The fear of foreign languages is known by the Latin term, Xenoglossophobia. If you feel persistent and intense anxiety when faced with unfamiliar speech and writing, you may suffer from this disorder.
The Tower Of Babel
The story of the Tower of Babel appears as a warning to humankind. The Tower was mentioned in the Bible (Genesis) when the descendants of Noah grew in numbers and needed to occupy different regions. They decided to construct a building that would act as an homage to their family and its accomplishments, before they were forced to scatter to different parts of the earth. The Tower was meant to reach unto Heaven itself, and it was a testament to their own glory. God saw the Tower and recognized the hubris it symbolized. He sent down a “confusion of tongues” that made it impossible for the different descendants to understand one another. In this way, he put controls on what they could accomplish as a group.
This “confusion of tongues” was meant to control the unhealthy desires of mankind. Today, many people are likewise confused by a bewildering array of different languages. Those who suffer from Xenoglossophobia are upset and anxious when confronted with languages they do not understand. They feel feel more comfortable around people of their own origins, who speak their native tongue. They will avoid situations where they are plunged into different cultures and exposed to new ways of communicating.
Xenoglossophobia & Racism
The fear of foreign languages may manifest itself as racism. If one is driven to avoid others because they speak differently, they may develop a pervading fear of other races. While this phobia does not always signify racism, there can be an element of prejudice in some people’s response to other cultural mores.
Frequently, the derisive order to “speak English” is used to chastise immigrants in primarily English-speaking countries. For example, Facebook groups with hate overtones have sprung up in the past. The group, “You’re In Australia…SPEAK ENGLISH” is just one example of this worrying trend.
In 1985, a hardcore punk band, S.O.D., released a single called, “Speak English Or Die”. This hate-filled rant derided immigrants who came to a new country looking for a better life .
You come into this country
You can’t get real jobs
Boats and boats and boats of you
This diatribe was a dark glimpse into the minds of racists, who find the fear of languages a trigger for their rage and agression. The fear of languages has been an ongoing phobia for many, many years…perhaps since the times of Babylon itself.
Of course, racism is at play in many countries, not simply those with a large English-speaking population. In France, for example, there has been an onslaught of anti-Semitism that has garnered attention in the world media. Sometimes, religious values and Xenoglossophobia are a symptom of the same disease.
Some countries, particularly those in the Middle East, have grown to mistrust those who speak English, because they link the language with America. The aftershocks of decades of American foreign policy, as well as strong ideological contrasts, has left a wake of fear and loathing. America has entered into the destinies of other nations, sometimes against their will, and the people remember. This anti-American sentiment was a factor in many acts of terrorism. The fear or mistrust of the English language often has political roots.
Other Reasons For The Fear Of Languages
Learning other languages can be difficult. The facility with languages is a talent that some do not possess. Having to learn another language for work can be a source of great stress for some people, and it can be a powerful trigger for this phobia.
Stressful interactions with others who don’t speak the same language can also cause the fear of languages. Often, people in front-line service jobs must deal with miscommunication that happens when people do not speak the same language with the same ease or skill.
Symptoms And Treatment
Agitation, anger, and tension can result from Xenoglossophobia. People with the phobia may become avoidant, and even aggressive. Others may feel panic attack symptoms, and require therapy and/or anti-depressants to manage their emotions.