I work at the University of Roskilde, Denmark.
I think uh what is important to tell others who are teaching English as a second or foreign or additional language is that by definition if they do not know their students mother tongues they are incompetent teachers and if you then are a content teacher, that you have minority students in your class some of you might say how can I know all the languages that my students have. I have 25 different languages in my class. That is not a valid way of getting away from the fact that everybody who teaches minority students should know their mother tongue. Having 25 different languages in your classroom is a result of planning or rather bad planning and uh if those students and their lives, their learning, not only of languages but also other things was planned properly. Then you would have only children who speak the same language in the same classroom and uh the only programs in the United States just now which I’ve understood that are the the dual language programs because there you have minority students from one group only and students who are native speakers of some variety of English. So one of the important things to tell teachers then is you have to know the languages, all languages, mother tongues of your students. If we think of uh those uh programs which do succeed in making children high level multilinguals or minimal bilinguals and supporting them in achieving in school and supporting them in developing high self confidence and getting on in life, later on. Uh we’ve uh sound bilingual, bicultural identity. All of those programs have bilingual teachers, multilingual teachers, quite regardless of what else those programs do. Uh when I think of uh one of the important things where awareness is needed uh then that has to do with linguistic genocide in education and what most teachers either do not know or do not what to know is that if you teach minority students through the medium of English that is something where you’re maybe contributing to linguistic genocide. What is linguistic genocide? Uh the United Nations has an old genocide convention which was negotiated, discussed and finally approved in 1948 uh after the Holocaust after the second world war people said this was so awful that we should never allow it to happen again, the genocide that happened in the concentration camps and uh when this genocide convention which was suppose to prevent genocide from happening ever again when it was negotiated genocide had to be defined and uh there are several definitions, several – several different definitions in the United Nations uh convention on the prevention and punishment and crime of genocide, crime against humanities and two of those definitions are definitions that every single teacher should know. One of them is uh genocide is defined as forcibly transferring children from one group to another group and another one which is equally relevant is uh causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group. And you think of the first definition forcibly transferring children from one group to another group it obviously fits for instance all those indigenous children who were taken away from their homes and uh put into white foster homes or something similar, who were taken away from their parents and where what’s society, the white society, so called white, meaning big pink as I call them. Uh what the uh big pink society tried to do was to mold them so that they would become as much white as possible. But uh you don’t need to take children physically away from their own group. What you can do is to take them mentally and linguistically and culturally away from their own group. And if you think of education where children are being made to feel ashamed of their own language and maybe fell ashamed of their parents and their culture and where they feel that the only thing that is worthy, the only thing that is valuable is to speak English as well as possible at the cost of the mother tongue and to become as American a possible, where American is then defined so that it excludes being a member of another group. Then that is forcibly transferring the child to another group. If you think of the results of the submersion education which children get today, they certainly harm children mentally. Submersion is the type of education where minority children do not have any choice. They are being put into the same classes with majority group children, dominant language group children where the they do not have the alternative of having education through the medium of their own language. They are submersed in the dominant language. The uh teacher does not know their language, their mother tongue and very often the norm in that class is not any--- somebody who is learning another language but somebody who knows or is suppose to know that language, that is submersion as opposed to immersion education which is there definition for dominant group uh uh children, children who speak a dominant language and where the children is bilingual and where the parents have voluntarily chosen this program among existing alternatives and knowing well of what the long term results are and none of this is true for uh minority children and their parents because there are no alternatives, there are no classes or schools where the minority children’s their own language is the main medium of education during uh K to 12 or minimally K to 8, there are no alternatives and even in those few cases where there might be alternatives in most cases the parents do not have enough reliable scientific information about the long term consequences of that choice and that means that these children are forcibly transferred to the dominant language uh speaking group. And what that means is that in situations which are subtractive where minority children or uh indigenous children learn something of a dominant language at the cost of their own language. Uh those subtractive situations they normally represent linguistic genocide and if a language, a dominant language, is stopped in a subtractive way then what happens is that that languages becomes a killer language and it is very important for all teachers in this country to know that English is the most important killer language in the world today. English is a horrible threat to all other languages in the world and knowing that one really needs to start to think of how one can teach English and how one can teach through the medium of English without making English into a killer language and with out the uh educational situation becoming subtractive submersion. Those would be some of the most important things that I think a teacher needs to know today.
It is very clear to me and to many others too today that the education of indigenous children and minority children is organized in a way, which is against everything that we know from research. It is not organized in the way or ways that we know would be good for children. There are hundred, thousands, of studies which we can use if we want to know how minority children’s and indigenous children’s education should be organized uh studies which show what is scientifically sound and the education today not only in the United States but also in many other parts of the world is organized in exactly opposite ways and uh many of course are uh uh I mean don’t we for instance when it comes to children health or other types of things don’t we try to support children and do what we know is good for them. In a few areas yes. In many areas no. Uh we know for instance ----(?) that it’s not good for any child to not have any food, to be undernourished, we know that it’s not good for anybody to be tortured, we know that it’s not good for anybody except those who produce arms and maybe some multinational corporations maybe some not very clever politicians to advocate for war and still wars are happening all the time, torture happens even now when we are sitting here when I’m talking to you the Kurdish children, even two year olds, are being tortured. Even six and seven year old Kurdish children are being tortured and put into prison only because they or their parents want to have Kurdish as a subject taught in schools. We know it’s not good for them still it happens even just now. And we know that half of the population of the world lives on less than two dollars a day and you can’t really get enough food for that as you might be able to guess. We know that a lot of things are happening which are absolutely against scientific evidence, against what we know is best for human beings. Now very often teachers are nieve they think yes but that’s something else, those are big political questions but in schools we are trying to do what is best for the children and individual teachers I’m sure in most cases are trying to do what they think is best for the children. But if the system, the whole educational system, is wrong, wrong, wrong, as it is in indigenous and minority education then uh it may be hard to say but then it might in some cases even been worse if the teachers are nice because if nice teachers support a system which is basically absolutely wrong then it may take longer time for children and parents to see through the system and if a child feels all the time oh my teacher is so nice to me and she or he is really trying to help me then it may be extremely difficult for that child to separate the nice and well intentioned teacher from the bad system and that means if the child then does not succeed in school or has really great great difficulties then the child rather than blaming the bad and unfair system blames herself and blames her parents and their culture and their language and so on. So it is extremely important for both children and parents and teachers to see through this system. You know why then if we think of school why then do we have these bad systems and there are of course lots of different reasons for that. Uh one of the reasons is that even if we have robots and we have factories and we have computers and so on there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done by humans and a lot of that work is not always terribly nice to do like washing up in restaurants, like uh cleaning houses, and uh offices and so on or taking care of the elderly, doing the most menial work some of the work in factories and so on. A lot of -----(?) so called white people, do not want to do that work but somebody has to do it and how do we then see to it that there are people who do that work. The educational system is one way of reproducing the unfair distribution of labor. Meaning even if uh we can’t say that for instance a head of a school or even all the people uh at the central labor in the educational administration intentionally educate minority students to do that work that shit work as I call it. I know that you’re not suppose to use that kind of words in this country but I want to call it what it is. So even if they do not intentionally uh organize the system so that minority students are going to be the ones who are doing this shit work in the future that is the result of the system. There are other more I mean this is an economic reason there are other more political reasons. If we think of uh the number of languages in the world and the number of states in the world and I’ll probably have to say a few words about that before I continue uh we don’t know exactly how many languages there are in the world but most linguists talk about maybe something between six or seven thousand spoken languages. There may be even twice as many because in every society there are deaf people and where hearing people have developed spoken languages, deaf people have developed sign languages and sign languages are just as abstract, just as fully fledged languages as spoken languages. If there has been enough development of the vocabulary you can speak about human rights conventions or nuclear physics in sign language just as well as you can speak about them in a spoken language. Uh most countries do not if they recognize any sign languages do not recognize more than one sign language but it is very clear that all deaf people have developed their own sign languages and many of them do not know many other sign languages because they have been so far much more isolated from each other than what hearing people are so there maybe, we don’t know, but there maybe equal to many sign languages in the world as spoken languages. So we may have something between ten and fourteen thousand languages in the world. But if we uh then only think of the spoken languages there would be six to seven thousand languages because deaf people have never wanted to have their own state. If only, if we only speak of spoken languages and then think of the number of states that we have today and even that varies depending on who’s definition of a state you think of but that maximally 230 states today. Maybe 200. If you divide the number of languages by the number of states you can see that that equation is not one state and one language. Uh there are almost no states in the world that would have only one language even if you do not think of the languages which have come to those countries as immigrant minority languages during the last 50 years. Almost all states in the world have many languages which are more or less indigenous to that state or have come let’s say during uh during a time which is uh before 1900. Now then if we think of the whole ideology where the nation state ideology where uh maybe two hundred years ago people started thinking especially in Europe but also here that it is natural to have one state, one uh one nation, one language. According to that nation’s state ideology you think that all those who speak the same language they belong to the same nation and this nation wants to have their own state and if you believe in that nation state ideology then of course you think that all those who speak different languages and who live in that state at some point we are going to develop into a nation and then they are going to start demanding first some language rights and cultural rights and then some economic rights and then some political rights and then want to have cultural autonomy and then they want to have some kind of self determination some come of political autonomy and then in the end they want to have their own state. And now it’s clear of course that those people who run the state they can not be expected to support anything that they believe in the end will ultimately lead to the disintegration of a state. So when we think of those discussion that were very prominent in the United States ten fifteen years ago people were saying oh we don’t want to have the Canadian condition where the French speakers in Quebec want to have their own state and think of India and think of Belgium and think of all those states where there are horrible ethnic fights and where, every small people want their own state we don’t want to have that in the United States. And if one thinks of what is one of the most important characteristics for an ethnic group and for a nation that is for most of them, their own language. So through supporting the maintenance of minority languages those who believe in nation state ideology think that they are reproducing the characteristics in these people which threaten the integrity of the state that is why for instance countries like France and Turkey do not recognize any minorities. They claim that they do not have any minorities because they do not want those minorities which are there to uh reproduce themselves as minorities because that threatens the state that leads to the disintegration of the state the believe. And this is of course also ideology which is pretty stupid meaning uh uh of what leads to disintegration of states is very often the denial of basic human rights like linguistic human rights and cultural human rights and if this denial, lack of linguistic human rights, go inside with the same groups who lack linguistic and cultural human rights also being in the much worse position economically than others meaning uh the dominant group and having much less political power than the numbers would require if it was a fair democratic situation uh then language issues may be used to mobilize people and then we can have the conflict which basically may be an economic and political conflict but which then can be labeled an ethnic and language related conflict because the division of power and resources happens along ethnic and linguistic line and this is something that is one of the most important reasons for why various states do not want to support mother tongue medium education for indigenous peoples and minorities because they some how believe that this is going to reproduce a minority group and indigenous group as a group as a separate group and then that group is going to demand more rights which lead to separation and in the end to the disintegration of the state. And this is something that teachers need to know there are very very fundamental economic and political reasons behind the fact that the education systems are organized so as to prevent minority and indigenous children from becoming high level bilinguals, multilinguals, and from succeeding in school.
If we think of today’s language situation in the world those six to seven thousand spoken languages and all the sign languages uh people usually think that parents usually uh teach their own language to their children and that languages are going to continue to exist and today this is not the case anymore. Uh there are many linguists who have the prognosis which says we are murdering languages today at a much much fast pace than ever before in human history. And the prognosis is that in a hundred years time, around around the year 2100 uh we may have very few languages left. Those linguists who are really optimistic say we may have killed half of today’s spoken languages in a hundred years time. Those who are more pessimistic but uh by no means exaggerating they are very realistic but they are a bit more pessimistic they that in a hundred years time we may have only 10% of the languages left that we have today or maybe even 5% some 300 languages only. And now then of course some people might say so what? What does it matter? Wouldn’t it be much better that we have just a few ---(?) languages and everybody speaks them as their native tongues then we understand each other and then there will be no wars in the world because we can all talk to each other and understand each other and appreciate each others cultures and so on and when these small languages disappear uh most people don’t even notice because they didn’t know in the first place that they existed and uh they obviously lots of counter arguments against these type of of uh claims and uh one of the counter arguments that uh I think is extremely important not only from a language point of view but but from the point of view of whether we are going to have any kind of future for our planet. Uh that argument has to do with the relationship between on the one hand linguistic diversity and on the other hand biodiversity. The fact that we have a lot of species. Uh most people do not know that biodiversity and linguistic diversity are correlated and uh what that means is that usually where there are many languages there are also many species and the closer we come to the equator the more species we have and the more languages we have and that has to do with the fact that uh the conditions for things to grow uh in in areas which are close to the equator are much better than a high up north where I come from or uh or some where around the the Antarctic. Uh we can just a couple of examples uh for instance if you take just one acre of tropical rain forest and you count the number of species uh not only mammals and uh uh ants uh fish and birds and so on but also bacteria everything, all the species that we have there. One acre of tropical uh rain forest has more species than the whole of Britain. So it is easier for uh very small group in the tropics to get everything that they need from a fairly small area and that means they do not necessarily need to for instance trade with others that much they can be a little group on their own and that means that in that kind of environment you can have lots of different small groups who speak different languages so where you have many species you usually have many languages and vicaversa where you have few species you also usually have few languages so that is the correlation and we can see it very clearly if we for instance look at the top twenty-five countries in the world in terms of biodiversity. Real mega bi-diversity countries and then we take the to twenty-five countries with endemic languages and endemic languages means languages which do not exist anywhere else, they exist only in that country and we have on one side the top twenty-five countries with most languages on the other side we have the top twenty-five countries with most vertebrates uh meaning mammals and uh birds and so on. And uh when you look at other different countries completely always the same countries and in fact sixteen countries are on both lists. You get the same result if you look at for instance languages and birds or languages and butterflies or languages or flowering plants. There’s a very high correlation. When you have lots of different species of butterflies you also have lots of languages and so on. Now then this maybe interesting but what does it have to do what I was talking about? Uh very recent research shows that it is not only a correlation relationship, it’s not just that it so happens that there are many of both types. The ----(?) relationship and that means that as soon as we humans came on to this earth we started influencing nature. There are no landscapes in the world which have not been influenced by humans. Even if uh uh untrained observers might not notice it initially. We have uh through trying to get our sustenance from nature influenced the whole world even even the north cap and the Antarctica and so on. Meaning people influence nature. Nature has often influenced us because obviously we learn to use our nature where we live. If we life hundreds of years in the same place we learn to know every bird and every plants and we know what how we can use them and we also learn quite a lot about the relationships between the different species we learn for instance that if we kill of a certain bird completely then maybe some plants start dying because that bird was the only one who ate the fruits of that plant and then spread that plant around. So we start learning about the intricate relationship, uh relationships the species. Uh if we live in a place long enough as many of those small groups who have uh who uh speak the small languages have done and uh that also means that all those things in nature that we have learned about and that we have influenced and that we have learned how to use sustainably. Everything in that nature in those relationships is something that is encoded in our languages because in order to be able to teach about it, teach our children and grandchildren about them to you know to to be able to tell somebody else where exactly where that plant grows and so on. We have to have words for all those phenomenon and that mean that the languages of small groups and bigger groups who have lived uh in some kind of harmony with in uh nature for a long time uh that whole nature is embodied in their language because they have had to be able to speak about that nature in order to be able to use it sustainably and to transfer that knowledge to future generations and what that means is that that uh if those small languages die, if they are being killed off which is what is happening now then what dies is not only a language. With that language we are also killing knowledge which has been developed often through thousands of years uh intricate detailed knowledge about nature around us and especially about how to use that nature sustainably. We already know uh and we can think of medical plants for instance and their uses and we already know if children of indigenous peoples let say in Mexico if they become bilingual and don’t learn their own language really well and then become dominant in Spanish or in Portuguese they do not transfer that knowledge to the dominant language partly because the dominant language does not have the words the vocabulary and partly because those discourses those contexts where one discusses these things mostly do not exist in the dominant language and that means that by killing languages the way we do today what we are killing our intangible heritage our knowledge about the world which has as I said developed through thousands of years and that means that in the end we are killing the prerequisites for maintaining any kind of bi-diversty on this earth and if we look at how quickly bi-diversity disappears is being killed off and compare that with how quickly languages disappear. We can see that we are today killing off languages much much faster than we are killing off biodiversity. Still everybody knows about biodiversity and its disappearance lots of people are worried about that but who is screaming about the disappearance of languages. So if we again compare the optimists, the optimistic uh biologists with the optimistic linguists we can say that in a hundred years time according to the optimists two percent of the biological species may have died but fifty percent of the languages. If we uh listen to the more pessimistic but realistic biologists and linguists we can say that in the worse case twenty percent of the biological species have dies but 90 to 95 percent of the languages. And if languages then contain the knowledge about how to maintain bi-diversity the killing of those languages is also going to make the killing of bi-diversity much much much faster. And if we think of for instance the fact that there are some 400 types of wheat but only three of them are commercially viable and uh a lot of biologists conservationist are afraid that all the others other types of wheat are probably going to disappear more or less with in one or two generations. Then what are we going to do if those three which we then have left if they are vulnerable to some diseases which are going to kill them off. Or likewise with rice and uh genetically modified rice especially. What is going to happen if we suddenly have something that kills off all of that, what are we going to eat? And uh that means that in languages in the diversity of languages and cultures we have all the alternative knowledge which we are going to need as a human race in those cases where the catastrophes that we ourselves cause for ourselves when they come and we do not know which languages and cultures have the knowledge that we are going to need. In order to have any chance for this planet we need all those languages and cultures because we don’t know which one has which ones have the right medicine and now then if they are being killed off by the big kill languages, English is the absolutely largest one and is spreading not only of course in this country but all over the globe then we are in the end ruining the prerequisites for our great grandchildren to have planet at all and that is one of the reasons for why teachers should know about what the role of the educational system is in killing languages and educational systems and media are two of the most important direct culprits in killing off languages.
If we think of the last definition of uh linguistic gen-- uh genocide that is a special definition of linguistic genocide not just uh genocide as the other two and that is a definition which is not in the U.N. convention. It was still in the final draft uh but when the final draft came to the general assembly of the United Nations the uh definition of both linguistic and cultural genocide were voted out by sixteen states and of course those were states which were afraid of being accused of linguistic and cultural genocide themselves. And that definition says that linguistic genocide is prohibiting the use of uh the language of a group in daily intercourse or in schools and uh I don’t remember the exact wording uh for the rest which has to do with uh with uh prohibiting the uh publication and distribution of publications I the language of the group. But if we think of of uh prohibiting the use of the language of the group you can of course prohibit the use of a language by for instance killing people if they use the language or punishing them physically in a way that has happened for instance in this country and many many other countries or in the way that I said something about ---(?) Kurdish children today in Turkey where they are physically being punished tortured and so on if they speak Kurdish both children and adults and if they write Kurdish, if they mention the Kurds and so on. And uh there are many many examples of all that historically and in fairly recent history to there are many many Spanish speakers in this country who are twenty years younger than I am, I’m soon 62, who have been hit or left with out food or similar things just for speaking a few words of Spanish in school even during the breaks. But uh if I think of more sophisticated ways of doing that you are of course prohibiting the use of language in school if there are no teachers who speak that language and if that language is not used as the main medium of education so if for instance English is the main medium of education and is used during all lessons then the use of Spanish or Navajo or Hebrew or uh which ever language it happens to be is of course prohibited even if nobody hits you because you speak it you just go and speak it because nobody understands the teacher doesn’t understand and it is not not a language that is used in that school it is not is not on times tables, no materials are in that language, no announcements are in that language the use is very effectively prohibited and that is linguistic genocide. Even those uh countries which have voted out linguistic and cultural genocide from the U.N. convention uh agreed that this is how linguistic genocide can be defined so all the countries were in agreement about how to define the phenomenon even if some countries then didn’t want it in the final convention and uh I think it’s very important for teachers then to try to think uh whether or not what they are doing in school despite all their intentions despite the fact that they try to do their best, despite the fact that they love the children and want to support them and help them and so on but there not what they do is in fact still linguistic genocide and in all those cases where English is the main medium of education for indigenous or minority children it is linguistic genocide.
I have my self been a lucky enough to uh grow up with two mother tongues, Finnish and Swedish, in Finland, and uh of course if people are in that lucky situation that is the best inheritance you can get. Why? Partly because if we look at uh bilinguals, high level bilinguals or high level multilinguals, as a group and we compare them and uh their achievements and their test results with monolingual groups we know that there are high levels of bilingualist and monoligualists enhance a lot of characteristics in people and if you look at the group level of two groups where one in high level bilingual and the other one is monolingual then the bilinguals do better usually then the monolinguals in tests which measure various aspects of intelligence so called intelligence and various aspects of creativity and divergent thinking and cognitive flexibility all those things where we don’t need to think along the same old lines as every body else but we can see things from several different perspectives. We can find various ways of solving problems and so on. They also do better when it comes to metalinguistic awareness which means uh being aware how language functions and being aware of the fact that language is our contracts between people and they can be changed, those contracts if we will for instance agree that uh we we’re going to start calling something something else we can do meaning a name of a phenomenon is not any thing that is inherent in that phenomenon but it is something that is a result of a contract and if you have from when you were very young learned that something either can be called casa or home then you know that uh there might be other ways of calling the same thing. It might also be called corti (sp) as in Finnish or Hem (sp) as in Swedish uh or what ever. Metalinguistic awareness. Uh there’s a high level bilinguals uh also bettering learning further languages, and there maybe many other uh good characteristics that we who have been lucky enough become high level multilingual have. And uh if we then think of what is going to happen in the future and we think first of economics, what we know already is that uh America and Western Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, are going to be uh smaller and smaller economically in the future in the global market. We can see some of that already but it’s going to uh become much more marked already with in the next twenty years and certainly with in the next fifty years. Uh if we’re at the same time I think of the fact that more and more people are going to know English well and if we uh look at supply and demand it means that something that may have been a scarce commodity earlier if it become very common as perfect or near perfect English competence is going to be then the price goes down and at that point when a lot of people have very good competence in English that is not going to take you anywhere at all. And that means that those people who are monolingual in English they are going to have to develop a lot of other characteristics in order to get good jobs in order to be able to compete with those who not only know English well but know other languages well and who because they are multilingual also have developed some of these other characteristics like a little bit more intelligence and a little bit more creativity and divergent thinking and so on. They are going to be better off, much better off in the labor market than monolingual English speakers. If we also think of what is going to be produced in the future societies we can compare with the industrial industrialized societies which we had earlier when what was produced was mainly things, commodities. When factories produced uh books ----(?) and so on but when we think of the information society that knowledge society as it is called also which is the future society in which are just moving towards. Uh the main products are going to be ideas and knowledge. Now who is going to to produce more ideas and more knowledge? Those who are monolingual and only know one culture no the ones who are going to do well in the future information society are those who have diverse knowledges and diverse ideas and diverse information and if we think of those two countries which have been the worst killers of languages during the last two hundred years, the United States of America and Australia. Those countries which are the most eager countries to homogenize their own people linguistically and culturally those countries which give least support to maintenance of other languages and cultures. If they in addition to that are going to be less economic players uh globally and if they are homogenizing the languages and cultures so that there’s just one language, English, then what are they going to do in a society where you have to have diverse knowledges, diverse ideas, diverse uh uh I’m looking for the word, I’ll take that sentence again.
What are those countries going to do in the future knowledge society uh if they have homogenized so that they just have one language, English, and if they then have to compete with countries where there are lots of languages and cultures and real diversity. Think of Papua New Guinea five million people over 850 languages. Those countries which have maintained a lot of linguistic and culture diversity their people and at the same time of course as most of their people are high level multilinguals uh those countries are going to be much much better off because if you have all these microenvironments which the small groups have been able to observe and analyze and criticize at the same time as they have because of their multilingualism developed a lot of creativity and diverse ideas and diverse information, diverse knowledges, Then it is very clear that it is those countries which are going to be the big winners and they’re homogenizing countries with very few languages or just one language are going to be the great losers and especially then if all of us others know English fairly well I mean I’m speaking my fifth language in terms of order of learning and uh even if I do not speak it natively, even if I’m never going to know this language as well as native speakers I can manage perfectly well and I know the language uh into so many aspects uh a little bit better even then some native speakers. In addition I know a lot of other languages which they don’t and if we think of that kind of people all over the world we can see very clearly that in those industrial societies which we had long ago uh a certain degree of homogeneity might have been a benefit because you needed to stream line your production lines, you need to be able to produce something where you can guarantee that the product was always equally good and everything was similar and your your hamburgers were always equally good and similar completely independent on which country you you produce them in. So uh the MacDonaldize word which belongs to the phase of the industrial society uh in that kind of societies some degree of uniformity might have given some advantages. But in the knowledge society uniformity is going to be an absolutely different handicap. Cause what is going to be needed, what is going to give the bonus, the benefits, is diversity, linguistic diversity, culture diversity, diversity in the ways of thinking of knowing and if teachers then think of what they are doing in schools there are lots of things where homogenization and uniformity and killing of the diversity is an end result regardless of how much teachers try in other ways to encourage diversity and creativity. If they are working in a system where it is in built in the system that is should produce American values and uh just English and no other languages then they are producing future looser also in that sense.
Very often countries like the United States and Australia pride themselves of uh being so diverse and it is clear that some diversity especially as long as these new immigration is going to be there but uh if one thinks of the policies and what they are trying to do they are certainly trying to homogenize and uh one way of homogenizing not only with in the country but also globally is something that has to do for instance with uh with uh new attempts uh of uh branding. If you think of the anti-American feelings around the world and what the Bush administration is trying to do about that. They have not hired diplomats to try to counter those anti-American feelings. They have hired some of uh the this Madison Avenue uh branding people like Chalote Beir and Colon Powell legitimates that work the fact that there’s nothing bad in hiring somebody who’s good at selling because what America is doing is selling something selling an image of the United States and that is branding. Uh the United States foreign policy needs re-branding because if one looks at uh uh at uh their latest ----(?) in for instance in the Arab world the United uh States foreign policy is something that most people are very very negative about and obviously this country does not want that so uh uh rebranding of the foreign policy is what you are trying to do just now. But if one looks at branding and what it means that is exactly homogenization. Uh if you have agreed on what that brand is going to be then what is being sold is an image which is a secure image about where ever in the world you buy this brand it’s always going to be the same, the same coca cola, even if there are some local adaptation for hamburgers and so on. It is basically the same brand that has to do with the fact that customers have to be able to trust, to feel secure about that they get what the want and uh uh to me the question is then is English a homogenizing brand, the English language? And to me it is and uh that means that a homogenizing brand is the enemy of creativity, the enemy of diversity, the enemy of messy democracies and so on and if we think of what English is doing in other parts of the world or what knowledge, various degrees of knowledge of English are doing in this country. It is hierarchizing people. Those are the top who know English really well uh and uh of them those are at the top who know the uh uh prestige dialect, their standard norm and who have a certain type of pronunciation and so on. So uh English is a hierarchizing uh homogenizing brand which is the enemy of democracy all over the world. Uh when uh we then think of how long the United States is going to be diverse. Obviously uh there is diversity will be diversity which has to do with hierarchies. But will there be the kind of diversity which produces creativity that is going to be the future positive characteristics I’m not so sure. If we compare with a lot of other countries and we start looking at uh -----(?) experiences where the United States could learn in education from other countries, we know that there are masses of examples where uh when minority education is organized the way is should be organized, when diginous education is organized the way it should be organized, the results are very good firstly of course minority children, and this is not important to me in many ways but it is worth mentioning, if minority children are taught through the medium of their own languages they are also learning the dominant language better some times even faster than if they are taught through the medium of that dominant language. Let’s take uh Papua New Guinea which I have mentioned as an example there are over 850 languages in Papua New Guinea and the population is very small a bit over 5 million. Uh which shows that uh the uh just like in many other countries uh those groups who speak different languages are very small if we think on a world wide scale of the languages, the medium number of speakers of a language is something like six to seven thousand people. Meaning if we take all the languages in the world and then they got in the middle and say on this side we have the 3,500 and on this side we have the other 3,500 we look at the median point at that median point uh we have the languages which have approximately six to seven thousand speakers. So most languages in the world are spoken by very very few people and that is the case in Papua New Guinea. Now early in uh Papua New Guinea the only languages uh of instruction was English and by the way I would like to to just mention a new uh uh from one of South African colleagues, she calls English not the language of instruction but the language of destruction. I think that’s a very good term because because it shows what subtractive English killer language English is doing. So if we think of Papua New Guinea earlier all the instruction was through the medium of English and uh uh there were very very high drop out rates, many parents did not think that it was worth sending their children to school because they didn’t think that the children got much out of it and uh uh since it was an economic sacrifice to many parents to send send them to school, after a few years when they could see that the children uh didn’t really understand much and didn’t get much out of it they took out the children from school because of economic reasons and so on. In 1993 uh Papua New Guinea uh decided that they would try another approach and they started teaching children in preschool and during the first two grades through the medium of their own uh languages. And last year they used 390 languages as media of education, this year it is 470 languages. In a population of five million people and Papua New Guinea’s not one of the richest lan--- richest countries in the world so the United States could perfectly well use let’s say uh 200 languages as a media of education. It would cost more then what you’re paying out now. The results would be much better. If we think of the results in Papua New Guinea uh uh what are those people, say who have tried to evaluate that is that firstly the children learn English much faster than earlier. The results in English are much better than for their older siblings who had English only from grade one day one. The children state in school. Drop out rates have decreased a lot. Parents think that uh it is worth while to make even a fairly big economic sacrifices to keep children in school because now children understand what they are learning and it is especially girls who stay in school now so girls go to school as much as boys do now and the children are much happier they seem to be much more inquisitive they ask lots of questions, they are active, the participate as so on and uh when one looks at those three provinces where uh they started first in 1993 uh their grade six final exams in those provinces show better results then in the rest of the country where they started later and this is just one tiny example but if I come back then to my own country, Finland, uh as I said I grew up bilingually with Finnish and Swedish, as my mother talks and uh Swedish speakers are only six percent of the Finnish population. Finland is officially uh bilingual, if we take the whole country so that uh in any part of the world you can get your services either in Finnish or in Swedish. Uh if -----(?) has eight children from the minority in uh more Finnish dominant municipality eight Swedish speaking children are in a more Swedish dominant municipality, eight Finnish speaking children between the ages of seven to fifteen which is the obligatory school age. Then ---(?) has to have a school for them where their language is the main medium of education. Eight children in the whole municipality and between the ages of eight and fifteen. I could choose whether I wanted to go to a Finnish median school or a Swedish median school and when I wanted to for instance uh listen to radio or uh after sixteen I was around sixteen went to ----(?). If I wanted to listen to the news on television I could choose which one of mother tongues that I wanted to use. Like wise when I went to university I could choose which one. Uh Finland now has uh three Sermi (?) languages in—indigenous languages also as official languages on a regional basis meaning in those mu—municipalities where the Ser may live up north uh they can have Sermie medium education if they so choose and they can have the services from the uh state officials or municipal offices they can have that through the medium of the same languages other sermie languages big. Uh altogether there are some 35,000 people in the whole world who speak Surmie languages uh divided between, or united by, ten Surmie languages so these are very small languages and two of uh the Sermie languages which exist in Finland only have both fewer than four hundred speakers and that means that even with fewer than 400 speakers you can organize the education through the medium of those languages. So it is either economically nor administratively anything that is impossible. If we look at the Swedish speakers in Finland where the uh social situation is approximately the same for Swedish speakers and Finnish Speakers, they are approximately equally in much of formal education and so on so the Swedish speakers are not uh not from a social point of few any kind of an elite even if they were that earlier because was so was a Swedish colony. If we look at the school results now who is uh monolingual and who is uh bilingual, of course everybody who is a Finnish speaker learns other languages in school so people learn learn Swedish, the learn English, they learn German and so on. But that is a school language that is not the same as uh as a being bilingual in the sense that all the Swedish speaker s are because they know that they have to learn Finnish if they want to manage in the Finnish society that means that Swedish uh have uh Swedish median education they uh study Finnish as a subject and uh most of them do not have any contact teaching through the medium of Finnish, meaning all their teaching is through the medium of their own language. But if we look at if we look at this school achievement it is in general a little bit better than that of the Finnish speakers why? Because they are bilingual and because they then enhance through that bilingualism. Uh those characteristics which also help them succeed in schools. If we look at the Finnish speakers they are obviously uh they experience a lot of other languages even if they don’t always learn all of them at a native level maybe they don’t learn any of those at native level but they learn some of them at a fairly high level. So there’s nobody who is monolingual in my country, not one, not one after uh school age and if we look then uh at for instance the latest international reading tests and compare the United States with its homogenizing education system with Finland. Finland was uh the best country in the reading tests in most aspects both in uh grade three and in grade seven and I am sure that it is not only because our language is so much easier to read than English, English is an absolutely horrible language to learn to read because there is so little correspondence between what you say and how you write it and in Fin--- uh in Finnish there’s a lot of correspondence but it is not only because of that it is also there is linguistic diversity in the country and because for instance uh nothing is dubbed on on the television it is subtitled so kids who uh who watch films or listen to music or what ever they get several languages and then they can learn more of them because they have the subtitles so if they don’t understand for instance a Hollywood film or what ever in English or a French film or a Dutch film or whatever they can both hear it and they can see the subtitles meaning they can learn more and being exposed to many languages like that and where our own language, Finnish, is very different from them and the more differences the more you have to compare the more you have to figure out how this language functions all of that obviously makes uh makes it easier to develop the high levels of multilinguistic awareness which are then directly related to reading achievements also. But uh if we look at uh a lot of those studies in masses of countries where we can stay that minority education at least for some groups has been organized in ways that it should be organized uh organized uh uh then we can say that uh there is something to learn for a lot of other countries if we look for instance at Norway and the municipality in Norway which has the highest percentage or Sermi speakers, it is the municipality of ---(?) in northern Norway, there the Sermi speakers uh have all the education during the first nine years through the medium of Sermi and Sermi is not in the European, it is not related to Norwegian or English or Russian or or French or Italian these are inter-European languages, Sermi is not inter-European. Uh at the end of grade nine they take also the exams that all other children in Norway take through the medium of Norwegian and for many many years the masses school , there’s just one school it’s a very small municipality, the mass of children have done better than any other school in the whole of Norway in those tests which they take I their second language. There’s the others take them in their first language. In uh one of my studies in Sweden where Finnish immigrant minority children are taught through the medium of Finnish instead of Swedish uh at the uh end of grade nine they are doing very well in Finnish not quite as well as Finnish children in Finland but very well. When we compare their test results in Swedish and in the Swedish language and I have used tests which are very very unfair to minorities tests which would measure what what uh ---(?) comments called CALP, cognitive academic language proficiency, uh when I compare those test results and I have had Finnish children who are ordinary immigrant children parents who are are working class, work in factories with cleaning and so on, I have compared them with Swedish middle class children I the same schools. Uh the CALP type tests are very unfair to working class children and usually one would expect that middle class children are doing better than working class children, these Finnish working class children are doing a little bit better than the Swedish middle class children in tests of the Swedish language and that is what we have been saying for many many many years, this is the type of results that we want to have and if you then look at what I was talking about this state or the elite’s in the state not really wanting minority children to succeed because they are needed for those jobs that the dominant group members do not want to do. I think it was very typical of that kind of reaction that I got from the Swedish head mistress in one of the school where I was doing this study. When I got these results which showed that the Finnish children where doing a little bit better in the Swedish language and in general school achievement than the Swedish children I went to the head mistress and showed the results and I was of course expecting that she would be very happy because it is her school it would be really good if children in her school are doing well and she looked at the results and I explained them to her and then she said but this is absolutely horrifying, we have to do something to help the Swedish children. And that was to me symbolic of uh somebody who uh in a spontaneous reaction expressed what the system is geared toward achieving.
If we think of the labels which are used about indigenous and minority children there is a lot to be said about that. the first thing that I think is important is uh the reluctance of many Americans to use than minority students there are all sorts of other labels and some of them may sound good because they are trying to avoid the really negative labels but let’s take the the really negative labels first. If you use um terms like uh NEP LEP then what you are doing is labeling the child negatively no English proficiency, limited English proficiency, and not only that you are discussing the child in terms of what a child does not know instead of discussing what the child does know. You’re making the child’s language and the child’s competence in that language completely invisible and uh I’ve done a few times a little experiment where I have asked teachers and teacher trainers, trainers of teacher trainers, to write down the first two or three words that they think of when they hear bilingual or when they hear NEP and LEP and even those people who are really aware and are positive have these first impressions which are very very negative. Poor and underachieving and all sorts of negative things and I think it’s criminal to label children like that. If you want to use that kind of terms then at least you should be fair and use them about everybody. That means you should then call native English speaking children uh for instance uh no Spanish competence children, or limited Navajo competence children. If we then think of a lot of those teachers who have also found these labels too negative and how they have tried to solve the question they’re started talking about for instance linguistically diverse students and uh that might in a way be uh a little bit better because at least they are not defined negatively but if we look at how quickly the negative uh uh images that people have had about these students move on, are transferred to the new term. I don’t know where the what one has done is in the end so much better and uh I think that the fact that bilingual has caught a lot of those negative images too shows it. Because bilingual in itself is not a negative label it should be a positive label which uh gives fair recognition to the fact that the children do know two languages. So it shouldn’t be negative. But still the images that teachers have had in those little experiments that I have made their images of bilingual has have been equally negative. Uh now what I would advocate then is uh minority students for those who are not indigenous uh why? Because linguistically diverse students do not have any kind of legal rights in international law. Where as if you are a minority student, minorities do have some legal rights and uh if we look at for instance one of those recommendations which uh which comes from the OSCE high commissioner on national minorities. OSCE is the organization for secure and corporation in Europe and even if it is in Europe, Canada and the United States are members so these recommendations should be binding for uh the United States. Even if uh uh the uh recommendations that I am talking about, the Hague recommendations on the the educational rights of national minorities. Even if uh they use the term national minorities, national here means those who should be seen as national minorities even if they are immigrated minorities. That means that it should, those recommendations should apply for instance to to uh Spanish speaker and Mong speakers and Chinese speakers and Japanese speakers and Vietnamese speakers and so on in the United States. Those recommendations are a guide lines which have been developed by the high commissioner which look at the standards that should apply to minority students in international law. So they are an interpretation by some of the best human rights lawyers in the world. Many of them have been members of the united nations uh uh commission on human rights and so on and some educational, I was one of them, some educational experts. They they are guide lines which are inter--- interpretations of what standards in international human rights law say about minority education and what those recommendations say is that the mother tongue should ideally be the main medium of education for minority students even in secondary school. Teachers should ideally be bilingual even teachers who are teaching uh these children the dominant language as a subject. These are recommendations that should be binding for the United States too. But the recommendations say nothing about linguistically diverse students. They talk about minority students and that is a very strong reason from my point of view for why teachers who want to use the support that they can get from linguistic human rights in international human rights law should use the term minority students rather than uh than term linguistically diverse students and that to me is criminal to use terms like LEP and NEP and uh from that point of view I can not tell how shocked I am by seeing that this LEP has now crept into into the new name of what use to be ---(?) and that minority and bilingual have disappeared that shows to me something about not only the ideological climate in this country but also about the bottomless ignorance of some groups in this country. It is absolutely shocking, it’s horrifying, it’s criminal.
We could uh go back to ----(?) old distinction we could ---(?) between language languages as a problem, language as a resource, language as a right. And uh I think that he has even himself noticed that it was uh not a good idea to uh juxtapose rights and resources because uh obviously uh people need rights linguistic human rights in order uh to avoid that their languages become problems and in order to make their languages become accepted resources so languages are not problems they shouldn’t be problems and those who have that approach are obviously out but we have to combine rights and resources they support each other mutually. And uh if we don’t say only rights but human rights then it becomes different because human rights are not anything there’s there’s a very vocal group demanding rights which aren’t reasonable. One of the uh possible negative readings of talking about rights but if we talk about linguistic human rights and think of what human rights are they are rights which are so fundamental, so in alienable that because we are born as human beings most state or a group or other individual is allowed to deny us those rights and when one thinks of those linguistic human rights that dominant language groups take for granted for themselves like the right to to use their own languages with their own children or have their children being educated if they so choose through the medium of their own language. Transfer the knowledge’s that they have to their own children not only in the family but also partially through the education system. Then what minorities and indigenous peoples what and need and have the right to is not any kind of special rights it’s not any thing where the tax payers have to pay horrible sums in order to uh grant these rights to minorities they are just asking for at least a tiny little part of those human rights that majority populations dominant group population take for granted for themselves. It is not any kind of special rights it’s just something that they are entitled to because they are human beings nothing more and if I’m ----(?) from this point of view then right does not equal fight, right just equals being a human being nothing more.
When I uh look back from my position of a 62 year old, almost, uh and look at the global situation uh it’s impossible to say what has happened because so many different things have happened in so many different countries. There are countries where there has been a lot of positive development and many many indigenous peoples have started being aware of the oppression that they have been uh the victims of for centuries of often. They have started asking to be treated as human beings. They have started asking to uh get just what is their fair share not anything more, often not even that, but just their fair share and this type of awakening or in some cases reawakening is happening in many many parts of the world. Uh take for instance Australia where one of the languages ---(?) which according to linguists died at the beginning of the century. The last speaker died uh 1929 I think it was. Uh there were unt