Language spread and technology Unit


Languagespread and technology


Iagree with the view that the amount of technology that is controlledby a specific country directly impacts how many people speak thelanguage of that same country. Technology influences the spread ofone language from a host country to another in so many ways. One ofthe ways is through industry relations and patent ownership byorganizations. In a paper by Murseth (2002), he notes thatindustry-specific information flow from one country to another andfrom one industry to another is dependent on the geographicaldistance between countries and the language between countries. Heargues that patent owners are most likely to seek recognition incompeting countries on a technology level and thus will make theirfirst move to that country. This implies that given for instance, theUS, Japan and South Korea are fierce competitors in gamingtechnology, any technology developer who gains a new patent on a newgaming console would most likely seek recognition of the patent inJapan and South Korea first before attempting to apply it anywhereelse to protect competition. For Japanese and Koreans industryplayers interested in purchasing that patent, they have to understandits content first and in the process learn English. In the samemanner, for users eager to use such a game and not patient enough towait for their language’s version, they would have first to learnand understand English. Again, instructions on such news technologiesare first written in the native language before exploring otherlanguages. Interested parties must learn the language to understandit.

Multinationalorganizations that have a global presence tend to invest the most inresearch and development courtesy of their huge resources and in theprocess invent and own new technologies. Most of the world majormultinational corporations are headquartered in the US or the westernworld in general where English is dominant. As multinationals, thesefirms have subsidiaries in different countries around the world withmany speaking different languages. These firms are responsible fortransferring their technologies to these countries to gain a largermarket or even enjoy the benefits that operating in that countryprovide and in so doing spread their own language. This theory issupported by the Antolian hypothesis which views that migration andagriculture are responsible for the spread of European languages fromone focal point in Turkey (Gray etal.2013). Therefore, as technology spreads, so does language.

Modernday language spread relies on the culture of multinationalcorporations. Where these firms venture into countries with differentlanguages they facilitate interactions and spread of language(Lauring &amp Selmer, 2010). For instance, American automaker GM hasmanufacturing plants in several non-English speaking countries suchas China, Vietnam, Thailand, Russia, Mexico, and Indonesia. Thecompany takes pride in the fact that it has over 212,000 employeesglobally speaking more than 50 languages and touching 23 time zones.However, the company recognizes the official corporate language asEnglish. This is to mean that all communication with the headquartersfrom the subsidiaries is done in English. It is also clearly statedthat the official language of instructions for all its productsinstructions is English (GM, 2010). This therefore exposesnon-English speakers both employees and consumers in non-Englishspeaking countries to the language. It is therefore proper to assumethat any country that develops a language and seeks to spread thelanguage into other countries speaking a different language, thehome-county’s language remains dominant in corporate operations andcommunications and spills over to other regions.

Anotherissue connected to the multination corporations technology transferand language spread involves the use of expatriates. Expatriates areexperts in certain technical aspects in technology that are sent newcountries to run operation and equip and train local experts onmanaging such technologies. It goes without saying that counties thatdevelop the most technological advancements end up sending as manyexpatriates as possible as they driven by economic and business needsto spread the technology far and wide. Though these experts might betrained on local languages, they spread their languages to thenatives though social interactions. Additionally, such MNCs may sendlocal employees to the headquarters for advanced training and in theprocess expose them to a new language which they have to learn beforethey are reposted back in their home countries.

Americantechnological brands are icons of modernism and Americanization bothin American and outside America. These brands are representation ofthe American identity in terms of identity, culture and even languageand are helping market English as a product Phillipson (2008)continues to say that there are active methods employed by technologymarketers to imply English is a superior language than others in whathe calls English neo-imperialism. This view is supported by(Rogerson-Revell, 2007) who notes how one international organizationin Europe uniting France, Germany and Spain adapted an English nameas a policy. In some cultures and especially among the youth,Americanization is a fashion statement and in the in-thing. Thesetechnology brands such as the iphone, ipad and the iPod therefore,represent what is America in some foreign countries and promote theAmerican language.

Movingback a century or two ago, it is clear from history that America wasa land of native Indians. All white, Hispanic and black Americans areimmigrants. The now modern identity of American being Englishlanguage is foreign. English originated from Britain or England. Thesame applies to Canada which also had its indigenous people but spokedifferent languages. These native languages were suppressed by thenew European languages in an imperial manner (Phillipson, 2008). Thereason behind this use of language in the US and Canada lies behindtechnology. During the ancient times, only the European nations ofEngland, Spain, France and Portugal among others had the technologyto build strong ships that would cross oceans and skills to navigateoceans and go on exploratory missions. History teaches that Americawas discovered by Columbus. Hs discovery and the technologicalability of the British enabled them to move over to America andestablish a colony. Had it not been for their technology, anothercountry might have made it here setting base for a differentlanguage.

Theargument that language and technology spread in different formats isnot true. This is because technology cannot spread on its own.Citizens of a country that control a particular technology spreadwith it. In their interactions with other people using differentlanguages, they expose their mother tongues to the new people theyinteract with. A common argument is that technology can developspontaneously is true but not the same for languages (Gray et al.2013). Therefore, language can spread without necessary involvingtechnology transfer but the same cannot be said of languages.

Theargument above shows clearly that technology and languages areintricately intertwined. The spread of one influences the spread ofanother either directly or indirectly. There are numerous modernexamples as portrayed. It is therefore believed as more technology isdeveloped and spread across the world, so will languages spread andinteract.


GM(2010). General Motors Global Purchasing and Supply Chain GlobalSupplier Quality.

Retrievedonline on 23rdNov 2014 from

Gray,R., Grennhill, S. &amp Atkinson, Q. (2013). Phylogenetic models oflanguage change: three

newquestions. In Richerson, P. &amp Chritiansen (eds.). CulturalEvolution: Society, Technology, Language, and Religion.303-334.

Lauring,J. &amp Selmer, J. (2010). Multicultural organizations: Commonlanguage and group

cohesiveness.InternationalJournal of Cross Cultural Management10(1) 267-291.

Maurseth,P. (2002). Knowledge spillover in Europe: a patent citation analysis.Journalof

Scandinavianeconomics.104(4): 531-545.

Phillipson.,R. (2008). The linguistic imperialism of neoliberal empire. CriticalInquiry in

LanguageStudies,5(1): 1-43.

Rogerson-Revell,P. (2007). Using English for International Business: A European casestudy.

Englishfor Specific Purposes26(1): 103–120.