Linguistic diplomacy: Towards multilingual world

Over the years, languages have emerged to be more than just a means of communication; they have also become recipes for seizing diplomatic opportunities. Countries like China have literarily and widely used their languages to export their culture, and knowledge and foster diplomatic activities. Either in presser or official statements, leaders of countries albeit multilingual usually use their indigenous languages in a show of pride. Linguistic diplomacy has also increasingly gained traction over the last years with countries teaching and learning respective languages as it becomes a show of amiability and comradely. Multilingual diplomats are also deployed to do extensive and specific diplomatic undertakings.

As the world moves towards increasing multilingualism, countries have been resorting to using languages in international diplomacy. Multilingual communication is changing international relations, global politics, and how states interact—from social media to international treaties.

From mainstream to social media, multilingual communication is reshaping how nations interact, influencing global politics, and shaping international relations.

In a globalized world, countries have been using cultural values, dishes, and languages to forge strong diplomatic relations with the rest of the world. With a greater awareness of cultural quirks, multilingual diplomats can manage these changes by promoting deeper connections, improving communication, and possibly averting confrontations. For instance, Ethiopia’s working language Amharic has been taught in China and Russia as per of bolstering cultural ties with Ethiopia. Yet, Africa has yet to adopt its indigenous languages in its continental bloc.

Although the continent has successfully emerged from colonialism; yet, political, economic, and cultural imperialisms still hold Africa back. The effects of colonialism are still felt today and can be seen in many areas. Over time, appeals to embrace African identity have grown louder and more intense. African politicians, commentators, and advocates of pan-Africanism have made the idea that Africa should conquer linguistic colonialism.

While it may seem difficult to live up to the ideal, progress has been made in applying continental wisdom to solve its problems. Achieving economic and political objectives will depend on the adoption of languages and cultural values of African roots.

Africanizing African institutions requires work at the top. Africa is still living under linguistic colonialism with colonial languages still being the working languages of the Union. The move from Eurocentric to Afrocentric values starts with embracing African languages as the working languages of the continental bloc.

Rethinking the neglected yet precious indigenous knowledge and challenging the imposed Western values is vital to utterly emancipate the continent from all forms of colonialism. The African Union also set Vision 2063 to expedite the economic integration unity of the 1.4 billion continents. Depending on Eurocentric values almost annihilates the African indigenous knowledge production system.

In what could be said a leapfrog step towards strengthening African values, the Union has adopted Kiswahili as its working language. Including African languages in the lists of its working languages will foster integration among states and enrich African indigenous assets. This week, Ethiopia proposes Amharic to be the working language of the bloc, a timely and must-do task. Ethiopia has been the linchpin of Africa as an ardent supporter of the anti-colonial movement and headquarters of the African Union. It is proper to consider the country’s proposal. These days, with Ethiopia’s influence growing worldwide, non-African nations are also teaching Amharic in their universities. So, including Amharic as the working language of the continental bloc will be the right decision that would pave the way for others to follow.

The newly-appointed Ethiopian Foreign Minister proposed the inclusion of Amharic as the official language of the African Union. This is in accordance with the AU Agenda 2063 and the goal for empowering indigenous African languages to contribute to the continent’s progress, said Taye Atskeselassie in his remarks at the 44th session of the AU Executive Council Foreign Ministers held on Wednesday at the African Union headquarters.

It is worth noting that the OAU Charter was initially signed in four languages, including Amharic. Adopting Amharic as one of the official languages of the Union would honor Africa’s linguistic diversity and strengthen our collective identity as Africans, Taye underscored.

Most of the AU’s official languages are not indigenous to Africa. If the AU makes Amharic the official language, it would promote indigenous African languages and improve their role in continental development, Bahir Dar University Linguistics Assistant Professor Gashaw Arutie said.

Applying Amharic as AU’s official language would help to promote the notion of African solutions for African problems, he mentioned.

For him, making Amharic among the official languages of the AU promotes Ethiopia’s diplomatic contribution and increases its influence in continental and international arenas.

The Amharic language is widely spoken in Ethiopia and other African countries including Eritrea, Djibouti, and Northern Kenya, he said, adding that the quest for the inclusion of the language amongst AU’s official languages is an appropriate proposal.

Amharic was among the first languages used to sign the establishing charter of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU), the current AU in 1963, so that it should continue serving the Union as an official language, according to the Asst. Professor.

By doing so, he said, the AU could strengthen Ethiopia’s contribution to the Union and other continental affairs.

As to the Scholar, the development of a language can be manifested via the expansion of its service as the significance of a Language is mainly to shape culture, identity, and communication.

Asst. Professor Gashaw expressed that, the Amharic language would get international recognition if the AU accepted Ethiopia’s quest for the adoption of the language as the union’s official language.

In the sphere of international diplomacy, the impact of language is profound. Diplomatic relations are no longer confined to bilateral talks in stuffy boardrooms but are increasingly nuanced dialogues that occur across various platforms.

Geopolitical changes add another layer of complexity. As power dynamics shift and new alliances form, the demand for linguistic agility in diplomacy increases. Multilingual diplomats can navigate these changes with an enhanced understanding of cultural nuances, facilitating better communication, fostering deeper relationships, and potentially preventing conflicts.

Embracing more indigenous languages in the Union will help free and empower the Africans. And, it contributes to mental decolonization. Amharic which is an indigenous language to Africa with millions of speakers and easy to learn ticks the entire box to be the working language of the Union. It requires the continental bloc to go back to the drawing board to integrate African values into its institutions.



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