Language and Power<br />As experienced in Papua New Guinea.<br />A background look at a county with over 850 languages, how learning English opened-doors and created global opportunities for one local woman.<br />
Facts about Papua New Guinea<br />Population: 6 Million (2011 estimate)<br />Extreme Poverty/High levels of Unemployment<br />Over 850 Indigenous Languages spoken<br />Three main languages: English, TokPisin (Pidgin English) and HiriMotu.<br /> Wikipedia, 2011<br />
Lingua Franca (common language)<br />As outlined by Crystal (1997) Lingua Franca is a common language used in countries where a range of languages are spoken. It allows the population to overcome the barriers to communication that would otherwise exist.<br />
Papua New Guinea has several Lingua Franca:<br />TokPisin or Pidgin English is considered the main Lingua Franca in Papua New Guinea. <br />2. HiriMotu is the Lingua Franca of the Southern Region only.<br />3. Of interest – the Police force in Papua New Guinea have developed their own Lingua Franca known as Police Motu.<br />
A closer look at the use of English<br />Only 2% of the population speak English in Papua New Guinea.<br />English is used in the Education Sector including public, private and International Schools.<br />English is used within Government/Parliament.<br />
Why English?<br />Papua New Guinea was formally occupied by Australia and gained Independence in 1975. <br />Australia continues to provide the most aide to Papua New Guinea and also has a strong interest it the countries mineral resources.<br />The use of English allows communication between these countries and the wider global community.<br />As described by Crystal (1997) English as a global language gives political power to it’s users. A motivating factor for the use of English in Papua New Guinea.<br />
The Opportunity to Learn English<br />With only 2% of the population speaking English, the main opportunity to learn English is through attending school.<br />However over half of all school age children in Papua New Guinea do not attend Primary School.<br />
Why?<br />Reasons being:- <br />Education is not free – and many families simply cannot afford to send their children to school. <br />The distance to the nearest school <br />Poor facilities.<br />4. Some families also hold beliefs that contradict modern education.<br />
Better English, Better Life?<br />Margaret was from a small fishing community 1 hours drive from Port Moresby, the capital.<br />She was fortunate to be able to attend School and learn English.<br />From here she went on to win a scholarship to attend Teachers Training College.<br />She gained employment as a Primary School teacher in a Private School in Port Moresby.<br />She was able to progress her career to Deputy Principal.<br />Margaret now lives and works as a teacher in Wellington, New Zealand.<br />She sends money home to her village which supports numerous families who would otherwise have no income. This money may allow some of the next generation to attend school and learn English which will also afford them with a better life.<br />
The contrast… <br />If Margaret had been educated in TokPisin (Pidgin English) or Hiri Moto – would she have been afforded the same opportunities in life?<br />How does Margaret’s life now compare to the rest of her family who did not learn English or gain an Education?<br />
Margaret’s brothers and sisters are unemployed.<br />They fish for food and are reliant on Margaret’s income for their daily living needs.<br />As they didn’t attend school, they have not learnt to speak English.<br />Learning English has allowed Margaret to teach internationally, in New Zealand and other countries should she wish.<br />
The power of a global language as described by Crystal (1997) is driven by political, economic and military factors.<br />As seen in this case study, on a more personal level, English proficiency and education can allow an individual to change their circumstances – employment, living, lifestyle, family, location and self worth.<br />
“Language exerts hidden power, like a moon on the tides”<br />Rita Mae Brown, Starting From Scratch, 1988<br />
References <br />Crystal, D. (1997). English as a global language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Pp. 5 – 20.<br />Wikipedia, 2011.<br />
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