Did you know this was endangered languages week? I didn’t, but I’m glad it’s happening. With all the alarming news that has hogged the headlines over the past few months, endangered languages have sunk to a lower rung of our consciousness, mine anyway. So it’s time to stop and think for a moment about the many benefits of preserving endangered languages:
1. Every language embodies a system of family and governmental relationships, titles, and rules. Nobody has gotten either system right yet, and we can learn a lot from each other. These systems disappear with the language.
2. Every language uses a certain set of sounds, which express themselves in everything from lullabies to swear words. These help us understand the human brain, and our physical capabilities.
3. Can you imagine a world in which there was no longer a ”Rock-a-Bye Baby,” or an “I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud,” not to mention, “To be or not to be” which other people could understand? Literature and music has been composed in every tongue, whether the culture is literate or not.
4. More than one set of experiments has proven that knowing more than one language improves our method of learning everything else as well, and develops the brain.
5. Extinguishing language means extinguishing identity, relegating certain groups to inferior status. This goes against our principles of self-worth and democracy.
6. Now. If only the Spanish-, Greek-, and French-speaking people I know would answer me in Spanish, Greek, or French when I address them in their native tongue. The United States not only does not foster multilingualism, it mutes the tongues of people who immigrate. It annoys the hell out of me that I cannot practice my second, third, and fourth languages with people who live around me. The less they respond in their native tongue, the less I hear their native languages, and the quicker I lose contact with them.
7. We embrace diversity in all else, why not in language? There is a virtue unto itself of diversity.
Endangered Languages Week 2013 – Here is a weeklong celebration of same in England, if any of you happen through this week.
Celebrating our Sounds, Signs and Songs
SOAS, Russell Square, London
20-28 May 2013
Endangered Languages Week 2013 will present a variety of workshops, talks, films, demonstrations, debate, and more. Events include:
- ELDP workshop on technology and African languages.
- APLL6 conference on Austronesian and Papuan Languages and Linguistics
- Talks and seminars:
- Caroline Kerfoot: ‘Multilingualism as epistemic resource: rethinking ‘languages’ in educational policy’
- Kearsey Cormier on Sign languages
- Henrik Bergqvist:‘The problem of accounting for TAME and related expressions in the context of language documentation and description’
- Catherine Ingram on music and language documentation
- Sarah Ogilvie on web technologies and endangered languages
- Peter Austin: ‘And still they speak Dieri. Language revitalisation in northern South Australia’
- ELAR Open Day, including:
- Film Day: films on/in endangered languages
The full programme of events will appear here soon!
All events are free of charge and open to anyone who is interested in languages.
My friend Lillian is a Chinese-American chef who has been living in China for the past few years. She has seen more of the country than most native Chinese as she has traveled from restaurant to restaurant, market to market, farm to farm, tea plantation to tea plantation. She is planning to write a book about China’s various farms (which I can’t wait to read.)
Last week she came to lunch on one of her whirlwind visits to New York, and she brought along a 15-year-old Chinese young woman, Yen, who is on her way to Pittsburgh to begin high school. She will live with 15 other young Chinese women, at least during her first year. We batted around this decision — was it best to live with other Chinese students, or should she jump head first into English? Her English was pretty good, but she had only been here for three days and was struggling to understand English spoken at our natural pace.
She picked at her lunch. There was no rice (I have since learned that I should ALWAYS serve rice to Chinese guests), but she soldiered her way through a popover, a roast beef sandwich which Lillian had picked up at a delicatessen, and a salad. I know enough about Chinese visitors to know that American food tastes bland almost to the point of being inedible sometimes, so I offered her some of the fruit salad, which she hadn’t touched yet. It consisted of small pieces of cantaloupe, raspberries, and blueberries.
I offered her a small piece of canteloupe which she regarded in the same way that I would look at the Chinese delicacy, fish eyes. But she ate it. ”It’s sweet,” she said, surprised. Then she tried the raspberry. “It’s — how do I say this — it’s, um, sour,” she said.
If a Chinese person doesn’t know what canteloupe is, you can assume similar distance between our ways and every other aspect of Chinese culture, including our language. You’ll have to go easy on your assumption that your Chinese guest will know how to greet a host and how to thank a host, how to shake hands, how to cross a street (the Chinese are astounded that cars stop for pedestrians, but might misjudge driver behavior and get in some trouble). Most young Chinese have never cleaned their room, washed their clothes, or cooked a meal for themselves. Their parents take care of all that so the children can study hard. My daughter teaches pre-school, and a two-and-a-half-year-old Chinese boy came to the school for the first time the other day who didn’t know how to use a fork or a spoon. His grandmother had always fed him.
Yen has had her first piece of canteloupe and her first raspberry. So far so good. She’ll have countless other sweet and sour experiences here in America. I wish her well. Now I would like to hear about the experiences of at least 15 young Americans who are studying in China.
Rep. Steve King of Iowa has sponsored an English-only bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. It’s a dumb bill with unstated pernicious goals of racism and exclusion, but leave that aside for the moment. Rep. King said, “A common language is the most powerful unifying force known throughout history, throughout all humanity and all time. If (people) can’t communicate, they’re bound to separate.” The people in India, China, many African nations, the Quechua-Spanish nations of South America, Indonesia, and numerous other countries which have multiple languages might disagree on that statement. It is, at the very least, not a statement based on fact. Language differences might sow disunity, as Rep. King is doing in the U.S., but these nations have not been “bound to separate.” (The U.S. came close to separation without any linguistic involvement except perhaps the stigmatizing of peoples’ accents.)
More disturbing than that statement was his use of China as an example of linguistic unity “throughout history.” His report on the history of the “Chinese language” is riddled with the sorts of logical fallacies which result from not knowing what you are talking about. First of all, there is no language called “Chinese.” A person from Beijing cannot easily understand someone from Canton, Taiwan, or even Szechuan. There are also many tribal languages spoken in China. My Chinese friends tell me that the variances between, say, Beijing Mandarin and the languages spoken elsewhere are much greater than the languages of Texas and New York. In America, it is a matter of accent, but the differences are more pervasive in China. Any broad brush analogy between China and America, and ancient China with modern America, is bound to be fallacious. One has to be careful when comparing even England with America.
The Chinese alphabet is indeed a cleverly devised unifying tool unlike anything we have in the Western world. It is perhaps analogous to the sign language which Native America tribes used to communicate, since they could not understand each others’ languages. In our Western alphabets, a person must memorize the words house, casa, maison, spiti, and so on, in order to communicate the idea of “house” or “home.” Two Chinese citizens who cannot understand each other verbally can communicate through the symbol for house. The Google translation for “house” contains multiple entries, but one of them is 名词. A Frenchman and an American can say to each other over and over again “House,” “Maison” “House” “Maison” and never understand each other, but two Chinese can write down 名词 and communicate immediately.
I once asked several Chinese students to come to the board and write the symbols for various words. The rest of the Chinese students in the class enjoyed the display even more than the rest of us. The Taiwanese student used an extra slash or line to write her symbols, and the Beijing student had a different slant or a different interior relationship of strokes. They said in explanation that the Taiwanese student wrote with an “accent.” They could detect where the student was from by analyzing the symbolic depiction of certain concepts. This is an entertainment which no Western student could participate in. Writing “maison” instead of “house” does not provide any laughs at all.
I was amused by Rep. King’s turning to China as a template for the U.S. to follow. There are few Republicans indeed who would use a Communist government which dictates policy, including language policy, as our model.
Our ignorance of things Chinese is so great that politicians can grab onto fragments of truth and include them in their speeches unchallenged, because neither they nor their audiences know what the truth is. I stipulate right here that my knowledge of Chinese is very limited, but compared to Rep. King, I’m an encyclopedia.
So who has the upper hand in the world today? The Chinese or the Americans? I recently met Yen, a young Chinese woman who is beginning high school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She will be living with 15 other young Chinese students. (They will soften the transition to the U.S. by employing a Taiwanese chef to cook their meals. It is very difficult for a Chinese person to become accustomed to the American kitchen.) She already speaks good English and, if the family plan is accomplished, will finish both high school and college in the U.S. There are tens of thousands of Chinese students like Yen studying in the U.S. today, and each will take back to China a bit of knowledge to share with their families, acquaintances, and colleagues. We, in the meantime, are entertaining each other with false stories about Chinese history and language, without the slightest clue what China is like.
One of my students once wrote an essay in which she claimed that if we limited the ability of ordinary citizens to purchase guns we would be “just like China.” I had no idea what being “just like China” would entail, so I asked her in what ways they would be similar. “Do you know a lot about China?” I asked her. She sheepishly cast her eyes down. She barely knew where it was. Such foolish bromides about gun control had become second nature in her family and her community (she was home schooled), and had the ring of truth to them. As my father remarked about one family’s annual reunions, “They get together once a year to increase their ignorance.”
We live awash in such ignorance at our peril.
Once again, English Only legislation is being introduced in the U.S. Congress, this time by Rep. Steve King of Iowa. Given the substantial number of serious problems faced by America now, this legislation should be viewed as a frivolous waste of time, but its deleterious effects go deeper than that. It denigrates and demeans the hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the U.S., most of whom are struggling to learn English, if for no other reason than that their futures will be much brighter if they do. All of their children learn English, and their grandchildren often don’t even speak the native language of their immigrant parents or grandparents (which is a problem from cultural and national security standpoints).
Let us begin by reviewing some of the provisions of the proposed legislation, which, thankfully, is not expected to pass.
§162. Preserving and enhancing the role of the official language
Representatives of the Federal Government shall have an affirmative obligation to preserve and enhance the role of English as the official language of the Federal Government. Such obligation shall include encouraging greater opportunities for individuals to learn the English language.
Without defining what “encouraging greater opportunities for individuals to learn the English language,” this provision has no meaning at all. The Federal Government already functions in English and no enhancement is needed. But “encouraging greater opportunities” can only mean establishing learning centers where immigrants can learn English, and providing a greater number of ESL teachers in schools. This would be a welcome and expensive addition to the federal budget, but increased funding for any kind of education is rejected by the very people who support English-only laws, so this provision is dead on arrival and not worth the paper it is written on.
§ 164. Uniform English language rule for naturalization
(a) UNIFORM LANGUAGE TESTING STANDARD.—All citizens should be able to read and understand generally the English language text of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the laws of the United States made in pursuance of the Constitution.
Who could object to learning a bit about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution? Certainly not I. It is the principles enshrined in these documents which draw many immigrants to America in the first place. They have heard about equality of opportunity long before they ever tread our shores. But I wonder which parts of the Declaration of Independence would be considered especially important.
The respect paid to immigrants would be welcome. Prevention of immigration is one of the objections to King George’s rule: “He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither…”
The final remonstrance (in a long list) against King George might seem, to the untutored immigrant, to clash with the basic declaration that “all men are created equal”: He has…endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. Would we then, in fairness, teach our new immigrants about the “undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes, and conditions” which the U.S. government practiced against these “merciless Indian Savages” over the hundred and more years after we became independent? Who would fund the learning centers where immigrants were taught the archaic language of the Declaration of Independence, with its outdated vocabulary and punctuation?
Regarding the Constitution, we would be bound to alert new immigrants that some provisions of this document no longer apply, such as: “No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.” Surely we would want to tell the new immigrants that this vile provision which resulted in escaped slaves being returned to their masters to endure legally sanctioned measures such as death was overturned later by the Supreme Court. Most damaging to the spirit of all men being “created equal” would be the provision which states: “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned … according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” The Constitution tiptoes around the mention of slavery, but in this provision, counts slaves as three-fifths of a person, and does not include Indians at all. It does count indentured servants, who were usually white, as full people. That part, too, was later overturned, ultimately allowing Barack Obama to become president. Who would want three-fifths of a president?
Is this the image of America that we want to paint for new immigrants? Wouldn’t the economic, social, and cultural pressures to learn English lead them to a more accurate picture of modern America, and more facility in navigating such civic duties as voting and holding a job? Our own high school students have only a vague idea of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I wonder how many of them would pass the test given to immigrants.
Linguists almost universally oppose English-Only legislation, joined by many others; for example, the American Psychological Association’s web page contains an article opposing it. The abstract of the article states: “The scientific literature relevant to the arguments for and against the English-only movement is reviewed, to determine whether the Resolution Against English Only before the Board of Directors and the Council of Representatives of the American Psychological Association (APA) was supportable. Some of the misconceptions advanced by English-only advocates that affect the sociopsychological, educational, testing, and health-service delivery arenas are examined. It is argued that there is no support for English-only initiatives, and that the English-only movement can have negative consequences on psychosocial development, intergroup relations, academic achievement, and psychometric and health-service delivery systems for many American citizens and residents who are not proficient in English. The public interest is best served by affirming a position in opposition to English-only. English-only is socially divisive and poses a threat to the human welfare that psychologists espouse in the APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists.” The full article can be found here.
Services affected by English-Only legislation would include: health, education and social welfare services, job training, translation assistance to crime victims and witnesses in court and administrative proceedings; voting assistance and ballots, drivers’ licensing exams, and AIDS prevention education. The sponsor of the present bill, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, suggests that its passage would alleviate the expense of providing interpreters and translators in hospitals, courts, and schools. Really? Does this mean that a person who does not speak English will not be helped to understand the proceedings in the court where he or she might be convicted of a crime? On the medical side, would a 911 operator or an EMT be allowed to speak in a language other than English? The present legislation specifically requires that entities from the federal government down to the smallest town must comply with federal law, and since local ambulance drivers and telephone operators for 911 are governmental entities, they might well be forbidden to speak anything but English. In the days of segregation, well within living memory, Black people were allowed to die if there was no hospital for Black people handy. That’s how the famous singer Bessie Smith died – she bled to death because the White hospitals wouldn’t take her in. Are we going to allow grotesque modern situations to refresh that memory?
Passage of an “English Only” ordinance by Florida’s Dade County in 1980, barring public funding of activities that involved the use of languages other than English, resulted in the cancellation of all multicultural events and bilingual services, ranging from directional signs in the public transit system to medical services at the county hospital. The absence of bilingual signage would not bode well for the tourism industry.
Librarians complain that English-only laws inhibit their ability to communicate with many of their clients.
The English-Only proponents are opposed to spending money on multi-lingual ballots, thus affecting the voting rights of immigrants. One Representative who urged the House of Representatives to reject the English-only measure wondered how we could enforce immigration laws if we were forbidden from communicating with the affected immigrants.
Learning English is a long process, especially for people with limited educational experience. They may be working at multiple jobs to support themselves or taking care of young children or other relatives. It could take them years to master the Constitution. A little patience should be in order while they acclimate themselves to a new country.
Some states have declared English their “official language,” but Hawaii has deemed both English and Hawaaian “official.” Will that now have to be overturned?
The English-only forces include a fringe of racists belonging to hate groups, and underlying all such legislation is a smug intolerance, at the very least. America would benefit more fully from initiatives in the other direction. How foolish, for example, that we had a severe shortage of Arabic-speaking citizens when we went to war in Iraq! It is the smug superiority of Americans such as Rep. King which created generations of Americans who do not speak the language of their immigrant parents or grandparents. In today’s interconnected world, we need to encourage multilingualism. It is good for the arts, business, diplomacy, education, and peace. Any efforts to intimidate Americans into speaking only English take us into isolation and dysfunction.
There is a deeper moral principle to be honored though. English as a language is one form of the glue that has always bound us together. This will not change. Relegating the many languages spoken among us to second-class status only causes division and rancor, not the unity which Americans since the Declaration of Independence have striven for. Immigrants come to America to live where the goal is equality of opportunity, and where that is concerned, we have walked the walk. We have had a Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, who speaks English with a German accent, and a recent Chief of Staff of our Armed Forces, John Shalikashvili, spoke English with a Polish accent. We revere Lafayette and deTocqueville, who spoke English with a French accent, as American heroes, and the list of artists, writers, film makers, and musicians who took a while to become fluent in English is a very long one. These American giants all took a while to learn English, and they might have had mothers or other relatives who came to live here who never learned English at all. We don’t want to discourage the scientists who will take us to Mars or the musicians who lift our hearts to be discouraged from coming to our country because we don’t value their language. Bring on the bagels (Yiddish), ketchup (Chinese), chipmunks (Algonquin), soufflés (French), and all the rest! Hooray for America!
An article in The New York Times today makes the case that not only does bilingualism make us smarter as children, it also wards off mental deterioration in older people.
I might add my own two cents on this subject. There is no time in life when bilingualism is anything less than a great bonus (except when memorizing vocabulary lists, that’s just the price you pay). Traveling, watching television, reading newspapers in another language, speaking with the local hardware store owner or taxi driver or musician in his or her native language is a kick which opens your social life and sprinkles glitter on our everyday activities.
Max Markham, a recent Stanford graduate with some impressive international experience, even at his young age, has written an article which appeared on the blog policymic and presents some of the compelling arguments against having English-only legislation passed in the U.S., whether on the state or national level. It was written five months ago, and refers to Jon Huntsman as the only presidential candidate who speaks a language other than English fluently (Chinese), and Huntsman is no longer a candidate, but the points made in the article remain true. (I believe that Romney speaks pretty good French, but perhaps he was excluded because he isn’t fluent.)
One factoid teachers can use to introduce this subject is that, counting immigrant enclaves, there are around 337 languages spoken or signed in the U.S. One hundred seventy-six are indigenous, such as Athabaskan, Chinookan, Iroquoian, Uto-Aztecan, and many more. Fifty-two are now extinct, with others falling into extinction as native speakers die out. Some of these are Delaware, Jersey Dutch, Iowa-Oto, Narragansett, Shinnecock, Wyandot, and many more.
My favorite historical anecdotes on this subject concern the debate which occurred in Revolutionary War times. There were a number of Americans who objected to adopting the language of their enemies, the British, though most people in the fledgling U.S. spoke English. Some wanted the official language to be either Hebrew, French, or Greek (the languages of God, rationality, and democracy), and some suggested Latin, which was universally taught in upper class schools. There were so many German speakers at that time that a bill was introduced to print official documents in German. It failed.
Exercise: As with other language policy-related issues that have been discussed on this blog in the past, have students find out what the language policy of their state, town, or school is, and hold a class discussion of the findings, which includes a pro- and con- dialogue about declaring an official state or national language.
I learned something new today — yes, our genetic makeup influences how we behave, but our behavior also changes or enhances our genetic makeup. It’s a two-way street. That is somehow hopeful.
As reported in the journal Neuron, a UCLA team of researchers “discovered that some 2,000 genes in a region of the male zebra finch’s brain known as “Area X” are significantly linked to singing. More than 1,500 genes in this region, a critical part of the bird’s song circuitry, are being reported for the first time.”
The researchers believe that “the 2,000 genes — which are also shared by humans — are likely important for human speech.” Some disorders, such as autism, are believed to have a genetic component, and this is a step toward understanding how that works.
The cool thing about the research, to me anyway, is that yes, our speech is regulated by genes, but when we speak, the genes are energized and changed — that is, our behavior can change the way our brains work. The researchers write that ”If you’re a professional pianist, for example, you actually expand the territory in your brain that is devoted to playing the piano. When you practice the piano, a suite of genes gets turned on. When you practice hitting a tennis serve or a baseball, a suite of genes gets turned on. Our findings suggest different suites of genes get activated for different behaviors.”
How are “suites of genes” influenced by learning new languages, and speaking them? There is evidence that learning other languages affects many parts of the brain, but so far the mechanisms which cause these beneficial results have not been clearly understood.
Research like this makes me wonder what world our grandchildren will live in.
Do you know there is an “International Mother Language Day?” It’s today, February 21st. It is sponsored by Linguapax, a non-governmental organization supporting linguistic diversity, in the belief that “…essential vehicles of identity and cultural expression are inseparable from the goals peace and intercultural understanding.”
The Linguapax Award for 2012 is being given to:
“Jon Landaburu Illarramendi (1943), Basque with French and Colombian nationality is a leading specialist in the field of indigenous languages in Colombia. With over 40 years of experience in the field, he has combined professional dedication with personal engagement in his work promoting linguistic diversity and linguistics ecologies in Colombia. He has come to be a key name in their protection and revitalization.”
You can read the whole article here.
This is a guest post from Rebekah Palmer (http:palmerlanguage.blogspot.com). Cross fertilization of ideas amplifies the abilities of all of us. If any of my readers have experiences or suggestions, please feel free to share them.
As educators, we often talk about goal setting. We set long-term goals for courses and short-term lesson objectives. We think about whether these goals and objectives are being met. We reflect and set new goals. This is nothing new.
It is surprising, therefore, that there is so little focus INSIDE the classroom on learner goals; talking about objective-setting and student responsibility for working towards and achieving goals is typically absent.
When no specific goals are defined in the classroom, the default goal of language learning becomes native-speaker level language production. Becoming native-speaker-like in a language is a dedicated effort – it is not necessary for competent communication, and the high standard demanded may not even be beneficial for many students. It requires spending a great deal of time learning very specific, tiny details that may not be important for learners in their daily lives. At the same time, the ominous goal of native-speaker language ability looms over all of us like a rain cloud pouring down on any feeling of learner success we might have briefly had.
Goals and motivation go hand-in-hand. Students need to first identify their motivations for learning, and THEN they can define their long-term proficiency goals. At that point, they must also be given the responsibility to pursue those goals. Too often, we as educators create dependent learners who rely on us for everything. The classroom is merely one facet of language learning, and to treat it as the only one is to cripple language learners.
This is an activity adapted from Rebecca Oxford’s Language Learning Strategies that I do with my students on the first day (it would be helpful later in the course as well). Here is a GoogleDocs link to the PDF that I made to use with it.
Start by having students identify their language learning motivation (i.e., I need English for work, I want to learn English so that I can take a trip to the USA, etc.). From there, have them identify how important each of the language macro-skillls (listening, reading, writing, speaking) is for their overall language goal, with “1” being “not very important” and “5” being “very important.”
Then, have them identify the level they want to achieve in each macro skill. (It is helpful to remind them that this is a beginning goal, and that when they reach it, they can set a new one.)
Next, brainstorm a list of all the possible ways that they can work towards these goals for the four macro-skills. Write a list on the board. Past lists have included watching the English news (listening, some reading), watching a movie with English subtitles (reading), talking to English-speaking family members (speaking, listening), reading the newspaper or a comic book (reading), writing an email to English-speaking friends (writing), etc. Make sure you have ideas for all four macro skills.
Once you have written them all down, have the students star the ones that are possible for them in their lifestyle. As they are doing that, I mention to them this wonderful idea that I read at Creativity and Language: Language learning is not like learning history. You can’t just memorize dates and facts. Language learning is like learning to play the piano. No matter how much you “know,” you must practice constantly if you want to be skilled at it.
Once they have the list, help them to create specific goals for today, tomorrow, and this week. Share the goals with all the students and begin to create a positive, supportive atmosphere of goal setting, evaluation, and re-setting. If you have time in the rest of the course, it is also nice to evaluate weekly goals and set new ones.
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Bekah Palmer is a language consultant and English trainer in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. She enjoys research in Linguistics and Language Education, and (with the help of her husband and sometime language co-blogger, Tim Palmer) writes about it at http://palmerlanguage.blogspot.com. Her special and current interests include Authentic Language, Conversation Analysis, Language Learning Strategies, DogmeELT / Teaching Uplugged, Autonomous Language Learning, and Third-Language Acquisition.
Perhaps you have heard of “World English.” This is not a single language, but a concatenation of versions of English, as spoken in America, England, Australia, southern Africa, the Caribbean, India, Pakistan and neighbors, Hong Kong, Belize — all over the world. Each version is different in vocabulary, accent, and sometimes in syntax.
Standard British English used to be the Queen of English, and everybody else was a poor second, but that is changing. This year, for example, three Indian authors were listed for the Man Booker prize: Amitav Ghosh (for the 2nd time by my calculation), Rahul Bhattacharya, and Jahnavi Barua. Since V. S. Naipaul’s listing in 1971, 13 Indian authors have been listed, and several have won this prestigious award. Some of them won multiple times. I believe Salman Rushdie holds the record (4) for Indian-influenced authors writing in English. Authors from Africa, the Caribbean and other parts of the English diaspora have also been listed, though in lesser numbers.
I once heard Anundhati Roy (winner, 1997) interviewed on the radio, and found it difficult to understand her. How was it possible to understand her writing perfectly and her speech only with difficulty?
I don’t have an exercise to go with this posting. It is simply an observation to encourage humility. When I worked in a law firm, few lawyers spoke other languages. “Why should I? Everybody speaks English!” They would say. That is a stupid statement, and yes, I do mean “stupid” with no modifying niceties.
Perhaps we should be more humble as well when asking who owns the English language.