Category Archives: language

Change & continuity in global Development

A report published recently by the Brookings Institution entitled “Global development disrupted: Findings from a survey of 93 leaders” (by George Ingram and Kristin M. Lord, March 2019) “reveals a global development sector in transition and perhaps even turmoil.” This post will look at how the report uses three specific terms – culture, language, and localization – and draw some inferences from those.

Context

This is obviously a high-level report, but I approached it with an eye to some issues identified from years working on or close to the grassroots level – issues that I see as key underpinnings to successful work in support of development at all levels.

Philosophically, I also see “development” as fundamentally a process of “unfolding” and “revealing of potentialities” (its core meaning, related to its etymology),1 which the material and learning foci of development programs and projects ideally facilitate.

Over the years that I’ve moved in and out of international development work I have, of course, been cognizant of changes in the field. These changes, which are part of the background for Brookings’ report, include, among others: changing funding equations; new technologies; evolving socio-economic contexts; different actors on both the international level and within the countries where work is done; and a nexus of security issues and responses.

There are also constants in the field, of course. beyond the general mission.

In addition, there are deeper questions about what international development is and could or should be. The three terms that I key in on here – culture, language, and localization – could be doors to considering those.

Culture

My early years in development practice and study were during the period when the field both recognized the “cultural dimension of development,”2 and almost simultaneously critiqued that concept with the idea that maybe culture is so integral to development that it can’t be separated out.3

So it was somewhat surprising to me that In this report, culture refers mainly to the “organizational culture” of development organizations or the related “professional culture” in the field of international development (11/12 uses of “culture”; 3/3 of “cultures”; 0/1 of “cultural).

There is nothing inappropriate with those topics. As a sometimes student of organizational development, I also find them interesting and as relevant to international development as they are to any field. Indeed, a concern with internal processes (related to the focus on organizational culture) in development organizations has had positive aspects, in the form of efforts to evaluate efforts and improve practice.

However it seems strange – even allowing for the fact this is a high-level analysis – that the cultures of the places where international development works are relegated to two (of 16) mentions – an observation concerning how “cultural issues” may limit host country government attention to gender issues, and the following general statement:

Expatriate experts lack the depth of understanding of the local culture and how it works. Better solutions will be offered by local actors. 

The latter seems to imply that the whole topic of culture outside of the organizations (reduced to “local”4) is taken care of, having been filed under another term and theme in the report, “localization” (which theme is discussed below). If it’s simply that “better solutions” are local, then what is the role of the expatriate there anyway? Shepherding funds and filing reports?

While it is certainly true that someone from a “local” culture generally has greater depth in it than an outsider ever will,  it is also true that someone from outside any culture (whether that be ethnic, national, organizational) can see things and ask questions that those who know it best might not see or ask. Think forests, trees, and cross-cultural complementarity.

Could it be that the “best solutions” in development come from local actors interacting with expatriate development experts who, for their part, have developed more than a passing familiarity with the cultures of the places in which they work?

In fact, the field offices, at least, of development organizations generally include expats who have some level – sometimes considerable – of cultural knowledge about the places they are assigned to. And at some level the development organizations value this. Yet this important factor, and how it might be enhanced, doesn’t emerge in this document.

International development has become ever more of a business, and a very large one at that, such that a significant part of its attention is now necessarily devoted to its own functioning. And that includes, as reflected in the report, the culture or cultures of donor and development organizations – and how that works or how those interact. Judging by the preoccupations of leaders of development organizations, it seems the center of gravity, as pertains to the spectrum of cultures of all parties involved in development programs, has thus shifted away from focus on the cultures of the “beneficiaries”5 of those programs.

What is lost when the original “cultural dimension” of development is effectively relegated to the margins of the business of international development?

Language

The high water mark of discussion about the “cultural dimension” of development stopped short of encompassing its “linguistic dimension.”  This was an opportunity missed. In the context of the focus on organizational and professional cultures reflected in the “Global development disrupted” report, one gets the impression that language has receded even further from active consideration as a key factor in development.

The document includes a single mention of “language,” and that is in “natural language processing” (NLP), which appears in a list of technologies6 about which development leaders “express broad excitement.”

I’ve had a long interest in language and technology, and certainly believe that NLP could have potential in development – especially to the extent it can be used in first languages of beneficiaries. It’s not clear that development leaders are thinking in this direction, but the fact that languages get no other mention reflects what I’ve come to see as the usual disconnect between development (theory, practice) and language (as a factor fundamental to communication, learning, and indeed culture, in development).

I touched on this gap in an earlier posting on this blog – “Visualizing language, development, education & ICT connections” – in which the language↔development connections are portrayed as “largely ignored.”

The language↔ICT (information and communication technology) links mentioned in that post are also relatively undeveloped in places receiving international development interventions. If this assertion is accurate, one could assume that interest in NLP is not thought of in multilingual applications.

It is important to remember that development organizations function in a limited number of globally dominant languages, and in some cases “local” languages of certain wealthy countries, while many development interventions happen in places where an entirely different set of languages, and often many languages in a given location, are widely if not predominately used. This linguistic juxtaposition should be at least as apparent as the cultural one. And because it involves relative neglect of the less “powerful” languages, it has important implications for the outcomes of development interventions.

However, this “linguistic dimension” is absent from the concerns expressed through this report. In that respect, unfortunately, international development doesn’t seem to have changed that much at all.

Localization

“Localization” has a number of meanings across different contexts (from medicine to geography). Over the years I’ve used it mainly in connection with translating software and content (per “L10n,” and in this context basically the same as the language↔ICT connections mentioned above). 

“Global development disrupted” uses this term frequently (16 times), but always in a different sense: that of shifting responsibilities and initiative closer to the beneficiaries. i.e., national and local institutions and leaders. This is a logical and positive direction in which to move, but not a new idea.7 It is interesting, however, to note the prominence of this concept in the responses by development leaders.

What does the emphasis on localization in this sense mean ultimately? That’s an interesting question that gives rise to others:

  • If localization in this sense were pursued to its logical conclusion, where would that leave international development organizations?
  • How would roles of international donors and local/national authorities change?
  • What might be the result of localizing development programs also in cultural and linguistic terms? 

Conclusion

The report itself offers useful insights into the thinking of those in high positions in development organizations. The content of that thought, however, along with what I see as a persistent gap, has helped give new form to an evolving set of impressions I have about the current state of the field of international development.

The way “culture” is discussed implies a subtle but fundamental change in preoccupations. The way “language” is not discussed reflects a constancy in priorities (specifically what’s not there). And the way “localization” is treated points to an ongoing shift, potentially major, in terms of the structure of the field (e.g., who the actors will be, where the initiative resides).

In general, the report confirms a sense that a large part of what originally attracted me to this field – being outside a corporate structure and focusing on efforts and processes that assisted people and their communities – exists less than it may ever have. (The old format of the donor agency having bureaucratic approach

In general, the report confirms a sense that the field has become:

  • more corporate,  which in turn is related to demands of the system of development contracting, involving competition for bids and reporting requirements of donors, and
  • less concerned with cultures, not to mention languages, of places they work, and that under the cover of localization.

Where is international development headed? Part of the answer would be in the localization piece. Another part probably in factors not directly related to the field as we have known it.


Notes:

1. “Development” in this field is usually defined in terms of economic growth and improvement of standards of living. These are of obvious importance to materially less well-off communities. And they are measurable via quantifiable metrics, which is important to donors.

2. For those unfamiliar with this topic, the first two (free) pages of this article give an intro:  Pierre Pascallon and Clermont-Ferrand. 1986. “The Cultural Dimension of Development.” Intereconomics 21(1):38–45. A longer treatment, with focus on environmental knowledge is offered in: D. Michael Warren, L. Jan Slikkerveer, David Brokensha, and Wim H.J.C. Dechering, eds. 1995. The Cultural Dimension of Development. IT Studies in Indigenous Knowledge and Development.

3. My first encounter with the notion of a centrality of culture in the development process was a statement in a 1981 interview of then former Algerian president Ahmed Ben Bella that the problems of development are first of all cultural problems (Jeune Afrique #1072, 22 July 1981). That view never intersected, as far as I’m aware, with academic discussions of the period about culture and development, but it could have.

4. I find the use of “local” to be tricky. On the one hand, it is a normal descriptive, but on the other hand it may imply a minimization of the “other.” I’ve noted this particularly in the are of languages, per “local language.” One way to disarm that impression is to couple it with something broader, like “national” or “regional.” That way you acknowledge the range of cultural contexts.

5. “Beneficiary” is the term long used in international development for people its interventions are intended to help in one or another way. Its use is also criticized as implying a passive or inferior status. See for example Wayan Vota’s “Please Stop Using the Term ‘Beneficiaries’ in ICT4D” (2013) and Pete Vowles’ “Why I Hate The Word ‘Beneficiaries.’ But I don’t know what to replace it with” (2018). I use the term here without endorsing it.

6. That this list was generated by a question on “the most exciting new initiatives or new directions in their own organization or international development more generally” – in other words blurring any distinction between those presumably intended more for an organization’s operation, and those more directly affecting beneficiaries – is itself telling.

7. When I first joined the Peace Corps almost four decades ago, an early take on this was the slogan, “working yourself out of a job.” Over the years, greater emphasis in development has been given to partnering with local organizations. All that seems to have resulted in changes in types of jobs on the international side.

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International Year of Indigenous Languages, 2019

Earlier today, the International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019) was officially launched at UNESCO in Paris. There will also be an event on February 1 at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York

The theme of the year, “Indigenous languages matter for sustainable development, peace building and reconciliation,” echoes the “Languages matter” theme of the 2008 International Year of Languages. It also seems to highlight connections with the Sustainable Development Goals and even the concurrent International Year of Moderation (which will be the subject of a separate post).

IYIL2019 was declared in the 2016 UNGA resolution on the Rights of indigenous peoples., based on a resolution of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

A general statement of the purpose of the Year from the official webpage sets the theme:

Languages play a crucial role in the daily lives of people, not only as a tool for communication, education, social integration and development, but also as a repository for each person’s unique identity, cultural history, traditions and memory. But despite their immense value, languages around the world continue to disappear at an alarming rate.

With this in mind, the United Nations declared 2019 The Year of Indigenous Languages (IY2019) in order to raise awareness of them, not only to benefit the people who speak these languages, but also for others to appreciate the important contribution they make to our world’s rich cultural diversity.

The IYIL2019 has five (5) “overarching” objectives (taken from the CFP, below; the website has a slightly different set of 5 action areas):

  1. Informing about the importance of indigenous languages for social development
  2. Creating greater awareness about the critical status of indigenous languages around the world
  3. Stimulating intercultural debate around indigenous languages
  4. Imparting new knowledge on the importance of indigenous languages
  5. Shaping attitudes of relevant stakeholders about indigenous languages.

CFP within the context of IYIL2019

As part of the Year, there is a call for research papers (deadline 1 March 2019) addressing one or more of seven key areas of intervention:

  1. Humanitarian affairs, peace-building and national development plans
  2. Indigenous education and life-long learning
  3. Indigenous knowledge in science and health
  4. Gender equality
  5. Social inclusion and urbanization, ethics and civic engagement
  6. Cultural heritage and diplomacy
  7. Technology, digital activism, and artificial intelligence

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Depth of language, limits of leaders

The first three characters in the Chinese saying, 天行健,君子以自強不息, “tiān xíng jiàn” (which have a meaning perhaps something like “heavens in ceaseless motion”).

A recent blog article on difficulties China’s president Xi Jinping had with some literary references in Chinese bring to mind two separate but intersecting issues: the cultural depth of languages; and language as one indicator of the human fallibility of even the most powerful leaders.

The article, “Xi Jinping’s reading errors multiply,” which was posted on Language Log by University of Pennsylvania professor of Chinese, Victor H. Mair, notes three literary expressions misread by Pres. Xi during a recent major address (the one mentioned above is one of them1). And worse, this apparently isn’t the first time for such mistakes.

The 1 easy & 3 difficults of learning Chinese

In my limited study of and exposure to use of Chinese (Mandarin), I came to understand the language as hving 4 dimensions for the learner:

  1. The grammar and structure of the language are relatively straightforward (perhaps it helped me to have previously studied West African languages).
  2. The tones take work for someone like me who grew up with languages that are not tonal.
  3. The writing is complicated – no way around that, even when one understands how radicals work.
  4. The cultural dimensions of expression are quite deep.

It is this last category, as I interpret it, that proved problematic even for Pres. Xi.

For a language learner it is scant comfort to know that a native speaker of significant learning and rank can have difficulties – if they get tripped up, what hope is there for most learners of the language?

Of course, every language has some variation on the four points I suggest above: how the language works; how to speak / pronounce it; how to write it; and the cultural content. A native speaker will pretty much “get” the first two, and hopefully have the chance to learn the third to a high degree of proficiency.

The fourth seems to be acquired through a combination of acculturation and study. Perhaps because Chinese has been written for so long, the amount of expressions, proverbs, etc. to learn is considerable. Such that it is evidently possible for individuals even in high positions to come up short.

Heights of inarticulation

China’s Pres. Xi is hardly the first country leader to run into problems with language. Former US president George W. Bush, for example, was known for his malapropisms. And run of the mill verbal miscues are almost inevitable when one’s every word is potential news.

Of course nobody is perfect, and we all can produce less than ideal turns of phrase. But we tend to expect people in leadership positions to do better – say the right things at the right time, and perhaps speak with a little eloquence.

The fact that they don’t always or can’t all the time (or ever in some cases?) should be a reminder that we can’t invest too much hope in any single individual to meet all our expectations. And that in turn should be a caution regarding how much power we concentrate in the hands of people who – like any of us – are fallible in other ways too.

Tiān & aduna

Unfolding the cultural dimension a bit more, a cross-cultural comparison came to mind, and that actually is another reason why I post on this topic. The expression highlighted in the caption of the image in the header – transliterated as tiān xíng jiàn, jūnzǐ yǐ zì qiáng bù xī – is translated variously:

  • Heaven, through its motion, imparts strength; the superior man accordingly steels himself to ceaseless activity. (Prof. Mair)
  • Just as the celestial bodies never run out of energy to orbit round and round, so should we always strive to better ourselves. (Wiktionary)

The first part, shown in the image above – 天行健 (tiān xíng jiàn ) – caught my attention as it reminded me of part of a line in a religious poem in Fulfulde (by Ndyîdo Kaudo Tamboura2) which I used once in writing: “Aduna kala yo bayna bayna…” (the whole world is vicissitudes). From what I could tell of the meaning of 天行健, it seemed that the two were talking about different kinds of motion, in the Heavens and here on Earth.

There is of course a danger in assigning precise meaning – or in this case translation – to snippets from literary or poetic expressions. Nevertheless, I went there. Google Translate however, couldn’t help with 天行健, producing a toneless transliteration. Systranet, on the other hand, just translated each character: “the day line is healthy” ( [tiān] also means day). The “heavens in ceaseless motion” meaning I suggest based on the translations of the whole expression above may simply be wrong, but hopefully not too far off.

In any event, looking at the complete line from Tamboura’s poem – “Aduna kala yo bayna bayna, kanaa tawee baawɗe Laamɗo” (≈ In this world, everything is vicissitudes, save the powers of the Lord) – the comparison with the full Chinese saying discussed above is interesting. This Fulfulde verse contrasts the unpredictable changes of the world with the constancy of the Divine. The Chinese expression, on the other hand, sees the constancy of motion in the Heavens as an inspiration for our efforts here on Earth.

This is not to draw any wider conclusions about the cultures behind the expressions, although such a limited side-by-side might be an opening to wider comparisons of these non-Western worldviews (not necessarily mediated by Western language or culture as I’m doing here).

Lessons?

The main lesson I propose here, however, is the depth of languages and richness of cultural expressions in them show the limitations any one of us has in mastery of them. That inevitably includes people of high rank, which should help us keep rank and the human fallibility of individuals occupying high positions, in proper perspective.

When cross-cultural (and cross-language) comparisons are added – as they should be in the interests of both equity and improved understanding in an ever more interconnected world – the equation becomes more complicated. In that dynamic context, the limitations of individuals to understand all, the need for humility, and the potential for collaboration all should be apparent.

___________

  1. The other two expressions are 金科玉律 (“golden rules and precious precepts”) and 颐指气使 (“order people about arrogantly with gestures”). (Translations from Prof. Mair’s article; links here to Wiktionary.)
  2. From Christiane Seydou’s compilation, Bergers des mots : poésie peule du Mâssina (Classiques africains, 1991, pp. 190-1). My English version relies heavily on her French translation.
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“Dangling this” drip torture, or the “poor man’s clickbait”

It may not rise to the level of “torture,” but it sure is annoying – the constant resort to a “dangling this” in hyperlinks intended to entice readers to click on them. What comes to mind, especially after observing its use, is the water drip torture – often referred to as “Chinese water torture” or “Spanish water torture” – which consists of a steady drip of water on the forehead.

This . . . , This . . . , This . . . ,

Clickbait can be a little more low-key, or it can be more raw – “weird trick” “jaws dropped” “you won’t believe what happened next” …. If you’ve surfed the web even a little, you’ve probably seen it all. A lot of clickbait just assaults your curiosity.

The “dangling this,” on the other hand, is a kind of shortcut – a crutch word in the web content world, perhaps, or maybe the poor man’s clickbait. But once you notice it, dangling-this clickbait becomes quite irksome, and arguably more insidious in its approach to enticement than the frontal attack of most other clickbait.

“Some clickbait headlines leave out a key element to lure in the reader.”¹

Poor man’s clickbait gives you just part of what might be some legitimately useful information. Rather than try to lead you on through choice of wording (clickbait has a lingo of its own), the tactic is to deliberately omit a central piece of information, which is most easily replaced with a “this…”

Devolution of headline writing under clickocracy

Attention as measured by views, and views as generated by clicks, mean money. So a lot of talent, resources, and effort are put in to getting and keeping people “engaged” in web content. And that has given rise to a whole new set of ways of inciting curiosity.

In a way, clickbait is a descendant of old-fashioned newspaper headline writing. but with some some variations. The headings for articles are composed with a particular style due to space limitations (especially in print) and a desire to catch the reader’s interest. But they invariably give the reader a whole idea of what the story is about. Or at least it used to be that way.

“Headlines need to be accurate, first, and to fairly reflect the theme of the story.”²

Dangling-this clickbait deliberately departs from that practice, and sometimes it’s as simple as a swapping out:

  • Headline: “Vermont will pay you $10,000 to move there and work from home” (CNBC)
  • Clickbait: “This state will pay you $10K to move there and work from home” (WAAY)

Worth noting that (re)writing the heading this way is not done to economize space. It’s just a cheap way of getting the reader to open the link to fill in the blank (“which state is that?”).

One newsletter’s many “dangling this’s”

I’ve been subscribed to Ladders‘ newsletter mailings for quite some time – they sometimes have some interesting content – but late last year I began noticing an increasingly clickbaity tone of the newsletter headlines featured in its emails, many of which used the dangling this. Rather than unsubscribing, I left all their emails on my server beginning in January to see if there were a pattern. I’ve extracted all the clickbaitesque uses of “this” in titles over the 5+ ensuing months in the following list (which is sorted alphabetically).³ There are over 40 instances, not counting repeat use, making approximately 2 dangling-this headings per week (drip, drip, …). The list illustrates the extent to which one organization – certainly not the only one⁴ – is relying on poor man’s clickbait to present its content via email and on its website.

  • A 75-year Harvard study says this is the key to life
  • Abusive bosses do this weird thing after being mean
  • Amazon’s Jeff Bezos says this phrase will destroy your career
  • Doing this in the first five minutes of networking is a game changer
  • Learning this language could make you some serious cash
  • New science says this can fix sleep deprivation
  • No one’s naming kids this anymore because of Amazon
  • Richard Branson says this is the most important thing he looks for in an employee
  • Science says this weekend sleep trick can save your life
  • Sending a job application at this time of day will murder your chances
  • Stop doing this at work immediately if you want to succeed
  • Stop making this huge mistake on your resume
  • Studies say drinking coffee can be good unless you’re doing this
  • This age is the latest you can start a new career
  • This algorithm can figure out when you will die
  • This behavior by Millennial bosses drives some employees crazy
  • This behavior by your spouse may be sabotaging your career
  • This city has the most burned out workers in America
  • This common employment practice may be shutting out older workers
  • This high-paying job has the worst divorce rate
  • This is the loneliest profession in America
  • This is the most stressed state in America
  • This is the No. 1 reason your interviewer won’t like you
  • This is the one email mistake that’s unforgivable
  • This is the profession most likely to cheat on their spouse
  • This is the quote Jeff Bezos has taped to his refrigerator door
  • This is the single dirtiest place in the airport — and it’s not the bathroom
  • This is the surprising thing that has people most stressed at work
  • This is the top reason employers expect more people to quit this year
  • This is the unhealthiest job in America
  • This is what your pre-bed routine says about you
  • This is why ‘very unattractive’ people earn more money
  • This job is seeing its salary shrink the fastest
  • This job listing may make you very angry
  • This morning routine can save you 20 hours a week
  • This profession attracts the highest number of psychopaths
  • This simple life hack will make you much happier
  • This sleep trick can add years to your life
  • This state will pay you $10K to move there
  • This surprising thing about your appearance may be killing your career
  • This surprising thing is a sign that you have high intelligence
  • This weird office phrase can reveal more about you than you may realize

The solution to dangling-this clickbait?

Personally, I try never to click on clickbaity headlines – I didn’t open any of the above links for example – so as not to encourage their use. In the rare case the topic seems interesting, one can do a quick websearch to find a link with a more complete and informative title. Treat your clicks as a votes of approval for the approach used.


1. “The Weird World of Clickbait: It’s Today’s Yellow Journalism,” ThePilot.com, 6 Feb. 2018

2. “Writing headlines for print” (Based on a lecture by Ross Collins, professor of communication, North Dakota State University)

3. This list was simple to generate: Searched for The Ladders newsletters in Gmail; copied over the list, screen by screen, to one file in my go-to text editor (EmEditor); then, since items in the text were tab delineated, copied all that and plopped it into Excel; then sorted and manually deleted batches of rows to isolate the group of titles; then copied the list back into EmEditor to manually delete extraneous text; then copied it over here and bulletized.

4. Surprisingly, even the respected Smithsonian Magazine resorted to dangling-this clickbait for an article about the town of Liberal in rural southwest Kansas: “This Town In Kansas Has Its Own Unique Accent.”

Image elements adapted from tcea.org (fish & hook), & 123rf.com (bait).

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Symposium on multilingualism in international organizations & cooperation, 10-11 May 2018

Taking the opportunity again this year to publicize the latest in a series of annual symposia in New York on language issues in international contexts. The last two dealt with language(s) and the Sustainable Development Goals. This year’s edition, to be held on 10-11 May 2018, has as its title, Multilingualism in International Organizations and in International Co-operation.” It is sponsored by the Study Group on Language and the United Nations in cooperation with The Centre for Research and Documentation on World Language Problems, the Center for Applied Linguistics, and Birkbeck, University of London.

The organizers’ description of the event, and their preliminary program follow (the content is theirs; although not connected with the event or any of its sponsors, I’ve taken the opportunity to present this information with added links such as I could find – please advise if any should be replaced):


Multilingualism in International Organizations and in International Co-operation

Thursday & Friday, May 10-11, 2018, at the Church Center, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017 (First Ave. at 44th St.)

Multilingualism in international co-operation entails both costs and benefits: costs because it requires mechanisms such as the selection of multilingual staff and the mediation of language professionals; benefits because, if properly managed, it includes all parties to decision-making, promotes consensus, supports programme delivery, and aids dissemination of results. Thus it favours social justice and inclusion. Increasingly, multilingualism is seen as a positive force, though it is not always recognized as such by all stakeholders.

Within the United Nations, for example, owing in particular to the scarcity of available data, advocates of multilingual language policies often face ideological, financial and administrative resistance, despite a growing recognition that multilingualism, as a core value of the UN, is a potential source of strength.

This symposium seeks to focus on, and generate interest in, these issues. Contributorscription will address the challenges of supporting multilingualism in organizations and in sites of international co-operation across different sectors (e.g. business, diplomacy, economics) and communities. Included will be theoretical and methodological studies, on the one hand, and studies addressing specific practical challenges, on the other – especially papers that focus directly on the work of the UN system or other international bodies, or research having obvious implications for their work.

Among the themes that we hope to address are the following:

  • evolving perceptions of multilingualism in international settings
  • linguistic inclusiveness in multilingual settings
  • interpretation and translation in international organizations
  • speed of decision-making vs. information loss in monolingual contexts
  • language in international peace-keeping
  • language and human/minority rights
  • the economics of language regimes
  • linguistic equity in organizations
  • inclusive communication in local and international development
  • language policy in international organizations
  • language and sustainability
  • multilingualism and NGOs

PRELIMINARY PROGRAM (as of April 4)
Speakers will include:

Keynote speaker:

Michele Gazzola, Research Fellow, Humboldt University, Berlin
The economic effects of language regimes: The case of the World Intellectual Property Organization and the European Patent Office

Papers and presentations will include:

John Edwards (St Francis Xavier University and Dalhousie University, Canada)
Language claims & language rights

Timothy Reagan (University of Maine, USA)
Sign language multilingualism: The forgotten language diversity in disempowered communities

Emma Asonye (University of Mexico), Ezinne Emma-Asonye (University of Mexico), Queenette Okwaraji (University of Rochester, USA) and Khadijah Asili (Vizionz-Sankofa)
Linguistic diversity and the language rights of the underprivileged population in Africa and America: Towards an inclusive society in 2030

Nirvana Bhatia (Linguistic Rights Specialist)
The paper chase: A review of the UN’s recent language-rights legislation

Phindile Dlamini (University of Swaziland)
Swaziland’s dream of linguistic representation in international organisations: Will the sociolinguistic map of the United Nations ever change?

Maneeratana Sawasdiwat Na Ayutthaya (ASEAN Center for Multilingualism, Translation & Interpretation, Thailand)
Multilingualism, translation and interpretation in the ASEAN Community

Leigh Swigart (Brandeis University, USA)
English at the International Criminal Court: Working language or default language?

Beatrice Owiti (Kenya Methodist University)
Interpretation and translation in the International Criminal Court

Lisa McEntee-Atalianis (Birkbeck, University of London, UK), Michele Gazzola and Torsten Templin (Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany)
Measuring diversity in multilingual communication

Francis M. Hult (Lund University, Sweden)
Parallel language use: A Nordic solution for multilingual organisations?

Dorte Lønsmann (Copenhagen Business School, Denmark) & Janus Mortensen (University of Copenhagen)
English only? A critical examination of the ‘natural’ status of English as a corporate language

Spencer Hazel (Newcastle University, UK), Katherine Kappa and Kamilla Kraft (University of Copenhagen)
Language policing in international organisations: Explicit and embedded orientations to language repertoires and their impact on professional identity

Pia Decarsin (JPD Systems Translation Services)
Language policy in international organisations: Criteria and recommendations for strategic content selection for translation

Mirna Soares Andrade (Inter-American Defense College, Washington, D.C.)
Multilingualism and language services at the Inter-American Defense College

Shana Pughe Dean (Tone Translate, Utica, NY, USA))
Creating opportunity and understanding in a multicultural world on the move: Refugee resettlement agencies

Carol Benson (Teachers College, Columbia University, USA)
The importance of a multilingual habitus when assessing literacy skills in educational development

Erina Iwasaki (Teachers College, Columbia University, USA)
Reframing multilingualism in terms of opportunity

Ari Sherris (Texas A & M University-Kingsville, Texas, USA) & Joy Kreeft Peyton (Center for Applied Linguistics, Washington, D.C.)
The power of multilingualism and multiliteracy for languages and groups

Additional information and registration at http://www.languageandtheun.org


For information, below are links to posts on this blog regarding the 2016 and 2017 events:

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International Mother Language Day 2018 & the Linguapax Prize

The annual observance of International Mother Language Day (IMLD) on February 21 focuses this year on multilingualism and linguistic diversity, with mention of their importance for sustainable development and peace. The theme has been seen in several forms, including:

  • Acting together for Linguistic diversity and Multilingualism (per poster above)
  • Linguistic diversity and multilingualism count for sustainable development (as seen on the program for the IMLD event at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris)
  • Linguistic diversity and multilingualism: keystones of sustainability and peace (as seen on the UNESCO website)

In her message on the occasion of IMLD, UNESCO director Audrey Azoulay characterized the importance of languages in this way:

A language is far more than a means of communication; it is the very condition of our humanity. Our values, our beliefs and our identity are embedded within it. It is through language that we transmit our experiences, our traditions and our knowledge. The diversity of languages reflects the incontestable wealth of our imaginations and ways of life.

2018 Linguapax Prize to BASAbali

The annual Linguapax Prize, which recognizes contributions to “preservation of linguistic diversity, revitalization and reactivation of linguistic communities, and the promotion of multilingualism,” is traditionally announced on IMLD. This year’s prize was awarded to BASAbali, an organization founded in 2011 to support and develop the Balinese language of Indonesia, and to develop language revitalization methods.

BASAbali’s founder, Alissa Stern, is quoted on the Linguapax site as describing the group as follows:

BASAbali is founded in the belief that all languages, but most importantly a language of a great culture such as Balinese, deserve recognition and use in the modern world — and not be relegated to a language of rural farmers or a language of home, not worthy of activities associated with learning, public affairs and local educational and political practices. The aim, in short, is to develop facilities that will enable Balinese and other local languages to occupy a position of prestige alongside modern national and international languages and to carry forward their rich cultural traditions.

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