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Why use English?
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Thread: Why use English?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2007

    Default Why use English?

    Noticed a photo of monks in Burma in current protests holding up a placard saying, in English, "Stop Violence".

    Same thing happens in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Venezuala and sundry other parts of the planet where English is either not the dominant language or even any language spoken in the country.

    So, who are these signs aimed at?

    It has to be the English speaking public and their governments in other nations which the protesters think can influence their goverernment.

    Obviously it's not New Zealand and Australia as we don't have much influence, which means it's, in my view anyway, aimed primarily at America and probably Britain to a lesser extent, and maybe Canada as the midway point between the US /UK influence and Oz / NZ.

    Which, much as a lot of people in the world might like to think otherwise, suggests that America and maybe Britain are still seen as the major players on the international human rights stage, despite their (primarily American in recent years) spectacular failings on some issues such as rendition.

    Compared with the standards that apply, or don't apply, in the countries where protesters are appealing to the English speaking world for support, the occasional but still unforgiveable serious deviations from good conduct in the English speaking world don't overcome the fact that what we in the English speaking world regard as basic rights are just dreams for most of the people in the world.

    The converse is, of course, that when there are negative local protests we see English signs slagging Bush and the US and so on, which is rather pointless in some societies which at best are semi-literate in their own languages, never mind English.

    It says something about where people think that the power resides that in both the negative and positive cases the signs aren't in French or Chinese or a whole lot of other languages.

    Just in case someone wants to get stuck into me for being an arrogant Anglophone, I'm commenting on what people who don't speak English do, not what English speakers do.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2007


    You're right that having in the placards in English is to enable greater international media coverage. However, even though the US and Uk are seen as having better human rights records, and even as willing actors in pushing HR internationally, the pleas for international recognition tend to be directed at the people of the world, not the governments.

    The US, UK, Japan and many other countries have business interests in Burma - by highlighting the abuses of the regime, the protestors, are trying make the people of those countries push their governments to act and intervene. One example is the protestor, in sympathy, held in London:

    Thousands in London Burma protest

    And that is why the government of Burma has some of the strictist controls on intermnational media in the world - they don't the world to see what's going on.

    Well, that's my interpretation anyway

    Squadron Leader Mahinder Singh Pujji DFC - 43 & 258 Squadron RAF & 6 Squadron RIAF. Hurricanes & Spitfires over France, Tomahawks in North Africa, Hurricanes over Burma.

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