Lahore School of Economics

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Language Policy in International Agreements: The Asian Experience with special focus on CPEC

Lahore School of Economics hosted its first International Conference on "Language Policy in International Agreements: The Asian Experience with special focus on CPEC" on 9 November 2019. The collation of three groundbreaking studies were presented at the conference with the fundamental objective to explore the implications of CPEC International Agreement on the language practices of stakeholders as there is no formal mutual language policy for CPEC between China and Pakistan; hence a high uncertainty exists about the roles of English, Urdu and local languages with the avant-garde of CPEC and Mandarin. The conference comprised of four sessions, which were attended by both international and domestic delegates, who presented their insightful comments pertinent to its fundamental theme. It is an unprecedented, visionary and a timely study.

Lahore School Pro-Rector, Dr. Azam Chaudhry, extended a warm welcome to the esteemed audience, including eminent scholars, policy-makers, academicians, students and other dignitaries. Dr. Azam stated that one of the key problems in Pakistan especially when it comes to CPEC is lack of language policy framework. Talking about the conference agenda he briefly introduced the audience to the four sessions which included presentations on:

(i) The Policy Implications of CPEC Language and Employment,
(ii) CPEC Infrastructure, Language and Class Dynamics in Punjab,
(iii) Language and Education and the Response of Public Higher Education Institutions in Punjab to CPEC Development
(iv) The Asian Experience (Session 4)
a. Dr. Phyllis G.L Chew presentation on Singapore Language Management with Special Focus on the “Speak Mandarin Campaign and the Chinese Language Diaspora in Singapore”
b. Video presentation by Maya David.
c. Dr. Fauzia Shamim (Guest Speaker) presentation on Chinese Language Learning in Sindh: Need, Want and/or Opportunism”

Dr. Mandana Seyfeddinipur, the Director at World Language Institute, SOAS, University of London, presented the keynote address where she talked about the synergized and multiplex effects of modernization, globalization and urbanization on the languages spoken in the world today.

The panel discussion for session one was chaired by Dr. Phyllis G.L. Chew. The panelists comprised Dr. Shahid Siddique, Dr. Tariq Rahman, Mr. Sohail Lashari and Dr. Azam Chaudhry. 

In this session Dr. Sabiha Mansoor, the Principal Researcher and Ms. Maiyda Shahid presented their research study with the fundamental objective to explore the implications of industries and multinational companies that are operating in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) under the umbrella of CPEC, on the language practices of both Chinese and Pakistani employers/employees in M-3 City Faisalabad. Hence, data was gathered from seven firms – Chinese and Pakistani - located in M-3 City Faisalabad. The main findings revealed that although a democratic language policy was being implemented in SEZs and upward mobility was perceived by the lower management as a major motivator towards learning a new language, yet, they weren’t cognizant of the significance of CPEC in future and hence regarded Mandarin as secondary to English. In addition to this, it was revealed that Chinese employers were keen to learn Urdu language diametrically opposed to locals learning Mandarin.

Dr. Shahid Siddique: Freedom of language use is very significant as it is an important identity marker but unfortunately, there is a lack of proper language progress.

Dr. Tariq Rahman: “CPEC is a much needed project and in future also we will be seeing several new Chinese projects in Pakistan, hence it’s mandatory to talk about possible language policies in Pakistan”

Mr. Sohail Lashari: Mr. Lashari had a different approach towards Mandarin. He emphasized that the rule of thumb is that foreigners learn local languages and not vice versa. While talking about socio-cultural milieu he emphasized the significance of Urdu and local languages over English and Mandarin. He also added that Lahore Chamber of Commerce has initiated skill development program in order to encourage female labor force participation via teaching Mandarin to them.

The panel discussion for session two was chaired by Dr. Tariq Rahman. The panelists included Dr. Seyfeddinipur, Dr. Fauzia Shamim and Dr. Siddidue.

The principal researcher, Dr. Fareeha Zafar the Principal Researcher highlighted via her research study how CPEC infrastructure development has impacted the class structure of Pakistan through formal and informal language practices. Within broader socio-cultural dynamics, the study focused on education, language and class issues. The two districts of Bahawalpur and Sahiwal formed the research area and the findings of this research study revealed that local languages were used in informal whereas Urdu, Mandarin and English were used in formal settings. However, contrary to the findings of the first study, Mandarin was considered as a significant language by those who belonged to lower socio-economic status and particularly those who had a degree in technical education possibly because of the nature of jobs available at power plants. In addition to this TEVTAs further reinforced this idea. Therefore, findings reveal that Mandarin was seen as a contributing factor towards reducing inequalities among different social classes.

Dr. Seyfeddinipur: Highly appreciating the study, Dr. Seyfeddinipur said that local researchers are conducting this study in lieu of foreigners and this is one of the biggest strength because locals are more cognizant pertinent to ground realities of language practices and usage.

Dr. Fauzia Shamim: She highlighted that it is significant to take into consideration the language ideology because “language policies are not mutual documents (exchanged between two countries) but they are shaped by language politics of the country.”

The panel discussion for session three was chaired by Dr. Shamim. The panelists for this session were Mr. Umer Farooq, Dr. Rana Ejaz, and Brigadier Manzaoor Qadir. 

Ms. Shanzay Kamran: the Principal Investigator and Ms. Munaza Hassan, presented the last study which examined the attitudes and motivations of policy planners, teachers and students towards Mandarin. The main findings highlighted that all stakeholders were keen to learn Mandarin because they perceived the growing influence of Chinese job market in the region particularly in Pakistan. In addition to this, students could also go to China to acquire higher education. The survey results also emphasized the significance of English, Urdu and Mandarin in acquisition of higher education.

The fundamental finding of all the three studies highlighted that there was no female labor force participation. Women were highly marginalized.

Mr. Umer Farooq: he said that majority of men enroll in education institutions in lieu of females because there is a lack of skill set in women. However, to encourage the role of women Pakistan-China Institute has published a whole monologue on women.

Dr. Rana Ejaz: For cross cultural exchange it is a very good idea to learn Mandarin.

Brigadier Manzaoor Qadir: “the issue of language is very important and therefore since CPEC has been initiated, we need to have a formal language policy”

Following the deliberations and discussions on Language Policy in International Agreements: The Asian Experience with special focus on CPEC, Dr. Chew presented on Singapore Language Management with Special Focus on the Speak Mandarin Campaign and the Chinese Language Diaspora in Singapore whereas Dr. Shamim shared her insightful research upon Chinese Language Learning in Sindh in context of Need, Want and/or Opportunism. The session on Asian Experience was followed by an open discussion. In his concluding remarks, Dr. Shahid Amjad Chaudhry, the Rector Lahore School thanked all the participants. The conclusion driven from all sessions was that we should have a democratic language policy.

Also in DawnDaily Times, Pakistan Today, The Nation, The News

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 11/16/2019 12:25:00 PM,

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