Linguistic Barriers

15 04 2009

By Nizar al Musalmy – Oman Observer

I was compelled into writing this article by this week’s city talk — “Does linguistic barriers affect one’s career?” As a father and indeed a nationalist, I feel I would be betraying my conscience if I did not position my views with regards to the topic. Arguments could be advanced in favour of English as a way of attaining education but look at the Spaniards, French or German’s how they use their own languages as medium of instruction. All communities should be proud of their specific languages and one can ask why we should continue to burden our children with a foreign language in which they are not competent after all.

But with all respect to such an ideology, it is paramount to understand that some languages could be so misleading and as a result ignore certain fundamental principles of teaching and learning. Not every language, which is spoken or even written, can necessarily be a language of pursuing careers. As such a language can be such a barrier and thus affect one’s career. A language is a reflection of the cultural and material development of a given society. The higher the level, the richer the language is. It is to this extent that certain languages do or don’t qualify for pursuing careers. One important thing to note about languages in relation to careers is that there is no simultaneous process worldwide.

For example, not any language can be used in teaching computer technology or physics. The societies that discovered and invented the basics of such knowledge used a specific language. Using a different language is like reinventing the wheel. Other languages may not have the necessary vocabulary to express complex concepts. It would be like loading a 7 tonne truck with 20 tonnes. It will not move. Imagine any one language and try to visualise studying the Newton’s law of universal gravitation. First there is a need of translating it from its original language and then a great deal of think up.

Then comes the task of describing the gravitational attraction between bodies with mass where by every point attracts every other point by a force along a line that intersects both points. Neither this description nor any specific type of career development in a foreign language can be distinctive. The efficiency of one’s native language skill plays a large part in the success or failure of learning in the foreign language.Those who pursue careers have to use a particular language even though it is not their own. They do not use it because of their love for the language per se but do it out of necessity.

As a nation and bearing in mind that we are in the age of globalisation, it is crucial for career seekers to equip themselves with necessary skills which include a good command of a well integrated language. The world is becoming smaller (linguistically) with English taking a lion’s share in international communication. To be successful in career development, one must be able to communicate without difficulties. This way one can be assured of his/her survival. Be alert — don’t let linguistic barriers affect your career.


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