Vanishing Languages and Cultures
Centralization and loss of language
“For every language you know, there is a personality. and the more languages we know, the more personality we have”, says Thomas Masaryk, a Czech politician, sociologist, and philosopher.
According to a University of Connecticut study, the culture of a language influences our behavior and personality. When bilingual Mexican-Americans were given personality tests in English and Spanish, the subjects scored higher on the English test in extraversion, cooperation, and honesty. This is believed to be due to the individualistic culture of the U.S., which places more emphasis on assertiveness and one’s own accomplishments than does Mexico.
Furthermore, language not only shapes personality due to its cultural background, but also affects the way people perceive time, distance, space, color, and objects.
For example, Standard English uses Left and Right as directions, whereas Australian English uses azimuth to indicate direction. This often gives Australians a superior sense of direction compared to others.
While language plays an important role as a cultural and individual diversity, many languages are in danger of disappearing due to globalization. Minority language speakers have a long history of persecution, and by 1920, about half of the indigenous languages of Australia, the United States, and South America were said to have disappeared.
Furthermore, it is said that half of the 7,000 languages in existence today will disappear by the end of this century if the current state of affairs continues.
In this issue, we will discuss news about how language as a culture is changing as it is being lost.
Overcoming the One-Inch Barrier
In January this year, Netflix announced the release of the Welsh language (United Kingdom) drama series “Dal y Mellt”. Amid concerns about the decline of non-English productions in the UK, this news garnered significant attention. Bong Joon-ho, the director of “Parasite,” the first foreign-language film to win an Academy Award, commented, “If you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to many more amazing films.” For us, who speak Japanese, the multilingual approach in the film industry is a topic worth noting.
Connecting Cultures through Minority Languages and Music
According to an article by The Guardian, there is growing interest in artists who use minority languages, such as Maori and Welsh, in today’s music scene. Joseph O’Connell of Cardiff University’s School of Music describes their activities as “a gateway to learning about cultures thousands of miles away.” Just as K-POP has become a catalyst for learning Korean, their music might become a powerful tool in preserving culture.
The Benefits of Cultural Homogenization
Human beings have developed cultures across the world, and in the process, we have learned that by being cooperative and social, we can evolve into larger social groups. Indeed, it’s believed that this psychology underlies the formation of modern large-scale nations. However, recently, the fear of these large social groups has led to a rise in nationalism in some countries, increasing cultural barriers. To break these barriers, perhaps we should accelerate cultural homogenization through technology.
A Common Language Amongst Speakers of Different Languages
Pidgin languages are “simplified means of communication often created in situations where speakers do not have a language in common.” In communities where people come from different cultural backgrounds, using a pidgin language as a common tongue can be an effective way to communicate. For instance, in Liberia, people from various ethnic groups use an English-based pidgin as a second language, with its speakers numbering between 1.5 to 3 million. Pidgin languages foster connections between different cultural groups. The phenomenon of cultural unification might also be viewed as a sharing of different cultures.