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Author urges preservation of cultures, languages

Martiniquan novelist Raphael Confiant, in a recent lecture at Linderman Library, said the Creolization process is a good example of how globalization can threaten to destroy languages and cultures.

“We protect tigers and hippos and all that, so why don’t we protect endangered languages?” Confiant asked. “Why not protect endangered countries?

Creolization, Confiant explained, is the history of how the French, Africans and Asians living in the West Indies during the past three centuries have mixed, forming a new culture called Creole. This globalization process is a precursor to the one occurring now, as increasing numbers of immigrants are moving to the United States and Europe.

The current globalization process, Confiant explained in a private interview, can be dangerous because it eliminates cultures and languages and imposes one single Anglo-Saxon culture.

“My message is that it’s OK for globalization to happen,” Confiant said, “but we must find the means to preserve the maximum of cultures and language, because the world must stay diverse. The globalization process should not suppress them. It should preserve them.”

Confiant’s speech, titled “Writing in a Globalized World: The French West-Indian Case Study,” was the third of the Modern Languages and Literature International Scholars lectures.

To prevent cultures from disappearing during globalization, Confiant urged students to learn foreign languages. When you are an Anglophone, he explained, it is unnecessary to learn foreign languages because almost the entire world speaks some form of English. However, if you are foreign, you need to learn new languages if you want to travel abroad.

“You may say you don’t want to learn foreign languages, you don’t need them,” he said. “But if the younger generation adopts this attitude, this generation will participate in the elimination of the other languages and cultures.”

Literature, he explained, is an extremely good way to preserve a culture and to teach it to others. A book written by an author from a particular country can help someone who has never been there learn about its culture. Confiant hopes to allow people to appreciate his country though his some 30 novels, all of which are written in Creole and French.

Unfortunately, we are living in a time when literature is losing its importance, he said, as people are reading less and less. To prevent this, Confiant said that students of literature have a duty to help literature to regain its position by promoting it to their family and friends.

“When you give a gift, why not give a book? It’s so simple. You choose a book that you love, and you explain to the person why you are giving it to them. The person sees that you love the book you have offered, so they will read it. Students of literature have the duty to promote literature with these simple gestures.”

Story by Allie Rolnik

Posted on Friday, April 23, 2010

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