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UK charity hopes to 'decolonise' English vocabulary



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The English language has been evolving for centuries, if not for millennia. Conversations from the Middle Ages would be almost unrecognisable today. In particular, the use and meaning of vocabulary is in constant flux. The British charity Oxfam has issued a guide that further pushes for changes in how the language is used, especially by charity workers. Oxfam wants to "decolonise" English, which it considers to be, "the language of a colonising nation". It said English needs to change "in order to decolonise our ways of working and shift power". Oxfam has issued a 92-page "Inclusive Language Guide" to advise employees on the use of language "to support everyone to feel empowered to be inclusive in their work".

Oxfam was founded in 1942 to help alleviate global poverty. It now operates in more than 80 countries worldwide. Its new guide recognises the reality that English is the dominant language used by charity workers in former British colonies. Oxfam said: "This guide aims to support people who have to work and communicate in the English language as part of this colonial legacy." The guide focuses on inclusivity for the disabled, the LGBTQIA+ community, migrants, refugees, and others. Suggested language changes include avoiding "colonial" phrases like "headquarters" and "mankind". It said the latter word could be viewed as being patriarchal as "it is often misunderstood as only referring to men".

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