Monday, January 7, 2008

Language, Soft Power And Asymmetrical Internet Communication (Oxford Internet Institute)

Professor Richard Rose of the Oxford Internet Institute makes a pretty compelling argument in his 2005 paper titled "Language, Soft Power And Asymmetrical Internet Communication" (Download full text here) that the US is worse off because everyone else in the world wants to speak English. Here are some highlights from the abstract and main text (Italics and hyperlinks are mine):

  • "It (this paper) argues that the dominance of English encourages Americans to be introverted while people who use English as a second language are more likely to have a cosmopolitan understanding of American political interests as well as their own. It follows from this that the diffusion of English as a foreign language will tend to increase the soft power of non-Americans for whom English is not their native language and weaken the influence of Americans who mistakenly assume that because those with whom they communicate are speaking English they also share the same political values and goals."
  • "Since the development of the Internet today is occurring at a faster rate than the increase in the understanding of unfamiliar countries and systems of thought that it can link, it increases the potential for asymmetrical communication, in which those with greater understanding can exercise a degree of soft power."
  • "While international relations has always required a lingua franca, the use of a particular language for this purpose has more to do with hard national power than with characteristics of the language itself."
  • "Internet diffusion is rapidly increasing the soft power of non-American cosmopolitans."
  • "In order to project smart power, A must not only articulate its own position but also understand the position of B. To assume that just because B speaks English it is necessarily attracted to Washington’s position is to pursue a foreign policy without foreigners."

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