Language policy as a driver of competitiveness & resiliency
Language is at the heart of culture. Words matter. And how they are expressed (in written and oral forms) matter. But just as language matters to culture, so does culture matter for competitiveness. (Within the economics community there is an interesting literature on the relationship between culture and development. ) Germany is well known for its precision engineering and manufacturing, a natural consequence of its culture to detail and planning. That is, culture is a component of competitiveness. Language additionally can make an economy more resilient to economic shocks. For example, a multilingual society such as Switzerland can more easily interact with French-, German- and Italian-speaking economies, and is therefore insulated against negative shocks if any one of its partners falters, as opposed to a country whose relationships are more narrowly limited by their linguistic capabilities.
Does the language in use convey an advantage in the ability of individuals, groups, regions, or nations to be more productive in the marketplace? Is language like other factors of production that that contribute in varying ways to the efficiency of production? For sure language facilitates production insomuch as it enables collaboration.
If language is a factor of production, what language policies can governments take to enhance the production function of a country? Should the goal of language policy be purely to increase efficiency? Or, as something intrinsically tied to culture, should it be elevated as a unique input into the production function?
Foremost, language has an emotional attachment for its speakers. The French-speaking province of Quebec in Canada and the Catalan-speaking province of Catalan in Spain try to promote and safeguard their languages against the encroachment of the dominant tongues within their spheres.
Prima facie there appears to be a strong case for language being a driver of prosperity. The Anglosphere countries (Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK, and the United States) are notably richer than other geographic / cultural groups. Per capita income is 1/3 higher in the Anglophone countries than compared with the next richest group (Europe), and average competitiveness and labour resilience rankings are 5 and 7, respectively. (See Table 1 on page 3.)
Just as civilisations, cultures, and empires have waxed and waned, so too have languages. English is the global lingua franca today. The growing economic power of nations helped to propel the power of their languages. But this also creates a platform for language to be a driver of competitiveness as network effects apply to language usage.
TABLE 1: ANGLOSPHERE ECONOMY IN COMPARISON
|GDP / CAP (PPP)||GCI RANK**||GLRI RANK**|
|Latin America & Caribbean||634,968,085||9,629,885||15,166||72||86|
|Middle East & North Africa||404,172,874||8,153,537||20,173||77||71|
|Southeast Asia Pacific||666,863,916||8,432,655||12,645||50||63|
|TOTAL / AVG||7,155,564,847||126,344,571||17,657|