In this episode Ben and Michael speak to Shaun Cleaver about the idea that English is taking over as the default language, not only of communication between people of different cultures, but also as the language of knowledge generation and dissemination. We talk about why this might be a problem, and how we might start thinking about solutions.
To the extent that physiotherapy as a profession has engaged in linguistic diversity, this has been limited to translating “outward” from English, where English serves as the template against which translations must take place. In addition, the value of the profession supporting the generation of physiotherapy knowledge and ideas in multiple languages cannot be understated. Sometimes, these ideas will be translated into different languages; occasionally English will be the language into which things are translated, but ideas can and should circulate beyond the reach of monolingual English speakers.
- Cleaver, S. & Hudon, A. (2017). The Costs of Translation. Critical Physiotherapy Network blog.
- Gedda, M. (2019). Dix préconisations pour promouvoir la francophonie en santé. Kinésithérapie, la Revue. It may be a useful exercise to use Google Translate to convert this article to English (if that’s your preference) to get an idea of how your ability to do intellectual work may suffer when most of the research published in your field isn’t in your home language. Not only is it tedious but the machine-learning translation is pretty mediocre.
- Mikanowski, J. (2018). How the English Language Is Taking Over the Planet. The Guardian magazine.
- Mydans, S. (2007). Across cultures, English is the word. New York Times magazine.
Shaun Cleaver is a lecturer in the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He also has affiliations with the Centre for Disability & Rehabilitation Studies at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa, and the Southern African Institute for Policy and Research (SAIPAR) in Lusaka, Zambia.
Shaun is also involved in the Justice-centred Rehabilitation programme, which will be a panel discussion at the World Physiotherapy congress in 2021. For the first time in a Congress, presentations will be multi-lingual. You can find out more about this project on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.