Adam Taylor reports for the Washington Post on an interesting study:
On Wednesday afternoon, Pew Research Center released a study that looked at how national identity is defined across 14 different countries using survey data taken at the start of last year. In light of the ongoing debate about immigration in pretty much every part of the world, it makes for illustrative reading.
It turns out, for example, that most Americans don’t believe that where someone is born really defines whether they can be American or not. In fact, only a handful of the countries Pew surveyed thought this was important. And while America is a country well-known for its talk of values and God, most Americans don’t think that customs and religion are really important to being an American — and neither do most other countries.
Instead, Pew’s study found that in every country its researchers looked at, language was what really bound its national identity. The highest result was found in the Netherlands, where more than 84 percent of the population believes it is vital to speak Dutch if you want to truly be Dutch. But in all countries, a majority said it was “very important” to speak the national language.
This is not, of course, shocking news; as Taylor points out, Eric Hobsbawm wrote about it a long time ago. But the details are worth looking at, and I urge you to check out the table presented at the link. It ends with what is to me a heartening conclusion:
But things may change. For one thing, immigration also influences language: Germany has developed a colloquial language, “Kiezdeutsch,” which is primarily used by German speakers whose native tongue is Turkish or Arabic. Additionally, Pew’s data suggests that there is a big generational divide on whether language is very important for identity in most countries. In America, that shift is especially pronounced: While 81 percent of those age 50 or older say language is very important to national identity, only 58 percent of those age 18 to 34 agree.
Thanks, Eric! [N.b.: Retitled because I discovered I already had a post called Language and Identity.]