Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Foreign Language Difficulties

One of the most interesting things you will hear if you listen to foreign English-language newscasts is the description of efforts to ‘promote cooperation between nations’.

Just last night I heard it on NHK, the Japanese English language channel.  The policy is routinely expressed by Russia and China, and one can attribute it to a holdover from Communism in the former. (During the Cold War, such declarations were brushed off as ‘propaganda’. Now it turns out that with or without ‘communism’, most countries, whose leaders grew up under the ethos of the United Nations think it is a good idea.)

Tellingly, neither the BBC nor France 24 voice such aspirations, which, more importantly, are absent from American channels.

Perhaps I’m being persnickety, but I can’t help but draw attention to this significant difference in publicly-stated official outlook: there are the one-worldists - and thank goodness they are rising - who believe that nations should prefer cooperation to confrontation - or better said - who believe that cooperation deters confrontation; and what one could call ‘The Atlanticists’ who project an entirely different ethos: ‘The U.S. is the best, and all should live according to its diktats.’

Americans have traditionally lacked mastery in foreign languages, but it would be more important for Washington, following the example of Japan, to learn to speak the language of cooperation between nations of differing ideological or religious persuasions, than to acquire fluency in Spanish or Chinese.

No comments:

Post a Comment