World Interdependence – Current Global Issues (Focus: Language Conflict and Cooperation) (Section 1)

Discipline: International Education
Instructor: Vogl
Credits: 3

Field Work: World Interdependence – Current Global Issues (Focus: Language Conflict and Cooperation) (Section 1)
Prerequisites: None

This course is designed to give students a deeper appreciation of the beauty, complexity, and diversity of the world’s languages, how they are used for communication and to express cultural identity, and how they can be used for oppression but also for social justice and inclusion. We will be able to take advantage of this amazing opportunity to do comparative study of languages in their environment, first hand.

We will examine language and ethnolinguistic identity as essential components of culture, as both sources of conflict and tools for cooperation. The Tower of Babel myth underscores the conflict considered inherent in linguistic pluralism and seen today in language disputes that make headlines in places like Belgium, Catalonia, and Ambazonia (Cameroon). And yet language diversity, like biodiversity, is a sign of richness that merits preservation. Of an estimated 7000+ languages, just 23 are spoken by more than half the population. Almost 40% of languages are now endangered and many have already become extinct. We will look at the role of colonization in language loss and how it propelled the dominance of meta-languages, particularly English. We will examine efforts to foster linguistic justice. For example, the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all are entitled to rights and freedoms regardless of the language(s) they speak. Linguists and activists propose solutions to elevate indigenous languages. Through translation and interpretation, ‘mother tongue’ instruction, bilingual and second-language education, and the development and diffusion of media, languages are playing a critical role in mitigating conflict and creating social cohesion.

We will survey the linguistic landscape in each of the countries we visit. We will consider why 98% of Brazilians speak Portuguese, whereas before colonization some 1300 languages were spoken. In Morocco, why was the decision to write the Amazigh language in Tifinagh script instead of the Arabic script so controversial?  How were the different Creoles of Trinidad and Tobago formed? What are current efforts to revitalize Polynesian languages, Garifuna and Gaeilge (Irish)? We will also explore examples of language conflicts and cooperation in our own countries. What do YOU want to know about languages in the world? What can each one of us do to promote language as a bridge, not a barrier?

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Articulate key current global issues concerning languages
  • Define key terms in sociolinguistics (eg. lingua franca, polyglot, diglossia, creole, pidgin, patois, linguicide, etc.)
  • Explain major historical factors that influenced today’s linguistic landscape, worldwide and in each of the countries we study
  • Demonstrate familiarity with debates on language policy and use in each of the countries
  • Identify connections among world regions
  • Communicate your ideas and arguments clearly in speech and writing
  • Critically and respectfully evaluate the ideas and arguments of others
  • (Re)evaluate your own views
  • Create recommendations for solutions to language conflicts in the world today

Field Work