According to Wee (2003), “the need to cross boundaries and to construct new global international norms has led to the old politics of identity being increasingly abandoned in favor of a new pragmatic position.” Analyze and appraise the factors motivating the Singapore government’s shift towards a discourse of linguistic instrumentalism and well as its consequences.
this essay question is taken from an obligatory associated reading of lionel Wee’s article “Linguistic instrumentalism in Singapore,” Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 24 (3), pp.211 – 224.
Thus, please READ Upon the article of Lionel Wee’s Article“Linguistic instrumentalism in Singapore,” Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 24 (3), pp.211 – 224.
Your ESSAY is basically a case study of Singapore in relation to the concept of linguistic instrumentalism which took root in the 1990s.
FIRSTLY, you have to explain the concept of “linguistic instrumentalism” and its association with “cross boundaries” and the construction of “new global international norms.”
SECONDLY, you should explain why “the old politics of identity has been abandoned in favor of a new pragmatic position.”
THIRDLY, explain what does “politics of identity” mean? What is this “new pragmatic position”?
LASTLY, why has the Singapore government from the 1990s shifted away from the “identity politics “towards “a new pragmatic position”? What are the consequences of this shift?
As this is an assignment of an academic exercise in essay writing, you should take particular care with referencing and bibliographic conventions, and your essay should be written in an appropriate academic register.
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Linguistic Instrumentalism (or Commodifying Languages)
Globalization and economic development are typical goals of LPP (Language Planning and Policy). These goals essentially contend that for a nation to survive in today’s world, it has to cross national boundaries in order to participate and compete in the global economy.
The choice of a language or languages to help the country to become globally competitive necessarily has to draw on another powerful language ideology: Linguistic Instrumentalism. This ideology or discourse views language as a commodity that can be bought and exchanged for projected economic returns. Language is money; it means jobs. Although it does not discount the possibility of language becoming a symbol of national pride and identity, or a language of national unity or solidarity, linguistic instrumentalism does not see these meanings as critical in achieving global competitiveness.
For this language ideology, language choice is purely instrumental or pragmatic. Ironically, it assumes that such a choice is non-ideological or neutral; it claims that to choose a language based on instrumental reasons is to avoid politics or ideology.
However, it is precise that people think of linguistic instrumentalism as having nothing to do with politics or ideology that it is, thus, a language ideology. It is a discourse about language. There is nothing intrinsic to language, or any language for that matter, that should tell us that it is a commodity. It is people and their institutions who commodify language because by doing so, they will reap economic benefits.
What happens here is that linguistic instrumentalism has shaped our language choice or specifically, our decision to learn a language or not. But linguistic instrumentalism itself has also emerged out of the need to play the game of the global economy. Thus, a language becomes a commodity because of broader socioeconomic realities. Obviously here, linguistic instrumentalism is a language ideology.
Linguistic instrumentalism does not directly attack multilingualism. However, it poses a danger to languages that are perceived to have no economic value. Because it is an ideology, linguistic instrumentalism discursively creates a ‘truth’ about languages – that some are more important than others by virtue of their economic or pragmatic usefulness.
One must be doing the ‘right’ thing if she decides to learn a language that has economic value but must be doing the ‘wrong’ thing if she decides to learn other less economically viable languages for other reasons. If unchecked, linguistic instrumentalism can lead to the marginalization of other languages in society, or worse, these languages may be deemed useless and irrelevant to people’s lives. Thus, as you have seen, the value of these languages is not determined by their internal linguistic structures but by ideologies such as linguistic instrumentalism.