the communciation with other countries “as broadly as possible” (p.112). She gives examples in which education in “other” language could save Drassus’s nation from slavery, and also helped American writer Maya Angelou to escape from “silence, loniless, oppression and abuse” (p.112). In this sense, the Russian language played a positive role in Kazakhstan development and its people enlightment too. Fierman (2006) states that due to the Russification policy, the Russian language became a “valuable asset for upward and social mobility” (p.89) for the Kazakh nation. Indeed, due to the Russian language acquisition, our country could establish international relations during the first years of independence. Due to the knowledge of the Russian language, the Kazakh people began to take part in international competitions. Particularly, the Russian literature opened the door to world classic literature because the translations were only in Russian.
To sum up, from thought-provoking views with supportive evidences about linguistic imperialism in the article “Derrida’s Le monolinguisme de l’autre: Linguistic Educational Rights” by Denise Egea-Kuehne, it might be concluded that appropriation of dominant languages does not diminish the minorities’ linguistic human rights, but instead, it offers various opportunities to be one of the leading countries in the world.
Crystal, D. (2003). Why English? The cultural legacy. In English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
De Jong, E. (2011). Linguistic diversity and globalization. In Foundations for Multilingualism in Education: From Principles to Practice (83-101). Philadelphia, PA: Caslon Inc.
Egea-Kuehne, D. (1999). Derrida’s Le monolinguisme de l’autre: Linguistic Educational
Fierman, W. (2006). Language and education in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan: Kazakh-medium instruction in urban schools. Russian Review, 65(1), 98-116.
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