Home Today's Paper Most Popular Video Gallery Photo Gallery
Subscription Blog Signin Register
Logo
Friday, February 23, 2018 02:54:18 PM
Follow Us On: Facebook Twitter Twitter Twitter Twitter

Languages matter in development

By
13th-Jul-2017       
Comments
Share your thought
Post a comment »
Read all () »

Hilary Smith :
The theme of Australia's 2017 national NAIDOC week (originally National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) is 'Our languages matter' - a theme which resonates in community development both nationally and internationally. An urgent need has been identified for language to be included in planning, implementation and assessment of all the Sustainable Development Goals (Study Group on Language and the United Nations, 2016). So why is language important in development, why is it so often overlooked in development discourse, and how can this change?
Language is often a factor in poverty. Illiteracy and pre-literacy highly correlates with poverty, with both economic and social costs (World Literacy Foundation, 2015).
Although the causality remains contested, high ethnolinguistic diversity tends to co-occur with topographic heterogeneity (such as the volcanic islands of the Pacific), rapidly growing populations, and low economic growth (Casey & Owen, 2012). This means that marginalised and/or remote communities are more likely to speak minority languages, and the people who most need their voices heard in development research and programming are less likely to be included.
All development partners need their voices to be heard and understood. Development messages, e.g. for disaster preparedness, health, and financial literacy, need to reach all groups, and meaningful dialogue with stakeholders will ensure the sustainability of innovations.
For true partnership, this should not always mean the local partners having to adapt to the language practices of the government or donors. The 2017 World Development Report on governance pinpoints the identification of power asymmetries as one of the three key principles in rethinking governance for development (World Bank, 2017).
The health of a language can reflect the health and wellbeing of its users. This is often now recognised in industrialised countries where indigenous language loss contributes to mental health and wellbeing issues (for the Australian example, see Dudgeon, Milroy & Walker, 2014), but it is less likely to be considered in international development contexts. International language loss is occurring at 'an unprecedented pace' (Endangered Languages Project).
Traditional knowledge systems are encoded in language. Local languages carry traditional knowledge about the sustainable use of marine resources (for an example from the Marovo Reef in Solomon Islands, see Reef and Rainforest), and traditional ethnobotany is carried through linguistic knowledge of terrestrial ecosystems (for an example from the Venezuelan rainforest, see Zent in Bates et al., 2009). Climate change mitigation is likely to be more sustainable if linked to traditional concepts and practices.
Language is a human right. Linguistic human rights for individuals were included in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which declared all rights should be without discrimination based on language (Article 2) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, which declared the right of children to use their own language (Article 30) and that education should include respect for children's language (Article 29).
Education needs to be in a language children understand. However, in many classrooms worldwide children are both taught and tested in languages which they do not understand (Pinnock et al., 2011).
There is an increasing body of quantitative and qualitative international evidence showing the advantages of Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) for educational outcomes in all school subjects, as well as for other social outcomes (UNESCO, 2016a). Girls' education in mother tongues has even more benefits (Benson, 2005). Importantly, a MTB-MLE approach which stages the introduction of a second language (e.g. a national language such as Tok Pisin in Papua New Guinea), and a third language (e.g. an international language such as English) has been shown to also result in higher levels of achievement in those languages since they can transfer concepts learnt in the language they understand best (Benson, 2008).  Although it requires extra resources initially, analyses have found that well-implemented MTB-MLE is cheaper in the long term due to higher retention rates and better educational results. Language is central to what it means to be human. Therefore, approaches to language issues may seem obvious and policymakers often do not consider referring to research evidence to back up their decisions.
There is a fear that diversity, including linguistic diversity, leads to divisiveness. However, research shows that it is social exclusion rather than linguistic diversity which affects social cohesion (Staveren & Pervais, 2017).
There is an increasingly powerful global Anglophone elite.
The global dominance of English means that ever more decision makers will have been educated in English, and therefore will be able to negotiate in English with multilateral and bilateral donors. English is the only official working language in the ASEAN Charter, and has official status in many countries in the South Pacific.
This may be reinforced by comparisons of the outcomes of a nationalised approach to education with a former colonial approach which had foreign-trained and -resourced teachers focusing on producing an elite. The role of English is complex and often controversial.
Language policy and practice should be based on the same standards of evidence as other areas of development. For example, effective MTB-MLE needs to be a cooperation between policymakers, programme implementers, and community members, and include robust monitoring and evaluation at all stages (UNESCO, 2016b).
The creative use of new technologies will enable support for languages. The use of information technologies such as mobile telephones provides cost-effective materials in local languages - an example is UNESCO's Youth Mobile project to create apps in local languages.
It is necessary to focus on the complete picture of costs and benefits of multilingualism. Short-term costs will have long-term benefits. For example, the translation of written materials and interpretation at spoken events will enable more meaningful consultation, and MTB-MLE will result in a better-educated population. Rather than only asking how much a multilingual approach in a particular programme or initiative will cost, it is important to ask what the costs may be if language issues are ignored.
Our languages - more than 7,000 globally, 1,000 of which are spoken in Melanesia - matter, for better social and economic development outcomes.

(Hilary Smith is an Affiliate of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language, based at the Australian National University).

Tariff
Add Rate

News Archive

Inside The New Nation

Front Page »

Amnesty accuses President Trump of HR violations


Human rights group Amnesty International has accused Donald Trump of "hateful" politics and of being a threat to human rights. "President Trump takes actions that violate human rights at home and abroad," the group said. Amnesty put Mr Trump in the same group as the leaders of Egypt, Russia, China, ...

Editorial »

Serving people not making money must be the motto


PHYSICIANS must provide treatment, President Abdul Hamid said to common people at affordable cost so that no one remained deprived of receiving treatment for lack of money. He made the call while addressing the third convocation of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University in the city on Monday. He has also ...

Sports »

Karolina Pliskova of Czech Republic celebrates after she beats Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain during the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.


Entertainment »

Alicia Vikander loves `big adventure films`


Oscar-winning actress Alicia Vikander said she loves "independent and arthouse" cinema, but is also attracted towards the big adventure films.The actress, who will be soon seen as Lara Croft in the forthcoming film 'Tomb Raider', also shared that she found training and muscle-building exercise for the role, empowering. "My mother, ...

International »

Merkel calls for Europe to step up to global challenges


Reuters, Berlin  :The European Union must develop a response to growing global political and economic pressures and this will be the spirit of an EU summit this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.Merkel pointed to the crisis in Syria and the growing importance of Asian economies as needing ...

City »

SNAPSHOTS ON AMAR EKUSHEY OBSERVANCE


Editorial »

Ekushey tells us to be free and fearless against injustice


THE Nation celebrates 'Amar Ekushey' today with due solemnity and colourful festivities to remember the Martyrs of the 1952 Language Movement. It is a landmark occasion and a day of awakening in the history of Bengali people that gave us the clear realization that we have our own language and ...

Cricket »

Captain of Bangladesh National Cricket (ODI) team Mashrafe Bin Mortaza handing over a crest of honour to Hafiz Yasin Arafat at the Bashundhara International Convention Centre in the city recently. Yasin Arafat became Hafiz-e-Quran in 86 days. He was a student of Tanjimul Ummah Hifz Madrasah of Cox's Bazar. Ahlul Huffaz Foundation Bangladesh arranged the reception programme.


Sports »

Medalists in the ice dance, free dance figure skating (from left) : Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, of France (silver), Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada (gold) and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani of the United States (bronze) pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Tuesday.


International »

Trump backs improved background checks on gun buys


US President Donald Trump signaled support Monday for improving background gun checks amid mounting pressure for reform in the wake of the Florida school shooting, as the accused gunman appeared in court.Nikolas Cruz, charged with killing 17 people, sat silently with his head bowed during a procedural hearing in Fort ...

International »

Nepal wants to deepen ties with China: K P Oli


PTI, Kathmandu : Nepal's new Prime Minister K P Oli has said he wants to deepen ties with China to explore more options and get more leverage in his dealings with India "in keeping with the times". Mr Oli, widely regarded as pro-China, also said he wants to "update" relations with ...

Business & Economy »

M Fakhrul Alam, Managing Director of ONE Bank Limited and Rezaul Islam, General Manager of Bangladesh Bank sign a participatory agreement regarding use of JICA assisted Foreign Direct Investment Promotion Project fund recently. Governor Fazle Kabir, Deputy Governor Abu Hena Moh. Razi Hasan, Executive Director Ahmed Jamal of Bangladesh Bank, chief representatives of JICA Bangladesh office Takatoshi Nishikata and among other were also present on the occasion.


Entertainment »

Inspired by the journey of Deepika and Anushka: Nidhhi Agerwal


Nidhhi Agerwal who hails from Bangalore and is living independently in Mumbai currently believes Deepika and Anushka's journey to the top has inspired her a lot. Just like the other two Bollywood divas, Nidhhi also went through her part of the struggle to make it to Bollywood. The young actress ...

City »

Law enforcers intercepted women leaders and activists of Jatiyatabadi Chhatra Dal when they were going to visit BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia with fruits at Old Dhaka Central Jail on Tuesday.


Sports »

Medalists in the women's 12.5-kilometer mass start biathlon (from right) Belarus' Darya Domracheva (silver), Slovakia's Anastasiya Kuzmina (gold) and Norway's Tiril Eckhoff (bronze) pose during their medals ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea on Sunday.


 
Items that you save may be read at any time on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android devices.
 
Are you new to our website? Do you have already an account at our website?
Create An Account Log in here
Email this news to a friend or like someone
Email:
Write a comment to this news