Re: [langue-fr] L'anglais est-il une langue universelle ?

From: Darya Said-Akbari (
Date: Sat Dec 30 2000 - 07:19:42 EST

Bon jour Alain,

I honestly had not the strength to read your whole email. But there are several
marks I recognize. One that you are from Quebec and that Quebec has a french
history. Second that your name sounds really french. So I imagine that you are
native french speaking human being on this planet.

I am like you a multilingual human being and the reason I am here in this list is,
that I have the dream that the last tribesman in the last corner of the amazon
jungle or iranian desert is able to use the internet one a day. And I think all
here in this list have this dream.

Now it would be unfair from me when I would go into a deeper discussion with you,
until I really understand what you mean. So please tell me in four five sentences,
what you want to say.

I promise you that I will not be unfair in our upcoming discussion.

Best regards
Darya Said-Akbari

Alain LaBontXX schrieb:

> Is English the best marketing and communication tool?
> According to the latest figures supplied by GlobalReach (see
>>), during the year 2000, English
> content of all Internet messages worldwide (web queries and mail) dropped
> below
> 50%. It is clear that, as the net goes global, it also goes multilingual. The
> Internet was born in English but it has become quite obvious that those who
> attempted to promote it through the use of English only slowed down its
> development rather than accelerating it. Once again, we are discovering that
> localization is the key for the international dissemination of any tool, and
> more especially when that tool is designed to facilitate communication.
> It is well known that anyone who is serious about pursuing commercial
> endeavors
> has to use his customer's language. This policy was especially pushed by firms
> that sought expansion through the development of international markets. In the
> old days, the success of firms such as IBM rested mostly on this approach.
> translated all technical manuals, offered seminars and training in over twenty
> languages. IBM went as far as translating push button labels on its hardware
> and even coining new foreign words. That was the case for instance with
> "ordinateur", which is now the French word for "computer". Let us not forget
> that IBM often offered computing equipment that was relatively backwards
> from a
> technical standpoint with respect to its competitors' and also far more
> complicated to use. For instance, the Burroughs 5000 computer, which was
> released in 1960 was far more advanced that any of its IBM counterparts. Yet,
> Burroughs, with far superior hardware and software racked up 8% of the market
> at the most when it was the second largest computer manufacturer...
> The success of Microsoft mostly relied on the same approach. Probably inspired
> at first by Apple, Microsoft went to great lengths to provide fully localized
> operating systems and application software. As far back as 1995, Microsoft had
> already 60% of its market outside English-speaking countries. Again, few
> people
> and analysts note that this tremendous success rested less on the quality of
> Microsoft products than the capability of the company to sell in its
> customers'
> tongues. Even though Microsoft has been accused of unfair competition and
> shady
> business practices, it has remained for very long the only microcomputer
> software vendor that seemed to be really concerned about the needs of its
> international customers to function in their own respective tongues.
> Many Internet companies have now come to realize the importance of languages
> other than English. Very early on, Yahoo, for instance, adapted to
> international markets its search engines and on-line services by
> systematically
> translating textual information, redesigning screen and indexing foreign
> companies registration entries in their corresponding country's national
> languages only, thereby pushing aside systematically all attempts to make
> English a de facto "international" language. Five years after its birth, Yahoo
> is now operating in 24 countries...
> The use of English on the Internet
> The Internet is supposed to facilitate international communication, not to
> preclude it. Yet, it is surprising to find out that many Internet users
> believe
> that restricting expression to English only on the net is necessary to bridge
> our differences and make it possible for us to fully understand one
> another. Is
> English really adequate in this context? English is the native tongue to a
> bare
> 6% of the world population and, even though it is widely studied, over 70% of
> the world population has no knowledge of it. If 20% or so of the world
> population has some knowledge of Englishas a second language, those of us who
> travel a lot can testify that fluency in English in non-English speaking
> countries is just wishful thinking. If English may be understood well enough
> for us to check into a hotel, order a meal or tell a cabby where to take
> us, it
> does not often allow us to go much beyond addressing our most immediate needs.
> True, English has been widely adopted as the international language for
> science
> but can those of us who attend international conferences honestly tell us that
> foreigners can make themselves understood in English as well as we can?
> Haven't
> we noticed that - apart from a few exceptions - even highly educated
> professionals whose mother tongue is not English have a much harder time to
> address our questions and more especially when their work is being questioned
> and criticized? Are we blind to the post-conference syndrome that affects most
> of the participants who speak English as a second language when they
> congregate
> and regroup as soon as the plenary session is over to communicate freely in
> their own native tongues ?
> In the hard sciences and in technology, when Powerpoint slides and
> transparencies can compensate for the lack of fluency to present an
> experimental setup, a pilot plant or a bunch of equations to model physical
> phenomena, English does not seems to be much of an impediment but can we
> really
> expect a top level scholar in psychology, in social science, in history or in
> literature be able to present his research in a fully effective way and in a
> manner as convincing and persuasive as if he was conducting his talk in his
> own
> native tongue? Of course not. The widely known Jacques Derrida used to give
> his
> talks in English when he traveled to the US until his American audiences told
> him to switch back to French! Even though they did not fully master the French
> language, Derrida was far more understandable to them in his own native talk
> and even more so as they were already familiar with his work. The more
> sophisticated the message is, the more its wording is important. Resorting
> to a
> foreign tongue which is never fully mastered can only distort, simplify and
> degrade the quality of the message. It would be extremely naive to expect
> international communication not to be limited by language barriers even though
> people might resort to foreign tongues on their own volition. People who are
> not conscious of this problem are usually unaware of the various views that
> foreign languages usage might bring about. Such an attitude is typical of
> people who master only one language - their own native tongue - even though
> they might have a limited knowledge of another. They do not realize that
> language is not neutral and that translation implies switching over to a
> different system of coordinates. The views, opinions and knowledge
> developed in
> one language may be difficult to communicate in another language as the points
> of reference and knowledge representations in the other language are
> different.
> How can we expect a great poet, a great philosopher, a great sociologist or
> psychologist to be fully able to communicate the true essence of his thoughts
> by using a tool that simply does not support such thoughts. Attempting to
> express this knowledge in a language other than the one that served the
> thinking process that put it together would deliver a half-baked incomplete or
> mutilated package. If I can talk in English about hamburgers, management
> planning and stock market gains, describing the contents of the Koran in
> English would deliver a by-product of the real thing which cannot be cut off
> from its Arabic language source. Those of us who are eager to promote English
> as a unique medium for international communication mistake masturbation for
> real love making. Attempting to reduce expression to a single language is
> equivalent to destroying all expressions which are not native to this tongue.
> Instead of a healthy body of knowledge, it would deliver a corpse in the
> basement and, at best, a digest of little value. In addition, language carries
> values and culture. By adopting English as a means for "real international
> communication", I will necessarily have to adapt to the English speaking
> psyche
> and use references that are common to English speaking countries and
> anglo-american culture, thereby losing in the process the best of my message.
> So, under such conditions, what would be the point of attempting to
> communicate
> at all ?
> This is only one aspect of the problem. As a minority, what right do native
> English speakers have to foist English upon a world majority ? Because they
> have devised the Internet? At a time of globalization, language imperialism is
> one of the last and most obvious remnants of a hideous colonial past. People
> who are considering using somebody else's tongue for international
> communication do not often realize that they put themselves at a great
> disadvantage. Using a foreign tongue will make them appear more like silly
> asses rather than sophisticated intellectuals or savvy negotiators. Such
> people
> are ripe for enslavement as they will never be able to come out from under
> their own communication handicap. In fact, the very notion of one universal
> "world language" is typical of the neocolonial trends that we see nowadays. On
> the other hand, the prospect of a world language that would put everyone on a
> equal basis is pure mirage. Can we ever expect non-English speakers to master
> English as well as those who have it as their native tongue? Of course not !!
> The Chinese are fed up hearing representatives of the Internet Society talk
> about globalization and internationalization. The Chinese, along with many
> other Asians wonder why some people dare talk about an international Internet
> as long as the Chinese have to type addresses in Latin characters. So, they
> have devised their own addressing system that uses ideograms. Some experts
> think that as long as the Unicode standard does not become universal, there is
> a distinct risk for various countries to go their own way for domain addresses
> and other "details" important enough to give birth to separate networks that
> will no longer be cross-communication compatible. Therefore,
> internationalization must permit people to fully localize not only contents
> but
> also interfaces. If we had forgotten all about it, the Internet is here to
> remind us that the only thing that truly deserves to be qualified
> "international" can only transcend national borders because everyone would
> tend
> to make it his own.
> So, what can we do to make international communicationas effective as possible
> ?
> Yet, a problem remains. Can we achieve international communication ? A glimpse
> at past practices for conducting international conferences would give us a
> hint. From 1880 up to the second world war, multilingualism - not monolinguism
> - was the rule. Every participant would present his work in his own native
> tongue. Scientific gatherings would not have been called "international" in
> those days without this condition. Any scientist who attended such meetings
> had
> a sufficient knowledge of one, two or sometimes even three so-called
> "scientific languages" to be able to follow a technical or scientific
> presentation. Most of the time, a basic knowledge of German, French and
> English
> was sufficient in those days. The turn of the century brought very profound
> breakthroughs in science and mathematics. Inventions and technical
> applications
> of such discoveries flourished. The free flow of scientific and technical
> information went unhampered by multilingualism. On the contrary, it seemed to
> have boosted creativity. Scientific creativity feeds on language and language
> structures as the linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf has clearly shown. A scientist
> who gives up on his own native tongue to conduct his work can never reach his
> full potential and, often, he will be limited to technical contributions only.
> So, if we are truly interested in reading something original on the Internet,
> the users should be encouraged to write in their own language. Of course, for
> practical purposes, there are limits to the language diversity that we can
> accept. Participants might also resort to languages that are fairly close to
> their own tongue. For instance, Slavs like Serbs or Bulgarians might feel more
> comfortable in Russian next to their own native tongue. All things considered,
> a Portuguese speaking person will naturally learn French or Spanish much more
> easily than, say German or English. A Korean will master Japanese in very
> little time. The tremendous variety of languages appears less awesome when we
> delineate language families inside which the acquisition of another idiom can
> be made relatively effortless. Let us not forget that truly useful
> communication takes places in relatively homogeneous groups. Even though it
> might be desirable to communicate across language families as well,
> understanding will be best when both parties have some linguistic and cultural
> knowledge of each other.
> The investment required to understand a presentation in another language is
> much lighter that what is required to be able to express oneself at a level
> that might come close to the native speaker. A hundred years ago in Europe,
> serious students studied two or three foreign languages not to become fluent
> and interpreters nor because they were mesmerized by any "superior"
> civilizations. Educated people learned foreign languages not to turn away from
> their own but to be able to understand their neighbors and mostly those who
> made significant contributions to their professional fields. Imposing the
> exclusive use of a one and unique foreign language on a high level
> professional
> makes him aphasic. This explains why some of the best scientists and potential
> researchers shy away from the so-called international scientific colloquia
> nowadays. That is a loss to everyone. That is also why the imposition of one
> language in this kind of event has lead to so much mediocrity and compulsive
> mimicry. How could originality emerge when everyone uses the same words and
> acronyms, the same points of reference and cultural markers, and when everyone
> has read the same papers ?
> The new language Gestapo that patrols the Internet to blast traces of
> languages
> other than English, along with its counterparts in science, technology and
> journalism, forms a sub-class of intellectuals, equivalent to lobotomized
> subjects, mistaking their pitiful perception of reality for an objective world
> that is a thousand time richer and more colorful than they dare imagine. The
> imposition of English goes very much with the development of the simplistic,
> manicheist and strongly biased anglo-american mind. It is an insult to
> intelligence and good sense. It would result in a fantastic impoverishment of
> the mind and knowledge. American-inspired netiquette is mostly aimed at making
> comfortable a society that is opened only to itself. It attempts to turn the
> word "international" into some sort of an extension of American mindset and
> values over which Uncle Sam would have total control. It is an extension of a
> purely anglo-american territory into which foreigners have to listen to
> American masters who allow them to participate from time to time just to
> enhance and highlight the status of their country as the new colonial power of
> the twenty-first century. See ? These idiots are looking to us for guidance
> and
> even for a language to express themselves ! They have to be with us so that
> they can testify to our strength and power, and power over their minds is even
> better. If need be, they will fend for us. They will form the first line of
> defense when we might come under attack. This time, colonization is not
> carried
> out by troops and gunboat diplomacy. It is aimed at controlling people's
> minds.
> By definition, hegemony implies that injustice and inequality are accepted by
> both the dominant and the dominated as if they were natural and legitimate.
> Hegemony exists only because of the consent of the dominated. In the old
> colonial times, the dominated used to kowtows to the dominant because of the
> "higher level of civilization" he represented. Now, he kowtows to the dominant
> in the name of the principle of "better communication". He confirms his
> inferior status and willingfully accepts to project an image of himself which
> is far below what he could potentially achieve.
> International forums and discussion groups should welcome contributions in all
> languages if their participants were really seeking the best and most
> interesting contributions. Instead, the Internet shows today incredible
> mediocrity. While the average citizen thinks the Internet brings him the
> world,
> the serious intellectual has returned to his books, lecture halls, conferences
> and head-to-head discussions and round tables that gather real
> thought-challenging professionals and researchers. If people want the best
> from
> the Internet, they have to invite back the best by first realizing that
> original thoughts automatically entail the use of original modes of
> expression.
> .

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