This essay discusses the erosion of language and culture. Today, the effects of globalization have transcended the financial and commercial fields, and they threaten the survival of the cultures and languages that help give nations a distinctive identity in the world community…
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A language represents human experience and knowledge, and, as such, must be preserved. Technology, specifically the Internet and electronic communications, offers an unprecedented opportunity to reinvigorate language and culture among a whole new community, one that exists in cyberspace. Keywords: Globalization, cultures, languages, homogenization, lingua franca, English, Internet. The Erosion of Language and Culture: The High Price of Globalization The most important cultural issue facing the world is globalization and its overwhelming impact on so much that is culturally unique and worthy of preservation. The great downside of the technological revolution that has super-connected the most distant reaches of the planet is the homogenization of disparate cultures. While the developmental and economic benefits of electronic communication technologies cannot be denied, particularly in economically disadvantaged countries, the means by which “improvement” is accomplished is also the means by which traditions are marginalized and, most significantly, by which languages are threatened. Language is the expression of a culture’s soul and the repository of its history and artistic achievement. Yet globalization and the concomitant spread of the English language have contributed to the extinction of many languages and threaten countless others. It is as if technology and finance have succeeded in accomplishing, in a relatively short span of time, what centuries of imperialism, subjugation, and criminalization of native languages could not. Language extinction is not simply a matter of natural selection, a Darwinian weeding-out of moribund tongues. “Languages change as they pass from the lips of one generation to the next, but there is nothing about this process of transmission which makes for decay or extinction” (Ostler, 2006). When English overwhelms an ancient language it is, to be sure, a matter of “survival of the fittest.” It is also an erosion of human knowledge, a marginalization of the expressing and sharing of human experience (Haviland, Prins, McBride & Walrath, 2009, p. 170-71). As the medium for transmitting and growing culture, language is the source of the most desperate cultural struggle against the assimilating effects of globalization. In Haviland, there are two sections that address this issue, expanding on globalization as something much more than a mindless technological phenomenon that sprang into being so that countries could do business rapidly and efficiently. In “Language and Communication” and “Global Changes and the Role of Anthropology,” language is examined as an exploitable and vulnerable precious resource (Haviland, Prins, et al, 2009, pp. 162, 316). This being so, the rise of globalization has inspired a consequent reaction in many countries. Where once languages were taken for granted, many countries now regard their native tongues as priceless assets to be protected against foreign incursion. In France, a growing concern over the purity of the French language has led the government to launch a dubious campaign to expunge English terms, such as le hamburger and e-mail (Haviland, Prins, et al, 2009, p. 170).
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