Sunday, July 10, 2005

Language policy.

Soon after I came back from my California trip, one phrase started to ring in my head. "Language policy". I did not know where it came from. I just felt that it was relevant to some situations happening to me and the nation. I look up in the dictionary, and I find that it refers to how the government treats the minority languages within its jurisdiction. That is a bit different from what I expected, but related.
You must know that in Japan, nationalistic arguments are on the rise, especially towards the neighboring nations. Every nation has the right to be proud of its history, and is justified to wish for its own welfare. But nationalism is a bit like wishing for the success of yourself and your family. Sure, it is a natural thing, but you hesitate to call it idealism in the modern world. If someone says that his ideal is for his family to be successful, you would think that he is a bit naive and petty. These adjectives are appropriate for some "patriots" that are rampant in the Japanese media. I would not go far as to call them scoundrels, though. Johnson's famous quote is not really appropriate. It is not even their last resort. They are not living a full life requiring one.
In the modern world, in order to have a full life, you need to adapt a good language policy. Since English is the de facto standard, it is easy to have one for native English speakers. They even don't need to have one. I am not a native English speaker, so I will not touch upon non-policies.
What is happening in Japan is a domestication of discourse. The Japanese "patriots" can say what they say in the media, because they are saying it in Japanese. Some of their claims would be unsustainable if expressed in a more international language, as the English. It is like boasting in a family gathering, "the house of the Mogi (that's my family name) is great!" The family members will listen to you, but nobody else.
I am not saying that everyone should speak English. It is something subtler.

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