Thursday, 10 September 2009

Language Use & Sin

Recently, I sent out a ministry update to persons on my mailing list. One of the things I said in my news is, "Most recently, I've been reflecting on the extent to which language use bears witness to humanity's constant problem – sin." Unsurprisingly, someone responded, expressing an interest in my reflections. Now, I'm not entirely sure the respondent understood precisely what I was referring to, so, I sought to clarify what exactly my reflections relate to, by writing the following:

"In terms of my reference to languages bearing witness to humanity's constant problem, sin, I had in mind issues such as 1) the deliberate marginalisation (social, educational, legal, financial, political, etc) of persons of "minority" language varieties and 2) the fact that (some) language policies and language planning measures reflect broader/deeper societal problems both on the macro and micro levels, eg. hatred of another race, or territory, or speech community due to unsavoury historical relations, political interests, etc.  I'm of the opinion that many of these things could be considered a violation of one of the greatest commandments: "Love your neighbour as yourself" (Matt 22:39).  So, what factors contribute to Hindi and Urdu being recognised as discrete languages both popularly and in the law, even though they may be identical at the level of grammar?

I'm particularly interested in finding out how BT agencies have dealt with these issues (particularly 2) over the years.  For, in some cases, deciding to translate into a speech variety attracts various societal attitudes and could suggest the translation agency is supporting not only the language but all it represents to its speakers (and non speakers!).

I'm yet to refine my thoughts on the issue....  Do let me know what you think and of any material on the subject...."