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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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Europe

Brexit: Three Logistics Concerns for Businesses

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After the vote on 23rd June 2016, for many businesses, it seemed there was ample time to prepare for Brexit. However, the UK is now one year away from leaving the EU and naturally, many business owners are becoming increasingly concerned about its impact.

A recent study showed that 94% of UK SMEs feel that the government is failing to listen to their Brexit concerns. There are also fears that HMRC’s new customs system will not be ready by the Brexit deadline.

For businesses, it is clear that there remains a lot of uncertainty about Brexit, including what trades deals may be formed and how they will affect British businesses. This is particularly true for logistics, where these three concerns are growing.

Cost Implications

For many companies, their number one concern is cost. In order to offset, businesses facing an increase in operating and logistics costs may have to pass this onto their customers, resulting in higher product prices – this is especially worrying for logistics companies like Tuffnells. This could result in a lower sales volume, making a dent in their bottom line.

This additional spend could come from several areas, including:

  • Taxes and tariffs: after leaving the single market, exporting or importing goods may be subject to new charges and restrictions, which could result in higher logistics costs
  • Fuel: The exchange rate of the pound dropped after the Brexit vote and it could fluctuate further after the deadline, resulting in increased fuel and transport prices

Business Systems

Coming out of the EU’s single market – where British businesses currently trade tax-free – presents more issues than cost alone. This includes implementing new business systems.

While HMRC are putting their own customs systems in place, businesses also face the same challenge. Staff will require training on new tariffs and customs, logistics procedures will have to be revised, and businesses will have to find systems and methods to deal with these new processes. All of this will eat into business hours and cost companies further money.

Border Controls

The introduction of new border controls will have several affects on British businesses, including cost, delays and further administrative processes. But leaving the EU will limit companies in another way: freedom of movement.

Pre-Brexit, EU workers had the freedom to move and work in any member state, but this will no longer apply to the UK. This means hiring workers from within the EU could be more difficult, time-consuming and expensive. With many British companies hiring migrant drivers to cover the UK shortage, this could severely impact transport.

The announcement of Brexit brought about uncertainty among UK businesses. Unfortunately, only speculation is possible until all trade deals have been announced and Brexit takes effect in 2019. However, if businesses prepare in these areas, it could help to minimise impact.

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Business

The Future of the UK Used Car Market

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It is an intriguing time in the UK auto market in 2018 with a range of political, economic and social factors influencing the industry. New car sales continue to fall for the 11th consecutive month with diesel taking the brunt of the slide. It is thought that this decline is due to the uncertainty over the Government’s clean air plans (including the 2040 ban on petrol and diesel), but also the economic climate and uncertainty over Brexit.

Sale of AFVs

Although new car sales continue to fall overall, there is evidence that the 2040 ban is influencing consumers with the sales of alternatively-fuelled vehicles (AFVs) rising steadily over the last 11 months, including a 7.2% rise in February compared to last year. Although this is unable to offset the free-falling diesel sector, it does show that motorists are beginning to prepare for the green car revolution. Motorists are also aware that there are many incentives for making the switch, plus there is now a wide range of excellent electric cars on the market.

Used Car Market

So, what does all this mean for used car dealerships? Sales have managed to maintain stability amidst the turbulence in the industry with a drop of just 1.1% in 2017 compared to 2016. This was largely thanks to the sale of used electric cars, which saw an increase of a staggering 77.1% in 2017. Hybrids were also up 22.2%. This goes to show that motorists are preparing for the future and still have the need to change automobiles, with the used car market being a much safer place to do this as it is a much smaller investment.

The Future

It is easy to see reputable used car dealerships like Shelbourne Motors performing well in 2018 and beyond as more and more second-hand electric cars become available. An increasing number of cities are imposing their own bans ahead of the 2040 ban, plus it is expected that there will be more clarity on the ban and the electric vehicle infrastructure will continue to grow. Additionally, the landscape of a post-Brexit UK will be clearer soon and this could encourage motorists to shop in the used car market.

The future of the used car market in the UK looks healthy despite the fact that there has been a great deal of uncertainty in the UK over the past year. Provided that dealerships are able to provide motorists with a range of second-hand electric automobiles, it is easy to see motorists opting to buy used as opposed to new as this can allow for big savings which is important in the current economic climate. The green car revolution is fully underway and this is what has managed to keep the used car market afloat during a challenging period.

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Environment

All Steam Ahead as Europe Goes Green

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Red, amber, green: and Europe is off on its big green venture. Yep, it’s true, Europe is finally on the right track in regards to future-proofing against climate change. To see just how it is doing this and what it is doing in regards to this, make sure to read on.

The abolition of fossil fuels by 2050

Some of Europe’s biggest countries are seeking to go fossil fuel free by 2050, and it’s brilliant. Denmark, a country widely regarded as being a leader in the struggle for a green future, is one such country seeking to do this. Yes, it might be ambitious. And yes, Danish officials openly admit that it is an ambitious venture. But, this old Nordic country is going full steam ahead with its ‘Energy Strategy 2050’ enterprise anyway in the hopes that within 32 years the whole country will be completely dependant on things that do not hurt our world. In fact, Denmark is even seeking to go one step further and go completely cashless. Well done, Denmark!

Cities are building green infrastructures

It appears that many European cities have seen the light in regards to what they need to do to save our planet and are now building green infrastructures to hold themselves up in the future. Yep, many cities around this famous old continent are changing the habit of a lifetime and going against a grain that has been in place for thousands upon thousands of years by swapping out their old, harmful infrastructures and ushering in new, safer ones to replace them. Bratislava, Slovakia is one such example: it has had a complete overhaul of its transport system and only runs low-emission buses, tree planting has become a serious occupation, roofs around the city have been made green and rainwater retention facilities have popped up everywhere. Yep, the Slovakian capital really has built a green infrastructure, despite a tight budget, and many other European cities are following suit.

Many big cities are clambering for green funding

Speaking of tight budgets, there seemingly is one across the whole of Europe when it comes to going green because many cities within the continent are having to clamber for funding in regards to it. But, thankfully, having to do all of this isn’t stopping these cities from doing so and going as green as they can. Yep, cities across the European continent are using a combination of EEA grants, municipal funding, crowdfunding and green bonds in order to go green: Copenhagen has done so and used its funding to upgrade is floodwater management and lighting systems to make them more eco-friendly, Paris has done so and used its funding to plant in excess of 20,000 trees and Essen, Germany has done so and used its funding to be named European Green Capital for 2017.

So, as you can see, the historic old continent of Europe is more than willing to embrace the future and, more specifically, the future needs of our planet. Let’s just hope that the rest of the world and its leaders *cough* Trump *cough* follow suit before it’s all too late.

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