The Linguist

TheLinguist 58,3-June/July 2019

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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JUNE/JULY The Linguist 9 FEATURES the way you speak it – is not always seen as a form of discrimination. It can often be hidden in statements such as: "I don't mind people speaking those languages in their own homes, and it is good they keep their languages, but in public we speak English so people need to adapt to it in order to integrate." Brexit and acceptable intolerance The example of linguistic intolerance in an Edinburgh supermarket can be placed in the context of tensions around Brexit. It suddenly became more acceptable to question 'otherness' and set up markers of differences, with language being just one of them. Numerous examples have been reported in the media, including a call for an English-only policy for new migrants to the UK; Polish workers being banned from speaking Polish in the workplace; and insults levied at a Muslim woman in Wales, who was told to speak English when in fact she was speaking Welsh. In a post-Brexit context, there have been incidents of verbal abuse and even physical violence. However, this is not particular to the UK. In Denmark, a growth in migration created tensions and increased linguistic intolerance around the need to speak better Danish. In France, President Sarkozy attacked the burkini and told migrants to speak French. Across the pond, Trump supporters called on him to make English the official language of the US, while on the day the Trump administration took over, Spanish was removed from the White House website. So how then can we explain such acts of linguistic intolerance? Where do these ideas come from? How should we, as linguists, react? Behind these acts of linguistic intolerance are beliefs and ideologies about language which have become so deeply engrained that they are no longer questioned. An example is the ideology that monolingualism is the norm and that multilingualism, in contrast, is at best exotic and at worst dangerous and out of place. Linked to this is the ideology of anonymity, whereby hegemonic languages such as English hold authority as the unquestioned 'normal' language: the lingua franca or neutral language which belongs to everyone and is appropriate for use in the public sphere. linguistic ideologies Linguistic nationalism While it is true that there have been attempts at transnational and national level to address the opportunities and challenges brought about by increased linguistic diversity, the management of such diversity on many levels continues to be influenced by the traditional foundations of linguistic nationalism. Such foundations have tended to be based on the principles of linguistic homogeneity, nativeness and monolingualism. These principles have kept in place a social order which has come to be characterised by socioeconomic hierarchies and inequalities, with linguistic difference playing a key role. Such principles also constituted – and continue to penetrate – the basic epistemologies of linguistics itself, giving primacy to the 'native', 'first language', 'mother tongue' speaker of a language as a linguistic model over the 'non-native' or 'second language' speaker. 2 In the current social and political climate, we are seeing an even greater return to monolingual regimes, leading to linguistic intolerance. The monolingual status quo which led to my son's supermarket experience is rarely questioned, despite the fact that more than 150 languages are used in the UK. Britain is a multilingual society, although a lot of that multilingualism is not recognised and is almost completely absent from the public sphere. Multilingual speakers very often do not demand services in their own languages. Many don't have to because they can communicate in English. Many restrict the use of their other languages to the privacy of their own home – sometimes as a means of fitting in and sometimes because it makes life easier. It is, however, when these languages become more visible and are used in the public space that questions are asked: "Why are you speaking that language?", "What are you saying?", "Are you talking about me?" or "Are you laughing at me?" Linguistic intolerance covers up other kinds of intolerance, of course, often linked to race, social class or ethnic group. Sometimes language can be an easy target, and being insulted about the language you speak – or © SHUTTERSTOCK

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