Linguistic and Cultural Colonization in the Media

por Raquel Almeida

Language and culture are intrinsically related, since language expresses, incorporates and symbolizes a culture (KRAMSCH, 1998). Language is a social instrument, as it manifests the social reality. Each linguistic community carries specific cultural traits such as the way of thinking, seeing and facing the reality around them, the way they dress themselves, they establish social relationships with their families, with their communities and with the world itself.

Throughout the history of territorial conquests by man, language has always served as an instrument of power and domination. Passini (2006) tells us that, during the Roman Empire, Latin became the language of that period and remained for a long time due to the power of the Catholic Church. Soon, the Greek occupied the linguistic-cultural space because of the power and achievements of Alexander the Great and his army. With the invasions of the Americas, the Spanish, Portuguese and French languages ​​were imposed due to the colonization process suffered by the region. In 1635, with the unification of France, the French language began to exert a cultural and linguistic influence in several countries, including Brazil.

In the 21st century, the idea of a global culture[1] is an issue that involves two interdependent aspects: domination and exclusion. As a result of the Information Technology Revolution (also known as the Third Industrial Revolution)  since 1980, cultures tend to disappear and the homogenization of a single one ends up prevailing, the one, of course, that holds the economic, scientific and technological power (MOITA LOPES, 1996).

This issue has rendered a severe debate among linguists, researchers on cultural diversity and educators in Brazil, and worldwide. On the one hand, critics state that the predominance of the Anglo-Saxon language is visible because of its presence in most cultural media productions, such as films, television and radio broadcasts, music genres, advertisements, newspapers, magazines, computer, Internet, which end up taking over the control of commerce and industry of clothing, fashion and eating habits. Cultural exclusivism, derived from the political, economic and technological power of countries such as the United States and England, is present in media society and is naturally incorporated in other cultures, or else, acknowledging well-known Brazilian educator Paulo Freire’s metaphorical discourse: we have an invader hosted inside us (1978, p. 52).

[1] In the contemporary view of “global culture”, McLuhan's (1969) thesis is that new technological means lead modern society to live in a “global village”. Today there is a movement of configuration and reconfiguration of the language, its culture and its social identities due to the trend towards linguistic and cultural standardization.

Fotomontagem de Pepe Casals sobre fotos de: Claudio Rossi/Eugenio Savio/
Renan Cepeda/Antonio Milena

Kachru (1983) points out that the imposition of the Anglo-Saxon language and its culture in the world is based, above all, on the current political, economic and technological conditions of the native-speaking countries, which give this language, in the view of Universalists[1], the status of a hegemonic language. As a result, other nations tend to remain on the margin in the political, economic and cultural field, since, in the context of social relations, especially political and commercial ones, they are led to surrender to the “other tongue”[2].

According to Gimenez (2001), the adoption of English as the foreign language to be taught in Brazilian school curricula is due to the fact that it is recognized as an internationally spoken language (p. 127-128) that is strictly linked to globalization, global economy and technology. In this perspective, she assumes that English is, for today’s society, an object of consumption.

Moreover, researchers on foreign language teaching policies in Brazil believe that the English language use worldwide, whether as the language of the Internet and of Globalization, does not mean that it is necessarily serving the interests of certain countries. People can communicate through it according to their personal needs and wants (LEFFA, 2001 p. 346).

Consequently, the means of communication, especially the Internet, would be providing new forms of communication and expression among the different existing cultures, using a common language, but preserving these cultures and their languages. This ‘optimistic’ thinking prevails in the findings of ‘well-intentioned’ international policies, which indicate that society is opening up to the recognition and respect of social and cultural diversities.

However, the history of the linguistic and cultural monopoly, which critics call cultural colonialism, has its traces in the old wars and invaders’ settlements of territories with their political, economic and cultural impositions on the native people. In this sense, the dominator’s interests today are subliminal and more subtle, as they control the mass media.

Souza (1991) understands that the role of the media in the diffusion of a foreign language is evident by two aspects: first, introduction of alien terms, expressions and ideas, generally related to consumer interests, and second, strengthening the prestige of one foreign language over the others, leading a good part of the population, especially young people, to be interested in their learning (p. 79).

As for Alves (2004), there is a guided invasion of the mass media which leads people to the illusion that they are preserving their freedom, their language and their culture, as well as exercising their self-determination. This apparent reality is based on the fact that most of the recent technological means, such as the Internet, work in the common sense of customizing the product for its customer, maintaining his or her power of choice over the good they are going to buy (p. 31).

The cultural industry generated and maintained by capitalist interests in the consumer society ‘depersonalizes’ and reinserts the person, making him or her an almost unconscious adept of his or her cultural productions, and so, acculturation[3] proceeds easily. The ideology is, therefore, to keep the political and economic system, the language and culture of the colonizer and its dependence by the colonized (MOITA LOPES, 1996).

In Moita Lopes’ study entitled Yes, nós temos bananas’ ou ‘Paraíba não é Chicago não, he interviewed a group English language teachers from Brazilian public schools and found out some stances that he considers excessively colonized by these teachers. Attitudes such as a tendency to almost gawk at what is foreign […] and […] the demand for a pronunciation as perfect as that of the native and the incorporation of cultural habits into the native ‘xerox’ copy of the native speaker, led the researcher to evidence a symptom of alienation and a strong identification with the ‘other‘ (MOITA LOPES, 1996, p. 42-43).

Moita Lopes assigns these attitudes to the influence of the cultural industry in the foreign language teacher education. In this sense, he proposes a few alternatives for a change in the pedagogical stance of foreign language teachers, such as: a) sticking to a perspective of true cultural relativism that takes into account the tendency towards a colonized attitude by students; b) discussing the realities of a third country in the language classroom, and c) reformulating Brazilian universities’ curricula for the foreign language teacher education.

Taking all of that debate into account, we are now in a position to briefly reflect upon the principle that says that we should be educated to assume a position in the world, brought in the educational discourse by Parâmetros Curriculares Nacionais (1998)and Diretrizes Curriculares Nacionais para a Formação de Professores da Educação Básica (2001). Perhaps, this statement should be complemented by explaining how the person, on the verge of an ideological movement of (re) configurations of language and social identities, can take a position in the world: we should be educated to express ourselves dialogically within the cognitive faculties of reason, emotion and sensation that belongs to each one of us, recognizing our individuality and our human potential, as well as the cultural aspects intrinsic to this condition, which give us a cultural and political identity.


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Texto adaptado de ALMEIDA, R. S. O uso das mídias no ensino de língua estrangeira: concepções e métodos utilizados por professores dos cursos de graduação em Letras e Secretariado Executivo. 2007. 147 f. Dissertação (Mestrado em Educação) – Universidade Estadual de Maringá, Maringá, 2007.

Imagem retirada do artigo A febre de aprender inglês  de autoria de Paulo Moreira Leite. Edição Veja Educação, publicada em 1998, Editora Abril on-line.

[1] “Universalists” mentioned by Kachru (1983, p. 2) are scientists, researchers and linguists who seek a “language for cosmic intercourse” (our language). As an example, “Esperanto” as proposed by the Polish physicist Ludwig Zamenhof, in 1887, was perhaps the closest attempt to have a linguistic unification.
[2] The term other tongue or language of the other  is a concept that holds a strong imperialist connotation. It represents language as an instrument of power for purposes of religious and cultural subjugation and colonization (KACHRU, 1983, p. 1, 2 - 3). In the post-colonialist critique of literary studies, Anglocentric assumptions are analyzed, such as, for example, the hegemony of the English language during the period of European domination (BONNICI, 2000).
[3] Acculturation, according to Brown (1980), is the process of adapting to a new culture. The degree of proficiency in a language is determined by the degree of acculturation of the person to the speaking community of that language.

1 comentário

Bel 26/04/2021 - 11:56 AM

Parabéns, profa. Raquel.
Agradeço em nome da equipe editorial, sua preciosa colaboração para com a Revista ContemporArtes,
e reitero os votos de que seja muito bem vinda. Nossos leitores, com certeza, vão usufruir grandemente
de sua experiência e formação extraordinárias.


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