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!