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Watch Your Tongue: Language Issues

Alexandra Goman

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Latvia Russian language victory day

A flag in Russian language celebrating Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany. Latvian flags in the background. flickr/payorivero

Now it is possible to name our modern world as the era of bilingualism. It is assumed that a qualified graduate should know at least one foreign language. That is because in the XXI century not a single country can develop in isolation. Those times have passed. The growing role of mass media, technological advance, a global network of the Internet, international companies that operate across the world, expansion of scientific ties, business connections and cultural contacts – all of this have lead to the fact that knowledge of the foreign language is a necessity. However, among new benefits there are new challenges, primarily connected to language and cultural divide.

Today it is not obligatory to live and work at one place, in one country. Geopolitical conflicts have caused unprecedented migration and a medley of races. The number of refugees, migrants and just employees, who are going to another country to earn more money, is constantly increasing. That is why the notion of language and cultural conflict is spreading and becoming more significant. Now it is an important part of our information society.

According to A. Genes, bilingualism is the first lesson of democracy. Indeed, any shop sign in two languages gives an example of tolerance. There are more than seven thousands of languages in the world, which is why it is impossible to say that English language is more logical than French, and French is more beautiful than German. Meanwhile, both logic and beauty are expressed differently in language; correspondingly people’s attitude towards these notions varies.

The main aim of language is communication, its efficiency. Therefore, we use mother tongue and/or foreign language to speak to each other. Aside from that, both of them store cultural patterns behind the letters, attitude towards different objects of real world (such as time, distance, velocity etc.). This is the reason why cultural and political challenges are being associated with a language conflict.

Learning of a foreign language helps us to view a culture from a different perspective. It gives us new information regarding “alien” culture; moreover, it gives us understanding of it. In other words, to learn a language means to learn its culture.

For instance, Ter-Minasova defines “time” as a notion that is culturally and linguistically different. This distinction becomes obvious when comparing attitudes towards time and measures of time. Although almost every nation recognizes a day as a period of 24 hours, an hour as 60 minutes and so on; length of morning, afternoon, evening and night differs.

Consequently, time greetings will be very distinctive among languages. In English language parts of the day are strictly defined. A starting point is “morning”, which is according to the dictionary “the part of the day from 12 o’clock at night until 12 o’clock in the middle of the day”. That is why at 11.59 a.m. it will be “good morning” but at 12.03 p.m. – “good afternoon”. This accuracy reflects British or American precision.

In comparison, in Russian language parts of the day have blurry borders, because it depends on light and dark. Moreover, daylight in Russia fluctuates according to a geographical position and the season of the year. To this extent it is different from Europe, which is geographically smaller. So, as David Wansbrough, (an Australian poet and writer) once said: “When are you going home late at night [in Russia], in the West it would be early in the morning”. In Russian language a person says “добрый день” (literally good day) at 7 p.m. in summer (because it’s not dark) or “добрый вечер” (good evening) at the same time in winter (because it’s already dark). This distinction is clearly shown in attitude towards time. Russian people are never in hurry and they are usually late. Thus, bilingualism helps us to view the same concept from different sides.

However, as appealing as it is, linguistic diversity is not always encouraged within one country. Sometimes a situation escalates when one of the languages is dominant: it is more widespread, it is used more often etc. Europe regularly faces this problem. In Italy, for instance, apart from Italian language there are plenty of dialects and independent languages (like Venetian language). In Spain there is not only well-known Spanish language, but also Catalan, Basque and others.

Likewise, it can happen with absolutely different languages that belong to different nations. There are many examples in history when after the war a language of a conqueror was imposed on conquered people. In this way a conquered language was being pushed out from all the spheres of life. The conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066 brought French language. It soon became a language of the noble class. English was considered as the language of peasants. Thus, those who used English or did not use the official were easily identified among others and were treated differently because of it. That is why a dominating language usually has negative connotations.

There are other examples of language conflicts that are lasting for years. The collapse of the USSR left nearly no monolingual countries; consequently, it became more difficult to accommodate the minorities. In Latvia, according to statistics, around 61% of the population is Latvians; the Belarusians, Ukrainians and Russian make approximately 32%. Since Latvia gained independence, Russian language is still common. Moreover, still many people do not know Latvian language and feel comfortable in the country. Obviously, it is understandable that the Latvian government wants to strengthen national language. By doing so, they are stabilizing the society. But the language conflict became even more intense after events in Ukraine in the beginning of 2014.

It is undeniable that a language factor may influence the political situation in the country. It can be even supported by the parties to provoke further conflicts.

In the beginning of 2015 the Centre of the National Language urged their citizens to speak only Latvian language at the workplaces and even at breaks. Obviously, they are trying to limit the usage of Russian language, yet it would influence other languages as well. In the perspective people might even get fined for it. By pressing a particular language on everyone, by limiting the ability to speak mother tongue, all of it might inflame and provoke serious conflicts, like it happened in Kosovo.

That is why language conflicts are usually parallel to political ones. More often they are the results of the political issues, as the language clashes are based on the cultural clashes. One can say that a language controversy is a so-called tinderbox. Attempts to banish one language may result in ethnocentricity.

Yet, Latvia has been tightening national language policy for a long time. They did not use careful approach by providing people with facilities or means to learn Latvian language, as it was the case in England when they were teaching English language immigrants for free. However, now it seems too late for that. Many Russian-speaking people simply do not want to learn the official language anymore; they are satisfied with basic knowledge of it.

Such concern over the national language is understandable and there is nothing wrong with it, but this also reflects the unwillingness of the government to accept bilingualism of the country. Considering that Russian is a world language, would not it be only a benefit to make it official? On the one hand, it would definitely improve economics by attracting more companies and clients. On the other hand, it might endanger the national language, as it is not so widespread as Russian. Moreover, due to the current political situation in the world, Latvia is trying to ensure its safety, and making Russian language official would attract many Russian-speaking people.

It is also important to note that a negative attitude towards a particular language causes dislike of the people who speak it and its culture. It is common that judging by language one would presume people’s nationality. However, in the framework of globalizing world even these notions are shifting.

To sum up, it is important to say that since each language contains unique ethnic and national representation, it is a significant characteristic of every nation. On the other hand, the main goal of language, that is communication, makes language conflicts pointless. Yet, it arises many disputes. Currently language is used in all kinds of way: for political purposes, for self-identification etc.

Although the principle of “one country – one nation – one language” is common and popular, it is rather controversial. In some cases it contradicts with the complex reality. As in Austria people speak German language, but most of the people do not consider themselves German. Why it is not an issue there?

Language issues prove to be the hardest and the most sensitive in modern politics. Pursuing the right to speak one’s mother tongue may be a way of expressing cultural and social grievances.

Specialist in global security and nuclear disarmament. Excited about international relations, curious about cognitive, psycho- & neuro-linguistics. A complete traveller.

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Economy

Manufactured goods and industry: a symbol of German decline

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German industrial power and quality levels became a national symbol in the latter part of the 20th century, and to some extent the lifeboat of post-war reconstruction. Even throughout the industrial rise of Asia at the end of the century, the German island remained sanctuarize from the competitive attacks of Eastern developing countries. But several German industries have been increasingly struggling in the past decade and gasping for air. Is Germany at the end of its prosperity cycle, for having rested on its laurels?

Germany, along with its wartime Japanese ally, impressed the world with its rise from its ashes in the latter half of the 20th century. Starting with the Marshall plan quickly followed by self-standing growth, Germany speedily re-built its industrial capacity, and its reputation for top-notch quality. As soon as in the 1960s, German brands invaded the global market with their sturdy reputation preceding them: if the product said “Made in Germany” then the customer could feel sure there was nothing better on the market. At the end of the century, a large share of the top global engineering segment was German: BMW, Bosch, Rheinmetall, Merck, the list is endless. Economic historian Werner Abelshauer describes [1] how the label “made in Germany” became a symbol of quality: “The label “Made in Germany” ultimately developed into a sign of quality, though it took a while.” But the era during which Germany levitated above the rest of the industrial world is coming to an end. While Germany remained unharmed by Asian competition for longer than its neighbors, it is now fighting on a level field with all other manufacturers in the field, and worse: it’s not doing all that well. Economic reporter Chris Papadopoullos placed [2] the start of the decline during the year 2015: “Total production, which includes construction, manufacturing and mining, dipped 1.2 per cent in August compared with July, German statistical office Destatis said. The production of capital goods fell 2.1 per cent while consumer goods dipped 0.4 per cent. Construction and energy output also posted declines “.

Of course, the Volkswagen scandal caused a major dent in the image of industrial Germany. Consulting group ALVA published an extensive study of the post-scandal consequences on the image of Volkswagen and German quality altogether, and wrote [3]: “After the emissions scandal revelations, we can see a very different picture, with all Advocacy drivers having moved into negative territory to a greater or lesser extent. This is indicative of a reverse halo effect in which a negative emotional response to a company due to an erosion of trust spills over and clouds rational judgement of all of its traits.” Until then, German car manufacturers had been above suspicion, thanks to their reputation for industrial quality and business performance: when one is the best, there is no need to cheat. Through the fraudulent emissions revelations, Volkswagen, one of Germany’s flagships, showed that “Made in Germany” wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and that they had flown too high on borrowed wings. The scandal shed doubt over other German flagships in its wake, as reported [4] by automotive journalist James Mills: “German media allege that US authorities have discovered that Daimler, parent of Mercedes, developed software for its diesel-powered vehicles that would shut down vital emissions equipment after driving just a short distance. Daimler is reported to have come up with programs that would shut down certain functions of the selective catalytic reduction filter after just 16g/km of NOx is admitted.” And the damage extended beyond the automobile world, into the whole industry.

Of course, if the problem were limited to the automobile world, Germany could survive on the others. But the slipping in industrial standards, the resulting loss of performance, and finally the need to resort to unsavory business practices to survive, seems to have contaminated all fields of the German industrial apparatus. German shipbuilder TKMS recently illustrated the downfall: after decades of occupying high grounds on the submarine market, the engineering firm is facing such a severe string of problems that it is facing being sold off entirely and scrapped from the national heritage. After losing a major submarine contract in Australia, it delivered a few corvettes to the German Navy, which simply refused them on the dock, due to quality standards being overstepped. Wall Street Journal William Wilkes reported [5]: “Germany’s naval brass in 2005 dreamed up a warship that could ferry marines into combat anywhere in the world, go up against enemy ships and stay away from home ports for two years with a crew half the size of its predecessor’s. First delivered for sea trials in 2016 after a series of delays, the 7,000-ton Baden-Württemberg F125 frigate was determined last month to have an unexpected design flaw: It doesn’t really work.” Germany’s submarine fleet, also built by the same shipbuilder, is currently completely out of order [6]. In desperate need for new contracts, it resorted to bribing officials, resulting in a political and economic quagmire in Israel. In an attempt to secure a submarine purchasing contract in Tel-Aviv, TKMS allegedly transferred over 10 million dollars through shell companies to a top government Israeli official. News Site Haaretz [7] reports: “At least ten high-powered individuals have been identified as involved in the scandal, including very close associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A multimillion dollar submarine deal with German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp is the focus of a police investigation, which is probing possible wrongdoing involving Netanyahu’s personal lawyer and German shipbuilder ThyssenKrupp’s local representative.” For weathered investors, this time in which German manufacturers need to resort to cheating to make up for their slipping industrial standards is something completely new, and in some ways an earthquake. As a result, investments are scarce for start-ups [8], as well as for established businesses [9].

Germany’s downfall in the industrial world isn’t taken lightly by political forces, and the economic problem is turning into a political one, with worker unions stepping up their criticism of management, and politicians scrambling to stop the nosedive. Angela Merkel has been urgently addressing the problem, but so far too little or no avail. “Angela Merkel champions Industry 4.0, urging investment in new technology. German business isn’t heeding the call”, says Politico [10]. Unlike Angela Merkel, many in the country haven’t figured out that Germany had slipped from one industrial model to another: initially known for the superb quality of its products, it was caught up quickly by its direct competitors: United Kingdom, France, Japan and the United States in particular. The core of German’s added value today lies mainly in the machine-tools and high-tech subsystems of German equipment-makers. But as a whole, Germany no longer has the capacity to integrate large and complex systems such as aircrafts, frigates or new-generation submarines.

[1] https://www.dw.com/en/125-years-of-made-in-germany/a-16188583
[2] http://www.cityam.com/226018/german-industrial-production-sees-steep-decline
[3] http://www.alva-group.com/en/reputation-damage-vw-emissions-scandal/
[4] https://www.driving.co.uk/news/emissions-scandal-vw-mercedes-cheat-diesel-tests/
[5] https://www.wsj.com/articles/german-engineering-yields-new-warship-that-isnt-fit-for-sea-1515753000
[6] https://www.defensenews.com/naval/2017/10/20/all-of-germanys-submarines-are-currently-down/
[7] https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/LIVE-the-israeli-submarine-scandal-what-we-know-1.5626626
[8] https://global.handelsblatt.com/companies/german-startups-drying-up-without-risk-ready-investors-863686
[9]https://www.reuters.com/article/germany-investment/big-investors-cautious-on-german-public-private-partnership-plan-idUSL5N0XK45Q20150423
[10]https://www.politico.eu/article/why-europes-largest-economy-resists-new-industrial-revolution-factories-of-the-future-special-report/

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Hungary And Poland To Lose Up To 25% Allocation Of EU Funds

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Hungary and Poland are set to be hit with new cuts in cohesion support after EU commission proposed new radical changes. This came to light after a series of propositions were published recently by the EU executive. Eastern European countries will be hard hit by the propositions, but more impact will be felt in Hungary and Poland.

The changes come in light of the immigration policies that certain countries have chosen to adopt. The two most affected countries will lose nearly 25% in cuts due to their problematic policies. The repercussions of the cuts could be felt very soon especially if the Eastern European countries decide to take on Western Europe.

Even though the commission has maintained that the new changes are not meant to be punishment for inconsistency and criticism, there is a general feeling that the countries will not take the changes well. The commission also argued that there is no need to compare the allocations between EU member states as each country has their own share of prosperity.

The proposed changes will also affect more countries in Eastern Europe including Lithuania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Malta. Germany will also get a reduction in the allocation to the tune of 20%. There are some countries however that will get a raise in their allocation including Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, and Italy.

The EU commission, through its commissioner for regional development, Corina Cretu, says that the recent changes have no political bearing behind them.

How the commission arrived at the figures

In previous years, the commission had an established formula for calculating the allocation of funds. This year though, it seems like there was a break from tradition since the calculation method was visibly adjusted. The GDP would be used to determine prosperity in the region during the past, for instance. This criterion seems to have been adjusted in addition to the inclusion of other factors like climate, education levels, employment levels, and of course the attitude of the countries towards immigrants.

It is yet not clear how these changes will affect the forex market in Europe. What is clear though is that the aftermaths of major decisions in recent years have often caused some disturbances in the stocks and forex markets. At times like these, stock and forex traders need to be on the lookout for any major breaking news. Admiralmarkets.pl suggests using the current forex and stock platforms to get market feeds in real-time.

The current feeling from the Eastern European countries is that the commission is finding ways of diverting money from the region to other regions that have faced challenges in recent years. The southern part of Europe has for instance been in the red for a couple of years now. The crisis in Greece and Spain is yet to completely settle.  The sentiments of Eastern Europe do not seem to bother the commission, however. The commission argues that these countries have seen major growth in recent years and that they would even handle stiffer cuts. This, the commission argues, would especially be true if issues like GDP per capita were to be considered.

EU officials have spent much of the time explaining how their recent propositions are in no way related to the crisis in the south. Instead, the commission has used every opportunity to highlight the changes in GDP as the key reasons for the allocation cuts. It is indeed easy to find reason in this rationale when you analyze the economies of Eastern European countries.

Poland has for instance seen a lot of positive growth in the past few years. In 2017, the economy grew by 4.6%. This growth came in the backdrop of a similarly strong growth the previous year where the GDP growth was recorded as having been 3%. The forecasts for this year do not look bad either. The GDP is expected to grow by at least 4.3% as per what the commission has established on its forecasts. The growth pattern in Hungary was also comparable, being 3.3% in 2016, 3.45% in 2017 and with a projected growth of 4% year.

Looking south, the economy of Italy recorded growths of 0.9% and 1.5% in 2016 and 2017 respectively. The forecast does not look any different also as a projected growth of 1.5% is expected. In order to argue their case, the commission argued the case of Portugal, which is still struggling but which got some cuts due to its strong performance recently.

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Hungary Economy: Population, GDP, Inflation, Business, Trade

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The Hungarian economy is ranked as the 55th freest according to 2018 statistics. This economy has undergone a lot of transformation and it has particularly improved in the areas of the judiciary, labor freedom and investment. There are some realms however that have not seen great improvements especially in the areas of business freedom, government integrity, and property rights. In overall, Hungary is below average in most metrics in Europe compared to other peers in the region. The country is also just above the world average on the global scale.

Looking at its recent past, this country has seen a bit of relapse into some laws that were previously abandoned. The country has definitely seen much freer and liberal laws in recent years just before the government began to intervene in the areas of policy. Much of the changes over the years have been instituted to support economic growth and to balance out the budget while steering clear of areas that might cause conflict with the European Union. There are many targets that the government has including reducing public debt. It plans to achieve all of them by taking an active role and instituting sectoral laws.

The history of Hungary is long and colorful. It was once part of the communist realm until 1990 when it became completely independent. The country is currently a member of NATO having been in the organization since 1999. When the EU was formed, Hungary was not among the founding members and only joined the organization in 2004. There have been numerous economic reforms in the last decade and today, the economy is supported by strong local demand as well as exports. In recent years, things have been looking very optimistic for the country. The construction industry has boomed and there is a hands-on approach by the government on economic matters. The unemployment rate in the country is low.

Despite these improvements, there are still some challenges that face the government. It is for instance not as open as it ought to be and the judiciary is weak and subject to government interference. The policies surrounding land tenure are pretty straightforward and the government keeps updated records. Because of its somewhat domineering government and a weak judiciary, there are always concerns about corruption. The business sector is thus highly affected by the apparent indifference in the government towards corruption. A lot more needs to be done by the government to deal with prominent figures who have been a menace to business.

Moving on to the financial sector, there is a generally fair support by the government to the financial markets. The tax for corporates is maintained at 19% and tax for individuals is at 15%. The stock market is pretty vibrant with the Budapest SE index enjoying some good figures in recent years. Forex traders can do many things in this country even though the market is not as developed especially compared to the West. Forex trading is supported a lot and there are dedicated providers that allow Hungarians to access tens of thousands of markets.

As a country that is still developing many sectors, Hungary has a government that has a direct oversight over some sectors. You will thus often find direct government support for some industries. There are some sectors where there is not enough manpower. The labor regulations are somewhat basic which makes mobility a little difficult. Most of the product prices are market-determined but some goods’ prices are regulated by the government. Some of the areas in which the government has a hand on the prices include the markets of pharmaceuticals, tobacco, digital money, some machinery and electronic appliances and telecommunication products.

The health of the economy is definitely good considering that the trading industry is pretty vibrant. Hungary relies a lot on both exporting and importing goods. The total value of goods that either leave or enter the country comprises of up to 175% of the GDP. There are no strict tariff regulations and there is a general preservation of a 1.6% tariff rate. While there is much more government presence in many areas of the economy, the impact is not too big to disrupt economic activities. The financial sector is still in its formative years and it will take sometime before the banks get the necessary regulatory policy that supports growth.

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