NSU Presents Discourse on Language of Public Diplomacy
Md Zahid Anwar
The guest speaker presented a discourse on language, publicity and diplomatic communication.
Shameem Ahsan, Director General and former Head of the External Publicity Wing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, presented a discourse on language, publicity and diplomatic communication on December 5, 2012 at North South University. The event at NSU was the closing event of the University's top lecture series IML Discourse I. Ahsan, who studied higher responsibility in direction and management of national security and defense at the National Defense College (NDC), Dhaka, spoke on issues like importance of appropriate language in bilateral and multilateral diplomatic interactions, official reactions to international developments and interpersonal communications etc.
At the outset, Prof M Shahedul Haque, Head of IML at NSU, spoke on language as a means of publicity and mass communication and said that in a democratic country like Bangladesh, citizens have freedom of speech. People enjoy their right to voice their legitimate opinion and perspectives and express them in speech and writing. Students, as adult citizens of the country, have their worldviews and lifestyles, and they are constantly exposed to various concepts about society, politics, culture, religion etc. While students can choose their stance freely, Haque said that it is important to be moderate, tolerant, kind and considerate in their views as extremist views and actions are wrong and always fail.
Before working on language, it is important to be moderate, kind, and tolerant as extremism always fails
Language is the mirror of the mind. Therefore, students should, first of all, develop the right attitude that can benefit the humanity. Shahedul Haque said that students are the future of our nation and they should work sensibly to make a good image of the nation for the rest of the world.
Shameem Ahsan said that language is very important in publicity and mass communication and described at great length how certain languages played roles as languages of diplomacy in different phases of the history of the world. While giving a chronological description, he identified Latin, French and English to be preponderant languages used for diplomatic communications. According to Ahsan, “There is an undeniable advantage to use the English language in diplomacy,” Learning of foreign languages and its use in its native environment gives unique access to the people, culture and the national characteristics of that country-he went on. Ahsan underscored “politeness, composure, discretion, and courtesy” both in written and oral communication.” When it comes to disagreeing- Ahsan says, a diplomat has to be careful in phrasing his/her words carefully, and instead saying straight “no” or “I don't agree”, it can be conveyed in another way like “We are not perhaps together”.
According to Shameem Ahsan, public diplomacy doesn't merely mean survival by servile compromise and thereby hiding the truth. He said, “Diplomacy means respecting the other country. We cannot ignore the truth about a country. Bangladesh suffers from overpopulation and poverty. But while addressing the issue we can always add a positive note to maintain the dignity: Bangladesh is also a resilient nation of survivors against cataclysms such as floods and storms. Thus, the speaker/writer gives the message, but does not neutralize patriotic emotions.
Ahsan discussed and made several apt references to the growing consciousness in the international community to use positive expressions in many cases e g a blind person is referred to as a visually impaired person or VIP. A physically disabled person is a differently able person. Referring to real incidents in the diplomatic world, he stressed the importance of appropriate vocabulary and accurate (not always literal) translation or interpretation. Ahsan in his presentation clearly pointed out with apt examples that inappropriate language, even unintended, carries the potential of harming bilateral ties and multilateral negotiations. It may also be politically costly at the home front especially when a bilateral issue becomes sensitive. Diplomatic nuances and niceties are nothing but finer expression of communication and this need to be cultivated by diplomats, he added.
(The writer is a Graduate Assistant at the Department of English, NSU)