[lg policy] CPEC and language policy

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Apr 2 10:24:41 EDT 2018

 CPEC and language policy

To establish the best possible power relations, including issues of status
and role of languages; the CPEC language policy needs to be carefully


[image: Sabiha Mansoor]
Mansoor <https://dailytimes.com.pk/writer/sabiha-mansoor/>

April 1, 2018

The successful implementation of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor
(CPEC) International Agreement and its major aim to benefit the unemployed
and marginalised youth; would depend largely on the type of language policy
that it adopts. This would determine whether it is an ‘elitist’ policy that
is exclusive, and only caters to members of ‘major’ language communities in
Pakistan and China; or a ‘cultivation’ policy that is inclusive and enables
speakers of all language communities, including ‘minority’ or local
languages to participate in developmental projects. This type of language
policy in international trade agreements, is based on the principal of
democracy, and allows all participants to have an equal opportunity to
access various types of jobs and new business ventures generated at all
levels in various sectors at different stages of development.

CPEC projects are expected to extend through various regions in Pakistan
from Gilgit to Gwadar as well as in China. The CPEC will help China and
Pakistan in connecting to markets in Europe, Asia, and other countries in
the region. It is expected that the agreement will create around 700,000
direct jobs if the planned projects are implemented effectively by 2030.
This unique opportunity for economic development of Pakistan, and
opportunities for employment to the large population of unemployed youth;
has raised the hope of all stakeholders that comprise policy makers,
research scholars and the young citizens of Pakistan.

CPEC Project requires resources both in terms of physical infrastructure;
as well as Human Resource Development (HRD) envisaged along with their
timeline. The political, economic, and social implications of this
partnership at various phases of the CPEC International Agreement, also
needs consideration. The government of Pakistan has already set up an
Institutional Framework for CPEC in this regard.

This Framework apart from major committees on physical infrastructure
mainly OBOR, Industrial plants to create energy and business centres;
comprises two main sub-committees on social development that focus on
people to people exchanges through media and cultural programs; and
transfer of knowledge through academic training. A number of initiatives
are being undertaken through hosting numerous cultural events, and setting
up of exchange programs with China for knowledge transfer necessary for
economic advancement.

Pakistan is a multilingual state and the target population is very diverse
and large; it may be virtually next to impossible to teach such a large
number of people Mandarin

In addition, various initiatives are being undertaken by universities and
colleges to teach Mandarin. However, unplanned attempts to teach Mandarin
being made by Pakistan may result in a loss of revenue and energy; keeping
in view the fact that Pakistan is a multilingual state and the target
population is very diverse and large; it may be virtually next to
impossible to train such a large number of language learners to learn

In order to achieve a critical awareness, power relations, including issues
of status and role of languages; the CPEC language policy needs to be
carefully planned. Apart from studies on the academic and knowledge
transfer, as well as cultural awareness programs, through exchange visits;
and cultural events; there is currently no official published study on CPEC
language policy that is available. It is highly recommended that the
government should start planning a language policy with the help of
research studies by university scholars who have expertise in the field.
This is vital as the absence of a ‘de-jure’ language policy would lead to a
‘de-facto’ language policy, which may be haphazard; when misunderstandings
may arise at different levels due to breakdown of communication during
meetings and negotiations; leading to wastage of time, energy and funds.

As per experts in language policy for international agreements, this would
require a language policy terms of the selection of link languages, corpus
planning, and acquisition planning as well as an analysis of ‘the present
language situation’, that would include language background of speakers in
different domains in partner countries, and the status and role of
different languages in multilingual countries such as China and Pakistan;
conducting a ‘language needs assessment’ in the socio-economic and cultural
context of stakeholders, such as owners or employers at -the higher levels,
managers and supervisors at mid-levels, and skilled and unskilled workers
at lower levels, involved with the developmental projects; to study the
personal and social ‘identity’ and of all stakeholders and local
communities alongside OBOR or Silk Route; to assess if they have high or
low ethno linguistic vitality; and finally to study the attitudes and
motivation of stakeholders to learn the link languages, and use it with
collaborative partners.

The planning of a language policy for international agreements is necessary
for successful implementation of CPEC. In addition, this may be a unique
opportunity to develop Urdu — the national language of Pakistan — as an
international language, especially with OBOR passing through where Urdu/
Hindi is the national language; as well as in providing state support to
our marginalized local languages; especially for millions of our illiterate
population of which the majority are women; especially in in the rural
domains where ‘mutual intelligibility,’ with Urdu could be low.

If this is not done, there is a possibility of endangering our Pakistani
languages; and above all, the hazardous outcomes that benefits of CPEC may
go the urban educated elites and not the ordinary citizens; thus
maintaining the status quo.

*Dr Sabiha Mansoor, Professor of English, Lahore School of Economics*


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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