June 23. 2024. 1:23

The Daily

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Diversity and interculturalism in government communication


The impact of globalization, digitalization, and mass media will only further increase the importance of multilingualism in the future. However, there is ongoing debate about how much individuals can protect their own language and culture against dominant societies that are economically and politically stronger.

Multilingualism, identity, and culture are closely linked, and an individual’s use of a second language may cause their own culture to be assimilated. As such, it is important to maintain and celebrate one’s own culture, while also embracing and learning from other cultures through multilingualism.

Effective multilingual communication relies on using a person’s mother tongue or a language in which they are fully fluent. This ensures that individuals can better comprehend and engage with the communication, leading to more successful outcomes. To achieve this, governments should aim to provide information and services in a range of languages, in order to reach the broadest possible audience.

Europe and Australia have been successful in implementing multiculturalism and multilingual communication strategies, making them effective models for others to follow. However, achieving successful intercultural communication is challenging, as it requires effective verbal and non-verbal messaging.

One notable example of best practice is the regular presence of sign language (Auslan) interpreters alongside government spokespeople at press conferences in Australia. This has led to greater visibility of sign language and allowed families with deaf and hearing members to access media content in the same way for the first time.

To sustain this positive momentum, it is important to continue using multimodal resources effectively in communication strategies. This will help to ensure that individuals of all backgrounds and abilities can fully participate and engage with society.

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In addition to the importance of using a person’s mother tongue or a language in which they are fluent, it is vital to recognize that language represents culture. Different languages can express diverse worldviews, beliefs, and values, which can significantly impact how individuals perceive and interact with the world around them.

For instance, direct communication may be highly valued in some cultures, viewed as a sign of honesty and authenticity, while indirect communication may be preferred in others to avoid conflict or maintain social harmony. These cultural differences can significantly impact how communication is received and interpreted, making it crucial to be aware of them to communicate effectively across cultural boundaries.

Multilingualism is also an important part of the European Union’s identity, reflecting the rich diversity of its cultures and languages. The EU’s multilingualism policy, which recognizes the importance of linguistic diversity and encourages the use of multiple languages in all EU institutions and member states, is one of its distinguishing features. It is critical to the success of the EU’s democratic system because all citizens, regardless of linguistic background, have equal access to its institutions and services.

The EU’s multilingualism policy is founded on the principle of "unity in diversity," which implies that, despite linguistic and cultural differences, all EU citizens share a common identity and set of values. The European Union adopted multilingualism to enable individuals to realize their linguistic and cultural development potential, and to utilize these abilities for their benefit. By promoting knowledge and skills about different languages and cultures, people can discover common values and come closer together. The EU recognizes multilingualism as a fundamental human right that empowers individuals to develop their learning potential autonomously. Multilingual education policies aim to ensure that individuals from diverse backgrounds can live together harmoniously, recognizing each other’s language and culture, and communicating with respect and understanding.

To promote multilingualism, the EU has established numerous programs and initiatives aimed at improving language education, supporting language learning for migrants and refugees, and promoting language diversity in member states. Additionally, the EU provides translation and interpretation services for all official documents and meetings, ensuring that all citizens can participate in the decision-making process, regardless of their linguistic abilities. The European Parliament is committed to upholding multilingualism by providing highly efficient interpreting, translation, and legal text verification services. This commitment is essential in promoting transparency and fostering closer ties between the EU and its citizens.

In recent years, there has been a notable shift in government communication strategies regarding COVID-19, with a focus on providing accessible information in multiple languages and formats, such as subtitles, audio files, and visual demonstrations.

The translated materials now reflect the diverse ways in which people consume media. They include a mix of online text, hyperlinked PDFs, and Word documents for instructions. Visual demonstrations are provided through JPEG files and posters, while downloadable audio files that are more conversational than didactic are available. Additionally, video files with dubbed audio in languages other than English (LOTE) and English subtitles (or vice versa) are utilized to demonstrate how to wear a face mask effectively.

In conclusion, multilingualism plays a vital role in intercultural communication and understanding, and its significance cannot be overlooked by governments and organizations seeking to improve their communication strategies. Promoting multilingualism as a tool for building inclusive and harmonious societies, and ensuring that everyone can access the information and services they require, is critical.

The EU’s commitment to linguistic diversity through its multilingualism policy has numerous advantages for individuals, businesses, and society at large. However, it must also address the challenges of maintaining multilingualism in a constantly changing world and ensure equitable access to language education and resources for all citizens.

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