[DILA] Firth McEachern - Diversity Shock, Part 21
- All 24 links to Firth's series will be posted next week on dila.ph along with Merlie Alunan's commentary. -Benjie
Would you be surprised if preserving and strengthening language diversity had economic advantages too? It's quite a reasonable proposition actually. Regional languages prompt the need for customized regional services. If the 10 major languages of the Philippines, for example, were given official status by the national or provincial governments (as the main languages have in India and South Africa), this would create a boom in activity to incorporate such languages in educational materials, radio shows, TV broadcasts, newspapers, and consumer products within their respective regions, as well as services like legal advice, translation, government help, and customer service of private companies.
There is a more fundamental economic implication to language diversity. Regional identitiesreinforced by regional languagespromote differentiation. This differentiation, together with the home-grown economic activity necessary to adequately serve the distinct language base, can be a promising catalyst for decentralized development. If regional languages are preserved and well integrated into the economies of their respective regions, cities outside Manila will have reason to create their own TV stations, for example, and develop all the high technology and skilled labour associated with them. Or if a band from Ilocos Sur would like any chance of success, it may not be necessary to "get big" in Manila but rather seek fame in whatever future city is recognized as the cultural hub of the Ilocos region, such as San Fernando, Vigan, or Laoag. And similarly, a university student should be able to find a cutting-edge education in any course he desires at a university closer to home. Cebu partially plays such a role in the Visayas.
While admittedly there would be costs associated with adapting a regional economy to its previously underserved language, such a transformation however would enhance the region's individuality, spur nucleated development based on the specific needs and attributes of each region, and facilitate the development of multiple cultural and economic hubs. In such a case, citizens would have more choice in where they go to live, advance, and prosper. Manila would no longer have a near-monopoly on the highest level functions of society, such as the higher forms of media (television), education (the biggest/best universities), and the private sector (large corporations). Tourism would also be boosted and better spread across the country: as cities grow and differentiate in their own way, they will each have something different to offer variety-loving visitors.
A large percentage of developing countries focus their resources on single primate cities, which suffer from massive overpopulation, housing crises, water shortages, pollution, and crime---Manila is no exception. Moreover, a city that dominates a country's economy carries the burden of diffusing development to the rest of the country, a much slower process than decentralized nucleated development. It is not surprising that the lowest tier developing countries are more often characterized by primate cities (such as Lagos, Nigeria; Tehran; Iran; Cairo, Egypt; Kathmandu, Nepal; Dakar, Senegal; Dhaka, Bangladesh) with poorly-served hinterlands, whereas developing countries with more vibrant economies tend to have multiple cities of significant size, importance, and function (such as Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban of South Africa; Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam; Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai, of India; Abu Dhabi and Dubai of UAE; Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo, Salvador, and Brasilia of Brazil; Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzen, Chongqing, and Hong Kong of China, etc). We should be aiming, however possible, to steer the country towards the multi-city economic framework of these countries. One way to do that is by promoting regional diversity.
Spain is a good example of economically robust regionalism. A common misconception is that Spain is entirely Spanish, when in fact it hosts a large Catalan-speaking region called Catalonia. It is not unusual for a country to host multiple languages, but whereas many countries favor one language to the detriment of others, Catalan has a firm and respected place in Spain. In Catalonia, Catalan is taught in schools, found on manufactured products, is the language of instruction in universities, and even has its own top-level internet domain, .cat. Furthermore, Catalonia boasts the world class city of Barcelona, as culturally and materially rich as Madrid. These two citiesone Catalan-speaking, the other Spanish-speakinghelp to distribute Spain's demographics, economic activity, and heritage treasures. Their continued importance, meanwhile, is uplifted by a healthy spirit of competition between the two cities, even in football. A similar phenomenon exists in Switzerland, where Geneva act as the hub of the French-speaking part, Zurich of the German part, and Lugano of the Italian part. If language planning in the Philippines left room for the continued survival and development of regional languages, as has been done in Spain and Switzerland, it could indeed be part of a larger vision of the Philippines' economic and cultural vitality.
[DILA] Firth McEachern - Diversity Shock, Part 21