Kids, Language & Brains

29Mar/17Off

English, Everyone?

In an earlier post here talking about "Language: the Unity Factor" (5/07/2016), it was surprising to learn educated young Tanzanians were resisting government and educational leaders who wanted them to adopt Swahili as the lingua franca of Africa. They aren't buying it. Instead, they want to learn English.  To their way of thinking, the path to success requires them to have a good working knowledge of English. For them, especially in a country/on a continent with so many tribal languages, it seems quite natural for English to become the language for everyone in Africa to unite behind. They are not alone in seeing the value of learning English over other languages. The headline of a BBC report, "Universities compete by teaching English," speaks volumes. The report goes on to say the rise of universities teaching in English, rather than in their own local language, has become a global phenomenon. According to the same report, almost 8,000 courses are being taught in English in leading universities in non-English speaking countries.  Five million international students travel abroad each year to study in countries where English is often the teaching language. Students opting to stay home for their education want the same opportunities. Although Europe appears to be leading the trend toward awarding degrees with English as the key language, China, Taiwan, Japan and Thailand are also following this pattern.  Given the amount of cultural knowledge that is conveyed through languages, it is reasonable to decry this preference for English.  At the same time, competition from Mandarin Chinese is a growing reality, especially in Africa.  It seems English-speakers, native and non-native, are in a race to see which language, English or Mandarin, will be the dominant world language in the years ahead.   Nic Mitchell, BBC News/Business, February 3, 2016.

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