sábado, 27 de septiembre de 2008

Language and development

We can argue that the relation between language and development is technology, a key factor of development, because it comes codified in a language. Since western languages (mostly English) are dominant in technological matters, does this justify the existence of educative systems based in these languages in countries where they are not the native ones? I a have in mind the cases of Asian and African countries where the solution given to the existence of diverse local languages was to make English or French the language of their education system although the greater part of the population does not speak those languages at home. Moreover, this problem could also be applied to the Latin American case in those countries where indigenous populations don’t have access to an educative system in their native languages.

I think that this situation is only justified at the first stages of a country’s development process, when it’s still impossible to produce text books in the local language. This capacity should be developed soon first through translations of foreign texts and then with publications of text books of their own that would be better adapted to the reality of each country, always taking into account the criteria of educative quality. Learning other languages shouldn’t be neglected, of course. But it should not be focused only in learning one, which in most of the cases is English. Another language should be added to the curriculum. It could be another language spoken in the country or a foreign language spoken in some of the more important commercial partners of the country. This would not only promote cultural integration within the country or with neighboring countries but it would limit the technological-cultural dependency towards a single language.

These reforms in the educative system would promote the development process thanks to the strengthening of the local technological capacity. At the beginning what would be stimulated would be the adaptation of foreign technologies. Simple examples of this would be the capacity and the desire of the population (creating a demand for this) in general to have manuals of equipment and machines in their own language. The same could also happen with scientific publications or even with novels and audio-visual material (films, TV programs or Internet sites). This would produce among the population a sensation of empowerment of the technological phenomenon and it would stimulate, along with other public policies of course, the creation of an independent technological capacity, which is a key factor to achieve the industrial transformation that a country needs to undertake in order to develop.

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