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Plurilinguisme et mondialisation

Language as a Soft Power Tool in Central Asia

Last Updated: 16 Jun 2018

23 February 2018
Russia / World
Language as a Soft Power Tool in Central Asia

Chinese, Russian and English are all competing to be Central Asia’s lingua franca. This has a bearing on the region’s ties to the rest of the world, as well as an impact on domestic political culture.

Author : Anna Tiido

Joseph Nye, a political scientist at Harvard University, has discussed at length the role of language as a tool of soft power. According to Nye, any user of a language will be influenced by that language’s essence, its implied values welded deeply into its grammatical framework.

It can be argued how much any language can ever just be a neutral lingua franca – a means of communication, a protocol — or whether it does, as Nye argues, indeed influence deeper political attitudes in a way that is signifcant and, at times, decisive.

Governments in Central Asia do recognise the ability of language to define the region’s relations with the rest of the world, both culturally and geopolitically. As with many other regions, the promotion of language learning in the region has become a vital tool of public diplomacy and soft power for surrounding nations eager for political influence. The Power Language Index measures languages according to what it perceives as their soft power value. It includes five categories: geography, economics, communication, knowledge and media, and diplomacy. According to this index, the top language is predictably English with Mandarin and Russian placed firmly in the top ten.

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