Globalization and diversity: Wrestling with the issues!

Matthew

The presentation in our last class touched upon the topic of diversity and globalization, and led to some interesting discussion points. Not only did I reflect on my own experiences with diversity, but also I weighed up these experiences in terms of globalization. I can’t help but feel that when we discuss ever-increasing diversity as a by-product of globalization, we end up hitting a wall. We often decry globalization as a sort of cultural imperialism; yet we champion diversity as a marker of open-mindedness and tolerance. If globalization is forcing us to deal with how diverse the world is, as well as how much more diverse our communities of practice are becoming, then I’m all for it. Personally, I grew up in a very ethnically homogenous place and wasn’t confronted with much diversity until I moved to a big city. My exposure to all kinds of diversity since then has been a great learning experience. As a teacher, I now take it for granted that considering my students’ cultural differences is a key part of my job (and rightfully so!)

By the same token, it feels like there’s a lot of friction between the championing of diversity and the intent of globalization. The more globalized our world becomes, the smaller it feels. The smaller the world feels, the more our own cultural identities begin to mingle with those of others, and the more we begin to share similar practices, be they linguistic or otherwise. We see shifts in language due to shared cultural references across the world, as well as our access to each corner of the globe because of advances in technology.

In the article we read for class, ‘Language and the Nation State’ (Heller, 2008), it is stated:

Our job is no longer to decide where one community or language ends and the next begins and where people stand with respect to them, but rather to understand how and why the categories are constructed in all their messiness. In many areas long associated with linguistic minority movements, for example, it is increasingly difficult to find consensus on who counts as a Catalan, a francophone, or a Latina/Latino, and people are increasingly loath to primarily identify with one superordinate category. 

In the article, Heller seems to be suggesting that language as it relates to community practices is becoming less clear-cut. The boundaries are blurring and this puts an emphasis on our need to understand how this is happening. Our identities change with time, and this is normal. However, our identities (and in turn, our language) are becoming more transient. They are cut with everything we are exposed to, and nowadays, we are exposed to so much more diversity. Even people living in rural communities are connecting with the outside world to an extent I couldn’t imagine when I was growing up in my small town twenty odd years ago.

At one point in last night’s class, the pros and cons of globalization were raised. If time permitted, it would have been great to discuss this longer and frame it in the context of language diversity. There clearly isn’t a definitive answer to whether globalization is right or wrong, good or bad. But, the way it affects how we treat diversity is definitely interesting and something worth reflecting more on. The question I’m currently dealing with, is whether an increasingly globalized world is at some point going to view diversity as an obstacle in its path, and if so what kind of an impact will this have on languages? If you have any thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them!

 

Reference

Heller, M. (2008). Language and the nation state: Challenges to sociolinguistic theory and practice. Journal of Sociolinguistics, 12(4), 504–524.
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2 thoughts on “Globalization and diversity: Wrestling with the issues!”

  1. Great post, Matthew! You’ve capture the essence of the well-documented push-pull effect of globalization and some of the linguistic implications of this. You might enjoy reading some of Sara Ahmed’s work on “language of diversity” (2007). It’s a term we use so often, which is a signal to me that it can use some critical unpacking.

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  2. Hi Matthew,

    Thank you very much for your post. To answer your question in terms of globalization, I would say that diversity is beneficial to language learning. Based on my language learning experiences in China, diversity, helps me understand globalization in a real sense and it helps my language learning as well. For example, when I learn English at university, one of my two English teachers was from the States; the other was from Britain. They would give us a weekly class and share their opinions on reading books, traveling, doing sports and others. In this way, I could practice speaking English and share the cultures with the English native speakers. It was from the diversity that I knew that there are people in this world speaking English of various accents. And I knew that waistcoat and vest are actually the same thing. It seems that such classes are common in today’s world. However, twenty years ago, my parents learned English from Chinese teachers. They had no access to listening materials and they were confined to the textbook knowledge. They did not speak any English to other people outside the classroom, let alone be influenced by the language diversity. Therefore, English, at that time, was only a subject, which made no difference to student’s life. However, in my generation, things have changed a lot. Since I got to know the world through English leaning and strengthen my understanding on this world through diversity. English helps me go abroad to study and diversity makes my life and language learning affluent. We could share opinions through posts like this, like you said that “The more globalized our world becomes, the smaller it feels”. We are living in the small county thanks to globalization and diversity makes this county colourful.

    Ps: I’m watching a program by BBC these days. It’s called Very British Problems. It says that the British change accents quite often and that depends on whom they are talking to. It is true? Here is a link for that.

    and it’s a good example that globalization and diversity do good to language learning because it motivate me to study different cultures based on English study. 🙂

    –Monica

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