“ The role of language in political conflict is important[…]simply because tensions over language are increasing. With 6,700 languages in the world, by some scholars’ count, and only 225 "nation-states[…]complex webs of resistance, dominance, and cooperation among language groups grow. Paradoxically, the webs can be so complex[…]that we lose sight of conflicts’ linguistic roots.” (Lake, 2002)
Language politics is the base, this means that it’s used to describe political (and sometimes social) consequences of linguistic differences between people, or on occasion the political consequences of the way a language is spoken and what words are used.
Recognition (or not) of a language as an official language.
In countries where there is more than one main language, there are often political implications in decisions that are seen to promote one group of speakers over another.
An example of a country with this type of language politics is Belgium.
In countries where there is one main language, immigrants seeking full citizenship may be expected to have a degree of fluency in that language ('language politics' then being a reference to the debate over the appropriateness of this).
At various times minority languages have either been promoted or banned in schools, as politicians have either sought to promote a minority language with a view to strengthening the cultural identity of its speakers, or banning its use, with a view to promoting a national identity based on the majority language.
An example of recent promotion of a minority language is Welsh or Leonese by the Leonese City Council, an example of official discouragement of a minority language is Breton.
Language politics also sometimes relates to dialect, where speakers of a particular dialect are perceived as speaking a more culturally 'advanced' or 'correct' form of the language.
“ Today, about 87 percent of U.S. residents speak English as their first language. What happened since 1776 is a matter of history—of contest, conflict, even persecution. In the antebellum South, for example, slave owners and traders sometimes cut out the tongues of slaves unable or unwilling to speak English. When General Benjamin Butler was commanding the Union troops occupying New Orleans in 1862, he had some Franco phones executed—specifically, some scholars believe, to discourage the use of French. In subsequent decades, Blackfoot Indians sent to boarding schools were forbidden to speak their native language, and were beaten if they did so. During World War I, certain state and local governments proscribed speaking German in public, hoping to dampen old allegiances among the nation’s six million German immigrants. And throughout U.S. history, other less dramatic factors have contributed to English’s emergence as our dominant tongue.” (Lake, 2002)
“ In the United States, conflicts over language persist, particularly in places with large immigrant populations. Having passed an initiative in 1998 that prohibits teaching school children in any language but English, Californians may be more cognizant of the possibility of "language wars" than other Americans. […]"If or when we have to negotiate a treaty with Canada or Mexico; if Puerto Rico joins us as a state; if we form a North American union like the one in Europe,“[…]"If only there weren’t diversity in the world," […]"everything would be so much easier." (Lake, 2002)
The evidence points to the imminent collapse of the European Union’s official language policy, known as “mother tongue plus two”, in which citizens are encouraged to learn two foreign languages as well as their own (i.e., please learn something besides English).
But what they really have is:
according to a Euro barometer survey, 15-to-24-year-olds are five times more likely to speak English as a foreign language than either German or French. Add native speakers to those who have learnt it, and some 60% of young Europeans speak English “well or very well”.
Sean Arthur from Peterborough, writes: Almost everyone is missing the point. People in power want a complacent, predictable populace. Public school educators don't want trained, clear thinking and inventive minds (otherwise that is how they would be teaching); Business wants a uniform, unquestioning populace that works as many hours for as little compensation as possible who will spend every penny earned without thinking; and likewise Government at all levels, politicians and bureaucrats, hate change and want complacent, easily manipulated taxpayers.
Learning a language well builds intelligence and mental discipline, and disciplined intelligence is the foundation of creativity and invention and independence of thought. And creative, inventive and self-disciplined people are more challenging to educate and difficult to manage, less homogeneous as consumers and more difficult to persuade politically. The principle that trained and disciplined minds results in more creative and independent persons applies to all the other disciplines as well, of course: visual, performance, martial and even spiritual arts, like Yoga and meditation. But language has universal application, so its import looms larger. Mastering language builds intelligence. Simply learning a new vocabulary is not the same.