Language, Negotiation and Peace: The Use of English in Conflict Resolution

Patricia Friedrich. New York: Continuum, 2007. Pp. x + 144.
Reviewed by Jim Bame
Utah State University
Utah, USA

Patricia Friedrich’s Language, Negotiation and Peace is an optimistic, thought provoking book. In it, the author traces the growth of English as a lingua franca and argues that English can be a prime mover for linguistic peace education and social justice.
A thin, well-organized volume with seven chapters, a useful index, a glossary, a reference section, and an appendix, the book is for everyone with an interest in peace, including researchers, education administrators, and pre- and in-service teachers at all instructional levels.
Friedrich begins the text by summarizing the peace studies tradition, outlining positive and negative peace and its relationship with language. She argues that positive peace would not only be the absence or avoidance of war, but the basis for creating fair social institutions.
In chapter 2, the author gives the theoretical framework of English as a world language and outlines the contexts (e.g. geographical/historical areas) and realms (e.g. education, law, diplomacy) of English use. She posits that the tensions and conflicts at present are due to preconceptions and attitudes towards English and should not be obstacles to the higher purposes of education and understanding, but opportunities for peaceful resolution and social change.
In chapter 3, she describes specific examples of the contexts of English around the world, the assortment of users, uses of English, and attitudinal diversity and argues that the lack of acceptance and the non-legitimating (p. 48) of varieties and the employing a language of a larger community to dominate and disenfranchise (p. 49) leads to linguistic intolerance and conflict. However, linguistic peace can be achieved by accepting varieties of English, promoting English for communication, and encouraging peace linguistic education practices for all languages.
Chapter 4 describes three internationally famous educators–Paulo Freire, David Crystal, and Gomes de Matos–and their respective contributions of empowerment, ecosystem of languages, and communicative peace. Friedrich then adds another competency, that of peace and social well-being promotion, to the four traditional communicative competences (e.g. grammatical, discourse, strategic, and sociolinguistic) to describe a new linguistic peace model of communicative competence. She then describes three exemplary areas of concentration for peace education in the classroom: teaching ESL/EFL students, linguistic and cross-cultural awareness, humanizing vocabulary, and peace linguistic education of teachers. She outlines suggestions for teacher preparation and gives the three general goals of the approach–empowerment, offsetting imperialism and focusing on peace instead of conflict.
The next chapter discusses the most relevant articles of The Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights (in its entirety in the Appendix) in relationship to implementation of the linguistic peace education approach. The author also offers an alternative pacific vocabulary and approach indicating how to reinforce positive agreement-fostering terms rather than common negative disagreement-fostering language terms. Representative examples of these are linguistic peace instead of linguistic violence, linguistic justice substituting for killer languages (majority languages which marginalize and consequently destroy minority languages), and linguistic choice for linguistic imperialism. Friedrich says that language teaching should further the principals of peace and understanding, create a non-threatening environment, and promote multilingualism.
Chapter 6 discusses the future of languages in relationship to the ecology of all languages. Friedrich argues that the growing presence of English should not be seen as a threat, but an opportunity for global understanding and positive peace and sees the future of English as a lingua franca as having several standards locally competing and bilingualism as the norm.
The book concludes with reflections about the 21st century and English. She calls upon initial efforts for peace linguistics to be focused on establishing a framework for scholarly research and teaching, continuing to apply human rights, working toward a balanced language ecosystem, and investigating other languages’ impact on communication.
This book has a positive vision of using English for peaceful purposes. However, one weakness is that it seems to be in the beginning stages, lacking off-the-shelf applications or a detailed framework as models for locally generated materials and curriculums. Also, the book’s price, $150 US for the hardback version available at present, could limit its audience. However, the book’s message of teaching and using English responsibly to promote peace and learner/user empowerment far outweigh its shortcomings.