"Travelling fractured multilingualism through the arts"

Introduction

Dr Hari Prasad Sacré discusses cultural linguistic contradictions. According to him, language should be a tool for emancipating, but it is not always the case. How can we deal with this completely? Often, there is a struggle with the host country’s language policies.

The situation in Brussels

In Belgium, multilingualism is seen as a strength, yet this vision can be counterproductive as some speakers master none of the languages at 100%. English is becoming prominent: on the language barometer, 50% of Brussels inhabitants speak at least two of the following languages: English, French, and Flemish. But those people are not concerned by fractured multilingualism. 40% of Brussels inhabitants speak only one of those languages, and the 10% remaining speak none. How do we give access to society to those 10%? Those who show high proficiency in their native language, but need a translator for the others?

The concept of fractured multilingualism

Fractured multilingualism regards the silent gap between these two linguistic worlds where meaning is lost, injured or untranslatable. What gives the ability to fracture multilingualism? In the past it was colonisation, today is globalisation. Nowadays sometimes people have agency and choose a region where they think they would thrive. This is self-inflicted fractured multilingualism. 

The academic discourse

Hari Prasad Sacré notices that the academic discourse is not following up with fractured multilingualism. The conservative branch of academia promotes only one language; however, a more progressive branch sees it as a strength. We must pay attention to language theories mentioned by non-European scholars, for example, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, who speaks about the dissolving fracture between the global south and the global north on both ends, where many do not question preexisting knowledge. Indeed, fractured multilingualism sometimes only stops after the second or third generation. Instead of masking those fractures, we should dwell with them, and engage in the concept of “learning from below”, from the everyday people instead of the élite. We must update our knowledge to renew our strategies.

Multilingualism and the arts

Dr Sacré argues that the arts play a vital role in giving the fractures of multilingualism language and meaning. To do so, he turned to himself, a person who moving from Nepal to Belgium had lost his first language, and his own storytelling practice. To illustrate this, he told a story that his biological grandmother had told him, which interestingly resonates with Spivak’s research. He had not seen his biological grandmother in twenty years. She told him the following: “Your mother’s tongue is not your mother tongue”, then told him a story of goddesses Devi and Khali which took place in 1814 during the war between the UK and Nepal, where goddess Devi told the Nepalese soldiers to use their tongue against the UK soldiers. At first, the Nepali soldiers are confused. Then the goddess Khali appears and swallows the words of the enemies, then the Nepalese soldiers do the same: they become fluent in English which allowed them to sign a peace treaty with the UK a few years later. She then told Hari: “You have a Khali tongue”. By this, she meant that he speaks a language foreign to Nepal, just like Khali and the soldiers did in the tale. According to her story, the Nepalese soldiers left for the UK and never returned to their homeland. Spivak calls this phenomenon “Enabling validation”.

Conclusion

The ideal scenario to minimise fractured multilingualism would be for people to learn how to translate between their first and second language, without having to rely on exterior resources, and chose themselves how much they want to let go of or keep their native language, without it being imposed.

Continue the reflection on fractured multilingualism with the following articles and podcast:

  • Article (EN): Sacré, Hari Prasad Adhikari, Atamhi Cawayu, and Chandra Kala Clemente‐Martínez. “Adoptees relearning their heritage languages: A postcolonial reading of language and dialogue in transnational adoption.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 66.4 (2023): 267-272.
  • Article (NL): Sacré Hari, Prasad. “Kan de geadopteerde vertalen? Een pedagogische beschouwing van erfgoedtaal (on) geletterdheid in transnationale adoptie.” Voorbij transnationale adoptie. ASP editions-Academic and Scientific Publishers, 2023.
  • Article (EN): Sacré, Hari Prasad, and Kris Rutten. “Retracing the racial semiotics of the other-lingual (anderstalige) in Dutch and Afrikaans: Exploring its emergence in South Africa and its (re-) emergence in Flanders.” European Journal of Cultural Studies (2023).
  • Podcast (NL) Elsewhere within here, in “This is What I read” by Abbie Boutkabout, Zandman, Radio 1.