Linguistic Paranoia

Kudos to Nataly Kelly of Common Sense Advisory, whose recent editorial submission to the Boston Globe, Caught in the grips of linguistic paranoia, was picked up by The Week.

Why are other languages so threatening to us monolingual Americans? I think it is a testament to the power of language. I lived in South Africa for a while in the early 1980’s and saw first-hand how languages can be used to control parts of the population. It is not a pretty site.

But if language is so powerful, why don’t we tap in to that resource? It takes effort, especially in a country that can be rather insular. Kelly suggests: “Accepting that we are a multilingual nation is a challenge, because it requires looking beyond our borders and outside our comfort zone.” She follows with: “The only solution? Know thy enemy.”

I submit that if we study our enemy’s language, we may find a friend. Or at least someone we can live peacefully beside.


Donna Parrish
Publisher of MultiLingual, Donna Parrish is also co-organizer of the LocWorld conferences. Coming into the language industry from a background of mathematics and computer programming, she has an appreciation for the wizardry of language technology and an awe for linguists.

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