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Should we have one language?

May 22, 2014

Should we have one language? It’s a simple question with a complex answer. Although one language could reduce the misunderstanding between people, it isn’t only impossible, it would also reduce our cultures.

How can we have one language?

Esperanto had the intention to be a second international language. Esperanto worked in some way, there are still speakers nowadays and I believe about 2 million people are capable of speaking Esperanto, there are even some native speakers, but the original goal wasn’t accomplished. Instead of being used as an international political, economical and cultural language, it became English and not Esperanto. Esperanto probably failed in this because it wasn’t a natural developed language which could absorb a lot of different words from a lot of different cultures, just like English. If you take a look at the English vocabulary, you can see a huge amount of words from a lot of different language families. This is most likely due to the international contacts, but also because English is the first language of the United States and the United States is a mix of a lot of different cultures. In this way, they could all adapt English and put something of themselves in it, in this way a lot of different dialects were created and a lot of new words came into use in the English language. Esperanto was already pre-defined, it couldn’t really absorb new words, thus it became popular for certain groups of people which had the same ideals and ideas as Zamenhof or wanted

The problem with having one language though, instead of a second language, which would be English nowadays, is that it’s impossible. There are a lot of cultures which will stick to their language, but not only that, the whole world is bilingual and all countries are aimed at having their native language in the first place. You will see more German in Germany than English, too much work would be necessary to change everything to English and not only would the population protest against it, there are internationally recognized rights to speak the national language of your country, to respect minority languages, it would also be impossible because there are a lot of people speaking their own language. Even if we would abolish all national languages, we would have minority languages which would need to be respected and they simply can’t be abolished. Another thing is that a lot of jobs would disappear, all translators and interpreters would disappear and this would have a negative influence on our economy, there are also certain parts of the world where introducing English as the only language wouldn’t be possible and we don’t want more languages to disappear. Languages teach us a lot about our culture, heritage and where we come from and abolishing all our languages would simply mean throwing away what is left to trace back what once was. All the Indo-European connections couldn’t have been discovered if 1 international language would always have been used. And those languages tell us a lot about the first humans and their culture.

Another problem is that a language is created by a culture. If a culture for example has a word for a color, this color will appear a lot where they live. But the color might be unable to translate for a culture which doesn’t use it. This is the problem with an international language. It can’t cover all the words for every language and culture, since every culture is different and some words simply can’t exist. Only universal words can exist, and even those can create problems. Are ideas the same in every culture and language? Probably not, they differ in some way. This is why you also need national languages, because a lot of unique thinking patterns which are needed to actually have new ideas and innovations for the world, can only be accessed by other languages. If we only have one language, important inventions could be lost, because a language like German maybe just was the most perfect language for people like Einstein and Bohr.

The only way to have one language would be to force it on people, just like was done in Ireland, Wales, France and Greenland (inuit which were assimilated in Danish culture and only spoke Danish later) and we know what happened, a lot of violence, cruelty, loss of valuable culture and conflicts.

So what should we do?

Does this mean that we shouldn’t have an international language? Not at all. Just like Akkadian, Latin and French, English is used as an international language over the world. Spanish is another widely used language and we shouldn’t forget Arabic in the middle-east. We have a few international languages, but English was more accessible than French as an international language because it adopted more words and because in every continent there are English speaking countries, except for Antarctica maybe. Although France has French speakers in a lot of continents too, English has far more people which speak it in every continent and in big countries.

An international language helps communication and it prevents conflicts or not knowing what another person means. It would however be good to also respect our other languages and even learn them. Not only can we communicate better, but there will be less misunderstanding if we really know what somebody says when they are badmouthing you. It is also recommended because you can better understand another culture. You can also read what they have written and have a better understanding of the past. Our knowledge of other languages can really help to understand the world in this way.

Let’s just stick to English, but also respect our other languages.

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