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Negative consequences of linguistic imperialism.

According to David Crystal, a global language is the one which is given special
status- priority in business, education and government- over native or mother-tongue
languages. This special status can be conferred in two ways: the government can make
it the official language, or it can receive priority in schooling. (Crystal, 3-5)
Nowadays, “English is said to have the status of a world language” (kivisto, 4) since it
dominates economic and cultural fields, and it is the language most widely taught as a
foreign language around the world. Nevertheless, the status of English as a global
language has lead to linguistic imperialism which, according to Philipson, refers to
“the dominance of English over other languages and cultures” (Philipson qtd in
Kivisto, 9). This linguistic imperialism exploits and monopolizes other languages and
cultures, thus creating language death, loss of identity and a superior-inferior division
among people and languages.
To begin with, many linguists state that “the processes of language domination
and loss have been known throughout linguistic history, and exist independently of the
emergence of a global language.” (Crystal, 20) But, although this is indeed true, it is
important to highlight that language death has increased due to the existence of a
global language. The spread of it, although beneficial for international economical and
political relations, has accelerated the disappearance of minority languages by making
them unnecessary for the purpose of communication. As David Crystal points out:

This is indeed an intellectual and social tragedy. When a


language dies, so much is lost. (…) language is the repository
of the history of a people. It is their identity. Oral testimony
(…) provides us with a unique view of our world and a unique
canon of literature. It is their legacy to the rest of humanity.
Once lost, it can never be recaptured. (Crystal, 20)

Second, it is really important to stress that the linguistic imperialism threatens


the identity of many speech communities. As Crystal claims, language is “the chief
means of showing where we belong and of distinguishing one social group from
another” (Crystal, 20); therefore, language is extremely related with personal and
social identity. This identity is negatively affected by the spread of a global language
since communities lose their customs, beliefs and traditions. For instance, Celtic
languages have been reduced by the influence of English in Scotland and Ireland
(Modiano qtd in Kivisto, 9). Furthermore, this situation may result in conflicting
positions among people. While native speakers may feel pride of the status of English,
non-native speakers may feel resentful, angry or even envious due to the success of
English (Crystal, ). As crystal points out, these feelings “give rise to fears, whether
real or imaginary, and fears lead to conflict” (Crystal, ). Consequently, language
marches, rioting or hunger-strikes may result from this fear of the lost of identity.
(Crystal, ).

Finally, it is important to highlight that the linguistic imperialism of a global


language creates a superior-inferior division among languages as well as people. On
the one hand, although all languages and their varieties have the same status and are
equally prestigious, the spread of English as a world language leads people to judge it
as more superior and prestigious, giving the other languages an inferior status. As
mentioned before, this gives rise to negative feelings and conflict among the different
speaking communities. On the other hand, linguistic imperialism creates a superior-
inferior division among people since, even though Kachru claims that English allows
people to open “the linguistic gates of international business, technology, science and
travel” (kachru qtd in Kivisto, 12) only those with economic opportunities can have
access to it. This means that English as a world language excludes and discriminate
poor people, thus producing inequalities among people and consolidating the power
and superiority of those who speak it over the others.

To conclude, it is clear that linguistic imperialism of a global language is not


beneficial for the global community since it creates language death, loss of identity
and a superior-inferior division among languages and people, thus exploiting and
monopolizing other languages and cultures. All these facts affect the global society
since they create negative feelings among different communities and people leading to
conflict between them.