linguistic follies

Don Osborn dzo at
Sun Jul 29 06:03:40 UTC 2007

Another aspect of this Economist article "Linguistic follies: The economic
consequences of the rise of English"
( )
bears mentioning. The following passage ...

"English is all very well for globe-spanning deals, suggests Hugo
Baetens Beardsmore, a Belgian academic and adviser on language policy
to the European Commission. But across much of the continent, firms do
the bulk of their business with their neighbours. Dutch firms need
delivery drivers who can speak German to customers, and vice versa."

... has a logic concerning the importance of local languages that could be
applied to other regions like subSaharan Africa, but has not been. Given the
ways that first languages and local lingua francas are used in Africa, what
has been the socio-economic cost of focusing so heavily on use of the former
colonial languages (English, French, ...) in government, education,
research/extension, etc.?

That's a very simple question and I realize that the linguistic situations
are complex. Nevertheless, I think I'm correct in saying that there has been
little effort to explore the cost-benefit balance for African development of
African language policies (of govts and development agencies). This language
dimension is rarely considered in discussions of development in Africa, but
might be a more important factor than is generally acknowledged.


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