Reading Time: 4 minutes read
Readers of Khrono, the go-to news source if you want to know about what’s going on in the Norwegian academic scene, have recently learned that the Norwegian language is in dire straits. The reason? English.
In 2008, a white paper kicked off a reform that was intended to ensure that Norwegian remain a vibrant language in all sectors of society. Importantly, Norwegian universities and colleges were charged with the duty of maintaining and further developing Norwegian as an academic language. At the same time, they were also required to become more international to meet the demands of an ever smaller world. The practice of parallel languages seemed to provide a working solution to reach these conflicting goals: ‘Norwegian when you are able to, English when you have to’.
A recent report issued by the Norwegian Language Council concludes that the policy has been a failure, claiming that the position of English in academia has grown increasingly stronger at the expense of Norwegian. English has become the leading language for publication of research, a use that – to quote from the report – ‘infects other areas of academia, such as teaching and popular dissemination, and then on to society in general’ (p.12).
Khrono explains that the Language Council is now offering concrete recommendations which (in the reporter’s words) are intended “to save the Norwegian academic language from drowning in the tidal wave of English, which has followed in the wake of internationalization of higher education over the last twenty years.”
The report concludes that ‘English is winning territory’ (p. 8). Khrono, by contrast, takes the rhetoric up a notch. Here we learn that ‘the Language Council’s point is that English continues to conquer territory‘ – that is, English is gaining ground through great effort – maybe even by force – rather just ‘winning’.
Metaphors have a powerful explanatory function because they can help us to make better sense of complicated matters, as when the complex influence of one language upon another is referred to in terms of a devastating tsunami or a conquering warrior.
Metaphors also have a persuasive effect because they provide a frame with the potential to shape our views, even covertly. Khrono readers might thus be forgiven if they come away with the idea that language is a zero-sum game: The increase in the use of one (very dangerous) language necessarily entails a decrease in the use of another (victimized) language. In this scenario, English is decidedly a menace.
Before making up your mind about the dangers of English to other languages, it might be worthwhile to have a closer look at the metaphors that could be influencing your judgement. Some of them might be worth resisting.
Want to read more about resisting metaphors? Check this out.
SheriffIsInTown image free to share: CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons