The power of language/the language of power

Imagine the scene: A meeting with senior British civil servants in Whitehall and an audience of 40 people. Thirty-five of them have English as their first language, but are able to speak a different language – let’s call it Amharic (a language with a totally different script) – to varying degrees of proficiency. Five of the audience – let’s call them Ethiopians – are apparently there to help the British government. The Ethiopians have Amharic as their first language and struggle to get beyond basic greetings in English. Despite the fact that only 5 of the 40 have Amharic as their first language, the meeting is conducted in Amharic, leaving the English speakers – the hosts – at a distinct disadvantage in understanding what is going on and making their points. You wouldn’t believe it would you?! What would the Daily Mail say?

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