Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Talking about the imposition of English as a language of communication in a restaurant in Philadelphia, it seems absurd to use language criteria to offer service. It is like a doctor asking a patient to use medical jargon to treat him. The owner of this restaurant can use menus in different languages or a serial for any type of food. Non English speakers can use them to get a good service. Or simply he can turn his restaurant into a club without raising too much controversy.
The restaurant case is a reminder of French President Jacque Chirac leaving a conference in protest when a French delegate was giving his speech in English.
There is also the case of Catalonia where even a Spanish citizen has to speak Catalonian to get a job.
It is good to defend one’s language. But language should not be used as a barrier. Language can be important in some jobs. But basing services on the use of a particular language has two implicit meanings. It means the rejection of the other who lacks a particular linguistic skill. It is asking the customer to be stripped of his identity and to “wear” momentarily the identity of a particular group.
This linguistic “cleansing” is absurd. The lexis of a language is the consequence of the interaction with other cultures. English in areas where there are Hispanics is enriched by Spanish words. If we want to purify English from all words that aren’t English in origin, we should start using pre-Shakespearian English, which was then a dialect with limited vocabulary.
As Kevin said in the blog, communication sometimes fails even when speaking the same language because words and expressions have different connotations according to groups. Maybe this restaurant owner will not be requiring just English, but a certain type of English and accent.
If the owner of this restaurant calls Haveyoursay again, please don’t shock him by telling him that BBC website offers free informatively nutritive services in 33 languages.
Posted by Abdelilah Boukili at 7/05/2006 12:48:00 am