language debates in other countries

There are, and have been, various debates about language carried on around the globe.  The debate, while focused on language, often reveals deeper feelings about issues of culture, race, nationalism, or heritage.

In Fiji, the national language debate centers on the status on the three official languages:  English, Fiji, and Hindi.  Until 1997, English was the official language, but the new constitution gave equal status to Fiji and Hindi.

The controversy surrounds whether or not Fiji and Hindi should be required subjects in school.  Former Education Minister Taufa Vakatale argues that Hindi should be available, but priority should be given to Fijian. “If the Indians in the country lost their language, there is a whole continent of people in India who would still have the language,” she said. “In the whole world only 330,000 people know how to speak in Fijian and if it is lost, there is nowhere it can be revived from, that is why the Fijian language is very important to preserve.” 

In a study introduced in 2005, the Rewa Provincial Council found that 26% of the indigenous first and second graders were not able to speak their own language. (1)

In Mauritius, there is a debate between those who speak French, and those who prefer to speak Creole.  Here is an informal exchange of views on the subject:


In the Philippines, the debate over whether to deliver public school instruction in English, rather than Tagalog, focuses on the preparation of students for participation in a global economy. 

President Gloria Arroyo issued an executive order in 2004 that requires English as the medium of instruction for English, Math and Science from the third grade, and for all subjects at the secondary level.  (2) 

Manuel L. Quezon III, a columnist and editorial writer for The Philippine Daily Inquirer :

“I was in the University of the Philippines when the transition from teaching in English to teaching in Filipino took place, during the presidency of Jose Abueva. For people like myself, it was difficult. But I still tell everyone with whom I discuss the language question that a most remarkable transformation took place. There was a remarkable increase not only in recitation but also in class participation.

If people are in school to learn, then the language that enables real learning to take place is best.” (3)

The nationalist approach finds itself in conflict with the arguments of those who deal in academia.  From a blogpost found on Philippine Commentary (4)

“The main point I think is that English is an integral and inseparable and most substantial part of the Filipino cultural heritage–ineradicably a part of our intellectual, educational, and historical patrimony. Its rejection and treatment as “foreign” is a twisted form of the self-loathing that some people wish us all to practice as “nationalism.” What they actually are propagating is a romantic kind of aboriginalism that masks a more modern and leftist agenda…Nearly 100 percent of all major scientific papers are published in English, even by non-native English speakers, not only in Computer Science, but in Physics, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Medicine, and the rest of the hard sciences. English is unavoidably the lingua Anglica of the world in this historical epoch, even if it irks the Filipino nationalists and their ideologies of resentment.” (4)



(1)          National Language debate in Fiji: Facts, discussion forum, and encyclopedia article.  Web. 24 July 2009 <;.

(2)          Palatino, Mong. “The English Language debate in the Philippines.” Global Voices. 14 June 2007. Web. 27 July 2009.

(3)          Quezon III, Manuel L. “Practical Languages.” Practical Languages. Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 Nov. 2006. Web. 27 July 2009. <;.



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