This event, run by Shane Weitzman, looked to critically analyze English Language Learning and its ramification on local communities. The speaker started by telling us about his first hand experience, teaching English abroad in India, and gave us an overview of the challenges that he encountered during his experience. The second part of the event was set up as a discussion and it encouraged attendees to engage in an exchange of ideas and thoughts. While the discussion was mainly focused on neo-colonialism through the English language, as a lingua franca of some sort, I thought that this event could have focused a bit more on the equality of language as linked to the equality of all humans.
One of the most interesting aspects of this presentation and discussion was the concept of languages not all being equal to one another. While we are all aware of the fact that English has become a language widely spoken throughout the world, Shane also proposed the idea that in certain cases it provided people with a set of opportunities, often linked to employment, that they could not necessarily attain in their own language. While I was exploring some of these topics with the other attendees, I could not help myself but link languages to people. In other words, if languages are not considered equal, can the people that speak these languages be? If we do not give the same value to English and some small language spoken in India, would this mean that English speakers are superior to non-English speakers?
The Declaration of Human Rights that we have talked about extensively in class is a document that is based on the idea that all humans are equal. While, nobody seems to contest this idea, I started to realize through the discussion at this even that in certain ways we do still think of some cultures as superior than others. Given that English, but probably other European languages, are being given more value than small languages suggests, in a way that the cultures that these languages stem from are superior to others. Of course when we look at the way history has shaped the world, colonialism has its fair share of influence in spreading certain languages into all parts of the world. However, if we look at the world today, what does it mean for people to grow up and be educated in a system where their own language is given almost no worth.
The discussion eventually came around to the idea that language is in fact very much related to culture and different languages are able to express different things. This being the case, it would be interesting to look at the spread of languages such as English, now being seen as somewhat of a global language, with the theories of universalism expressed by scholars such as Donnelly. In other words, I would be interested to explore whether there is a connection between universalism and language and how the two would relate to each other.
Finally, this even also made me wonder whether there was a language component included in declarations of conventions that the United Nations have put forth, because from my own research I could not find anything. As I know from personal experience, language is a very important component of culture, and for me it is fascinating to see how this component has been included or excluded from the Human Rights field.