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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

Unforgettable trip in Malaga, Spain

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Malaga Spain

flickr/benidormone

If you are wondering what is the best option to spend your next holidays the answer you are looking for is Marbella. The Spanish Costa del Sol, with its 320 sunny days and an average temperature of 19 degrees throughout the whole year, has everything you could ever need to have the most spectacular holidays.

Marbella is a destiny that has much to offer, it’s where sun, beach, party and luxury meet to give you the best experiences. If you want your Marbella holidays to be unforgettable you can’t miss these activities.

Sun, Sea and Beach Parties in Malaga

Yacht charter in Malaga:  If you are in Costa del Sol you can’t miss the experience of renting a boat to enjoy the bay, from motorboats to luxury yachts. The sea is the perfect way to spend the day. There are many options to choose from and packs to meet your needs.

Party is a synonym of Marbella but there is nothing like a Costa del Sol boat party to enjoy with your friends and have the time of your life.

Beach day: No matter what time of the year you visit Marbella you can always count on a beach day. One of the most attractive features of Costa del Sol is its amazing beaches, awarded with the blue flag, which represent the gold standard for hygiene and public facilities, you can have a great day in one of its many beaches weather is having a drink at one of the typical chiringuitos or practicing different water sports like paddle surf, windsurf or diving in the Mediterranean the beaches in Costa del Sol are always a great option.

Party in Puerto Banus: from the famous Nikki Beach club to the many nightclubs in Marbella, there is no excuse not to party. And if you want to have a different experience you can always spice things up with a special guest, in Marbella, cheeky butler parties are always a fun way to spend the night or to celebrate a bachelorette party. It’s a different experience and you don’t have to worry about anything except enjoying yourself.

Cultural Options in Malaga

Enjoy the historic centre: If you are looking for a more relaxing way to spend your time, Marbella’s old town is an excellent option for you. Get lost in the city and discover all the magical places this typical Andalusian town has to offer.

From Dalí’s art display to its many restaurants there are many ways you can make the most of your time in Costa del Sol. Visit Marbella’s many beautiful squares, and its Alameda park or even take a quick field trip to Torremolinos. Whatever you choose Costa del Sol will never let you down.

Sports in Malaga

Practice your swing: Costa del Sol, also known as Costa del Golf has more than 70 golf courses almost all of them located next to the ocean which adds a beautiful scenery while you practice that swing.

These and many more are the activities are waiting for you to discover, so don’t wait any longer and visit Costa del Sol

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Europe

UK Attempts To Bypass European Commission On Brexit Blocked By Brussels

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Brexit European Union

Via geographos

As the UK and EU draw deeper and deeper into uncharted waters, Brexit negotiations are becoming increasingly erratic. As negotiators from both states met this week to discuss items such as the Northern Ireland Border, the rights of EU citizens currently residing in the UK and the notorious ‘divorce bill’, there have been numerous reports of frustration within the British camp.

Frustration

Recently it was revealed that Prime Minister Theresa May, believing talks to be at an impasse, intended to go over the heads of the EU’s Brexit negotiators and appeal directly to world leaders such as Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. When questioned about this, however, Brussels officials close to the negotiations intimated that Mrs May would not be able to circumvent the negotiations process.

The officials pointed out that both French and German leaders had agreed prior to the talks that negotiations would come “as a single package” where “individual items cannot be settled separately” and that no member state would abstain from negotiations in favour of individual agreements.

One year on…

It has been over a year now since the UK referendum in which the country voted (at a rate of 52% to 48%) to leave the European Union in an unprecedented political and economic chain of events, the repercussions of which will take years to fully realise but which the world glibly knows as Brexit. It’s a small name for such a political leviathan. Many of the world’s leading bankers and economists still aren’t sure what to make of. Recently CEO Lloyds Bank Antonio Horta-Osorio (who has been lauded for restoring the bank’s profits to pre-financial crisis levels) expressed doubt and uncertainty over the long term economic effects of Brexit. It’s somewhat telling that former Prime Minister David Cameron resigned shortly after the vote, claiming that his involvement in the ‘Remain’ campaign put him at odds with the will of the people but it’s possible that he had the prescience to realise that he had no hope of taming this wily and unpredictable beast. One year on, the beast only seems to have become further enraged by the negotiating process.

Difficult negotiations

Theresa May has gone into Brexit negotiations with some questionably aggressive negotiating tactics. The first round of talks were mired by her strangely audacious assertion that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. The frustration has clearly been felt on both sides with chief negotiator Michel Barnier urging Mrs May to begin negotiating “seriously”. The French government also demonstrated an unwillingness to circumvent negotiations earlier this week, stating that it “fully supports, on the substance as well as on the method, Michel Barnier’s negotiating mandate” and asserting that claims that Mrs May can somehow bypass the procedure “are founded on absolutely nothing and do not reflect reality”. Brexit Minister David Davis, however, retains an optimistic tone, stating;

“Our goal remains the same: we want to agree a deal that works in the best interests for both the European Union and the United Kingdom and people and businesses right across Europe. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get back to work once more…”.

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Economy

The EU Commission seeks to ban cash: A cashless democratic sham?

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Cashless economy demonetization india

Belgium, Denmark, France, Canada, the UK, Sweden and many other countries from the Eurozone and Western world are amongst the most prominent countries to move away from cash, namely due to the large availability of other types of payment. And yet, the EU Commission continues to push towards even less cash and fantasizes on killing it completely off. Why the obstinacy? Is cash giving governmental agencies an itch because it escapes their control?

In the Netherlands, 85% of transactions are cashless: transfers, debit, e-payment, etc. take the cake. It doesn’t result from a ban on cash, but a country where 98% of citizens have debit cards is bound to take it easy on currency. In Sweden, cashless transactions amount to even more. The cashless world champion is Belgium, where only 7% of transactions are carried out in cash. Cashless-support Robert Colville recently published (1) an OpEd in which he wrote: “it’s about not just cash but credit cards themselves disappearing – about paying for whatever we like with the wave of a phone or the blink of a biometrically-verified eye. That future is coming sooner than we think”. As more options opened up to the public to make their payments, the more digitally developed populations slowly adopted them, reducing gradually the use of cash. Much to their government’s delight.

India violently pushed the envelope in the end of 2016, when the Prime Minister announced overnight that almost all banknotes would be null and void within a few weeks. The BBC announced (2): “In an unscheduled televised address on 8 November Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the nation just four hours notice that 500 ($7.30; £6) and 1,000 rupee notes would no longer be legal tender. People were told they could deposit or change their old notes in banks until 30 December and new 500 and 2,000 rupee notes would be issued.”. This set off an earthquake in a country where a large share of the population has no debit card, cell phone or even access to a nearby bank.

The Indian PM announced the move was intended to fight corruption, crime, terrorism, as well as to modernize the country. However, the reason simpler, yet more complex. The Indian government, like just about any other government in the world, is trying to force its citizens under more of its control. From a governmental point of view, complete control means more taxation earnings, more powerful means to tackle crime, and better population control.

National governments, international governmental bodies and interstate agencies all want to kill cash, so as to close the loop on their control over populations. Because cash is the only true peer-to-peer payment vector, killing cash means a citizen has nowhere to hide from governmental control. This explains why, as the cash-killing pressure grows from governments, alternate currencies such as bitcoins continue to develop: citizens who see governmental hyper-power as a threat to their liberties move to the only place where they can be left alone. Bitcoin News published a 1999 interview (3) of economist Milton Friedman, broaching the question of civil liberties: “The Internet is going to be one of the major forces for reducing the role of government. The one thing that is missing, but will soon be developed, is a reliable e-cash: a method by which on the Internet you can transfer funds from an A to B without A knowing B or B knowing A. The way in which I can take a $20 and hand it over to you and there is no record of where it came from”.  Many people today see crypto-currency not as a way to commit crimes, but as a way to fight back on government control.

In all parts of the world, states struggle to acquire more control. Many Asian, South American and African states, sometimes dubbed “failed states” by the West, have very limited or non-existent control over their citizens and territory. Greece has no cadaster, many African countries have no civil registries, and almost half the world has only an approximate idea of the size of their own population. But in the West, a State knows each of its citizens and residents by name, where they live, where they work, what they drive, the names of their children, the size of their house, etc. To that existing data repository, States can add potential data: data which can be easily accessed through online investigation: whom they call (with phone registers), whom they do business with (with banking registers), where they go (cell phone tracking), etc.

But cash eludes their control, because it doesn’t rely on banks or any other intermediary. Killing cash will be the ultimate step of state control. Payment-method specialized website LTP reports (4): “Increasingly, government agencies are also feeling the need to shift to modern payment processing tools and techniques and leave the traditional formats behind. A number of companies are fulfilling the government’s needs through their payment rails”.

Public entities claim to be fighting cash, in order to better protect their citizens, but there is far more to it.  If the advantages and disadvantages of cash are weighed from a citizen’s point of view, maintaining the existence of cash is obviously preferable: while other types of payment can be practical according to circumstances, why deprive oneself of an option which we use every day? But that same balance from a state’s or superstate’s perspective is very different. Be it fiscal agencies, or law enforcement, or cyber-surveillance, governmental bodies yearn to reign every citizen in the world -not just their own – into the electronic world, where national borders no longer exist and civil rights to privacy can be easily and discretely hacked into. They will apply to the 0.01 % of people who use cash for criminal and terrorist activities, and for the 99.99% of law-abiding citizens who don’t.

1) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/19/cash-is-dying-and-wont-be-missed/

2) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-37983834

3) https://news.bitcoin.com/bitcoin-bill-rights/

4) https://letstalkpayments.com/payment-processing-companies-serving-the-government/

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