With globalisation and the rapid advancement of technology, we are undoubtedly living in an era of a world without borders. Whether it is the economic, social or political aspect, the linguistic is the one thing that links us to the rest of the world. Especially in Asia, where it is a melting pot of an amazing multitude of spoken and written codes. Yet, it is precisely this continent that faces one of the biggest linguistic challenges.
Regardless of the number of national or indigenous languages a country has, the English Language is the global language that transcends all borders and cultures. Thanks to the influx of Western movies, pop music and fast food, English has pervaded countries where it is not a national language. There is no denying that for effective communication today, English is the key.
What is the future of minority languages in Asia then? National languages aside, many indigenous languages are facing the danger of being eroded by globalisation. With so much emphasis being placed on English as a global language, it will inevitably cast doubt on the younger generation as to whether their primary language is useful and worth speaking.
In Singapore, for example, we are home to four national languages – English, Mandarin, Malay and Tamil – and Chinese dialects like Hokkien and Teochew. English is the first language and the medium of instruction in schools. With the use of English language becoming more dominant over the years, other languages have somewhat taken a back seat. The erosion of dialects is evident with the younger generation being barely able to speak their own dialect.
Will Asia be able to overcome this challenge and protect its minority languages? Only time will tell.