Newspaper ad by the German Department for Development and Economic Cooperation. Picture published by @OpenAidGermany on Twitter.
This morning I stumbled upon a tweet by @aidnography:
When I clicked on the link I was pretty surprised. The German Department for Development and Economic Cooperation has indeed published such a newspaper ad that says “Merry Christmas, Africa” and which is full of clichés? There are at least half a dozen stereotypes that I could list.
- “Merry Christmas Africa” suggests that Africa is a homogenous continent and not a conglomerate of many countries
- The giraffe draws the picture of a rural Africa with wild animals everywhere
- All African people live in straw huts.
- Santa Claus and a reindeer? I have to be honest that I have never been to Africa before but I can’t believe that the majority of African people decorate their houses with Santa Claus and reindeers.
- A chain of lights on a straw hut? I don’t know which cliché this is but are you serious?
I think a German Government Department should be more careful with these kind of ads. It is 2013 and not the 1950′s or 1960′s.
This morning I have discovered Härnu, an interesting new website which is devoted to intercultural communication. The word Härnu is a combination of two Swedish words, “Här”, meaning “Here”, and “Nu”, meaning “Now”. On Härnu you can send messages or questions to a specific country or city. Residents living in these countries and cities can reply if they like.
Screenshot from harnu.com
Härnu is a social network which is not based on direct or indirect personal relationships. Instead, it’s all about (cultural) interests. Härnu tries to initiate discussions by providing news streams from Google News and Global Voices. These news can be discussed. Furthermore, Härnu streams music from producers all over the world and again users are invited to discuss. For me the most exciting feature of Härnu is the possibility of sending messages to countries. You can pin a flag on, let’s say Brazil, asking for Brazilian traditions regarding Christmas. People from Brazil can reply to your messages and questions.
So far, there are just a few users but I think this might evolve into an interesting social community in terms of intercultural dialogue.
Being a native English speaker brings about certain advantages if you are employed in an international, multicultural sector. And which part of modern economies and societies in a globalised world is not international or multicultural?
English is the common denominator when it comes to communication beyond borders; sometimes even between different cultures within national borders. One can decry this but it is also helpful. How else could we easily communicate across different cultures and nations if not through a universally acknowledged language? I myself know how hard it is to communicate all day in a foreign language. I even write my blogposts in English for the one and only reason: many people across the world understand it (some better than others). You keep trying to improve your English but you are aware of the fact that you will never be as good at it as English native speakers.
I think that everybody should learn a foreign language and this includes English speaking people as well. I can imagine that it is hard to motivate yourself to learn a foreign language in case you know that so many people abroad will understand you. „Hey, they speak English as well“ (some better than others). But you can only understand the problems that somebody is facing when speaking in a foreign language once you have made the same experience.
I like the English language and I would never bemoan the fact that English has become the „world language“ number one. Au contraire, it makes life much easier for people like me who are communicating with people from many nations. Learning English is very important. But I would just like to ask for sympathy on the part of English speaking natives for people who are constantly trying to learn the language. Fortunately, many English speaking natives do already show this sympathy (some better than others).