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Monday, October 3, 2022

On the inequality of the English Language

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*artwork by Chard Camua

I believe that all languages are equal. However, we cannot deny the fact that language inequality exists because some languages are perceived as more equal than others. This situation is evident in World Englishes. Some factors could be considered why English language inequality happens.

Politics plays a pivotal role in why some languages are perceived as more equal than others.  I will use the paradigm of World Englishes to illustrate my point.  Crystal, Smith, and Kachru argue that all Englishes in the inner, outer, and expanding circles are equal.  Likewise, they affirm that English no longer belongs to the native speakers and it belongs to the speakers who use that language. However, despite this argument, many people still prefer American and British English.  They have this thinking that the Englishes spoken in the inner circle are all equal, and they should be the standard for English language teaching. This belief exists because of politics.  Countries belonging to the inner circle particularly the USA and the UK are powerful economically.  Hence, they dictate the norm and the rest of the countries belonging to the outer and expanding circle must follow.  This is the reason why politics is one of the factors why some languages are perceived as more equal than others.

Another reason is the language attitude.  Language attitude has a big role in why some languages are perceived as more equal than others.  There are still many people in the world who have the purist and traditional thinking that English belongs to native speakers.  This is evident in some countries belonging to the expanding circle. In Korea, for instance, they only hire native speakers of English.  They believe that since they are native speakers, they can teach the language well even though they do not have licenses or any qualifications.  This happens because of language attitude. They prefer English belonging to the inner circle such as American and British English because of their power and prestige.  Therefore, they do not hire qualified English teachers who come from outer and expanding circles despite the skills and qualifications they have.  It shows that language attitude affects equality among the varieties of World Englishes. 

The last factor is a lack of awareness.  Many scholars around the world have recognized the legitimacy of World Englishes, and they believe that all varieties are equal.  However, many people are still incognizant of this reality due to a lack of awareness.  In the Philippines, there are still teachers who believe that we should teach the American Standard of English.  For them, Philippine English is English that falls short of the norms of standard American English. This thinking exists because they are incognizant of the new paradigm.  They believe that other varieties of English such as Philippine English are not legitimate. In this regard, inequality exists because they are not aware of the new paradigm.

Overall, languages are all equal. On the other hand, due to politics, language attitude, and lack of awareness, language inequality among the varieties of World Englishes exists. This is a sad reality. Therefore, language educators, scholars, and researchers should continuously educate people, so that all varieties of Englishes will be perceived equally.

Persieus Balog is an instructor at the Far Eastern University. He finished his MA in English Language Studies (cum laude) at the University of Santo Tomas. He is currently doing his PHD in Language Studies: English at the University of the Philippines in Diliman.


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