Cultural diplomacy thrives on the exchange of arts and aesthetic ideas. Research has continued to indicate that this form of diplomacy reveals the social profile of a nation and provides platforms for possibilities in economic cooperation and development. There is no better way to understand a people than to know about their culture. Perhaps, other than France through the Alliance Francaise, China is a classic example of a country that is aggressively promoting its culture in Zambia.
The 2017 Joint Conference of Confucius Institutes in Africa was hosted by the Confucius Institute at the University of Zambia with the goal to “exchange experiences to enhance cooperation and promote the development of Confucius Institutes of Africa”. The spread of Confucius Institutes across Africa, however, is only half of China’s language strategy. In addition to promoting Chinese language learning, China is also encouraging its own citizens to learn the native languages of those countries that it has diplomatic relations with.
Language learning was once considered nothing more than a hobby, but as the world continues to become increasingly connected, learning a language other than English is considered a necessity. Advancing technologies have afforded us the ability to communicate no matter where we are in the world, amplifying the importance of foreign language study. The great thing about languages is that, other than being a form of communication, they also serve as a means of relating to others on a cultural level.
As the UK prepares to leave the EU, it has a huge number of considerations to ensure its economy prospers. One, which is perhaps overlooked, is Britain’s language policy and how important this is as an economic resource. A strategic language policy and the cultivation of language experts in post-Brexit Britain are essential if it wants to connect with fresh markets overseas. This has long been a feature of international diplomacy—stretching back long before globalization as we know it.
The native language of Wales is one of the oldest languages in Europe, dating from the 6th century when it emerged from a related Celtic language. Today, Welsh is fluently spoken by about 300,000 people. But certain letters of the 28-character Welsh alphabet have never been available as part of a contemporary digital typeface.
A major 2013 report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences warned that at “the very moment when China and some European nations are seeking to replicate our model of broad education,” including the humanities, the U.S. was instead “narrowing” its focus and abandoning its “sense of what education has been and should continue to be.” The paper caught the attention of policy makers, including members of Congress.
As part of its “soft public diplomacy” efforts, the Israeli Foreign Ministry embarked this week on a new program to teach Hebrew to the Arab world. To this end, the ministry’s digital diplomacy department on Tuesday uploaded a video clip to its Arabic-language Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages, in which two staffers offer a lesson in simple words, such as, “Yes,” “Thanks” and “Hello.”
Top US economist Larry Summers recently tweeted this in relation to America’s focus on its so-called special relationship with the UK. And he’s right. The economic impact on the US – or any other country – that closes off its trade barriers with countries that are different to it would be enormous. Language matters on a large-scale national level and at the level of smaller businesses.