21 February 2010

Inner Circle of readers

Kachru's Inner Circle used to be called, before political correctness kicked in, Native Speakers. Perhaps Marc Prensky's term Digital Natives is more appropriate. In our Inner Circle of readers of a multilingual text are those that grew up with all the languages used in the text, not necessarily because these languages were all mother tongues (that would be impossible), but because, sometime before they read the text, they either studied the languages or lived in cultures that spoke those languages. Europeans are obviously privileged in this connection, because they constantly hear, if not speak, more than their own language. So are Filipinos, who are forced by the geography of their islands to learn at least three languages (their mother tongue, the national language, and English). But all peoples, if we look at their histories, are necessarily multilingual, since no language is exactly the same as it was at the time of the Tower of Babel. Clearly, in what Circle an individual reader is will be determined by the text itself. That means that, unlike Kachru and even Prensky, we do not peg a person to just one Circle. We all move into and out of one Circle, depending on the text.

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