Why think about language?

Most international gatherings take place in the more ‘international’ languages, particularly English, but also Spanish, or French. More people speak these languages because they were forcibly, and often brutally imposed on people from many different cultures by colonialism.

People participating in a meeting in a foreign language may be reluctant to contribute to discussions, because they are unsure if they have understood everything correctly, or they are not confident about expressing themselves. So, meetings are often dominated by people who are comfortable with the main language of the meeting. Native speakers of these languages have dominated history and continue to dominate international social movements.

Language is about power. It is therefore an important political struggle to increase the equality of our communication and create space for more minority languages. There are some really basic things we can do when planning, facilitating and participating in multi-language meetings to work towards this.