Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The English cultural avalanche

Being a soft south coast southerner, I can't claim to know much about snowflakes, let alone avalanches, and neither do I exactly have much contact with speakers of Celtic languages. But I am bothered that avalanche metaphors are applied to the destruction by English of the longest established languages in Britain. This is the subject of this week's link, and it's one that my students and I have discussed before.

Whenever we have this debate in class, my students roll their eyeballs at me and say "oh, get with it, will ya, English is the way of the future". And when I argue hard back at 'em about the value of linguistic diversity, the beauty of seeing the world from a different cultural point of view, and the loss of the planet's cultural heritage, they nod politely and say "uh-huh" and "mmm" as if they were waiting patiently to explain the blindingly obvious to a small, very sweet, but ignorant child. Then they get me with an argument I've never got a satisfactory answer to: "but isn't it wonderful to think that all the communication barriers between the world's peoples will at last come tumbling down?" And then I hear the 1970s "I'd like to teach the world to sing" Coca-Cola ad theme song playing and I have a heady rush of liberal idealism that makes my desire to cling to the past seem an embarrassing affliction.

But the heady rush goes and I am left unconvinced. So, if you are out there reading this and you are a speaker of a Celtic language, or you live somewhere where English dominance is something to be resisted, can you post your comments? Does it really not matter?................

Twilight of the Celts


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