Saturday, June 15, 2019

Are We Moving Towards A Common Language?

In the story “Tower of Babel”, it is said that once upon a time, everyone on earth spoke only one language. As people migrated from the east, they settled in a land called Shinar where they began to build a tower towards the heaven. God, clearly disliking this act of man, recognised the root cause of their efficiency in the common language that they shared. So, it is said that he created different languages, as a result of which they would never understand one another, and scattered them over the face of the earth. The authenticity of this narration is not in the interest of this writing but it sure does mock at the chaos, that existence of multiple languages have created and thus making one wonder if world would be a much better place to live in, if we all had a common language to share our thoughts and feelings in.
The origin of this question finds itself in a debate that I had in my French class against the need to create native lexicon in French for every new word of English origin. On one side of the coin there is a need to conserve languages and facilitate their enrichment and on the other side, there is an opportunity to drive common terminologies across the world. With a rate of globalisation that refuses to slow down, world today has almost begun to work like the Tower of Babel. Interdependency and immigration has made the need for a common language more than just a comfort. However, not everyone would agree to this.
On the contrary, a section of people would argue that a common language would pose a threat to many other languages that would subsequently become obsolete. With a language, disappears its literary works and its history. Moreover, a language is not only a means of communication but also a foundation of any culture and tradition. That argument is valid. However, we are also aware of the fact that change is inevitable.  

Cultures and traditions around the world have always been changing or rather evolving. Over the years, we have seen several old languages like Latin and Sanskrit slowly becoming limited in usage. Even English has evolved continuously since its origin and by adopting the modern day English, man has almost abandoned the works of old English. He has adapted himself to a newer and better way of expressing himself; relevant to the time he lives in. Another argument presented by the defenders of languages is that the current state ensures diversity in this world and that makes us interesting; with different perspectives on same things. 

As far as the need for diversity goes, there would always be other avenues to create them; just like there exists diversity between an American, a British and a New Zealander. Besides, a distinctive melange exists within a country that speaks a common language. So, though I myself am a polyglot who do deeply appreciates the diversity that these beautiful languages bring, I also believe in the ephemerality and evolution of things. We simply cannot deny change!
Additionally, it is clearly visible that with technological developments and influences driven by globalisation, all cultures are beginning to converge. For example, the cuisine of one region or a country has traveled beyond its borders. People around the world share a similar virtual image of themselves on Facebook, LinkedIn or other social networking sites through which they prefer to communicate in common grounds. However, with a world full of egoistic countries, it would be interesting to see which language will dominate and which all would be willing to yield. Perhaps it was the prediction of this conflict that once led to a creation of a new language all together.
In 1887, a language called Esperanto was developed in order to facilitate communication between people of different languages. This effort of constructing a new language from the scripts of various other languages has not proven to be very successful. One may argue that the mistake was probably in creating a language from scratch and every language has several words and expressions that may not exist in the other. 
But in today’s world, we can notice a different type of blend between languages. “Visage”, “Encore” and “Sans” are some of the French words that are frequently used in English language. While “Parking”, “Weekend”, “Stop” and “Pub” are some of the English words used in French language. Sanskrit or Hindi words like “Guru” and “Mantra” have also made their way into the English dictionary. Because, a linguistic would note that ever language has words that do not necessarily exist in an other language. Therefore, we are in the process of effectively blending the languages and hopefully constructing a new global language. Clearly in this case, the language that is most willing to accept foreign words and that which is increasingly open to changes in its structure would be a winner. That makes us ask ourselves - On one side as we try to bring the world closer, must we, on the other end, by translating every new word in different languages, separate it? Life would be much easier if a USB, computer, Laptop, Nano technology or a tablet is called the same elsewhere in the planet. However, it is important to understand that the problem here is not in some languages gaining prominence, but with many others loosing their functionality. Therefore, the bigger question is - Would having multiple languages serve any purpose in the future?

To retain something, one has to have a strong purpose. History teaches us that anything that has lacked a robust motive has always failed to sustain. Humans, while adapting to the times they live in, have always acclimatised to better and simpler ways of dealing with things, by gradually discarding the older methods. Therefore, the defenders of a certain language have to come up with a reasoning that is profound, or at the least relevant to the times we are living in. Nostalgia simply cannot survive as a sole reason for this retention. 
Even though there is a necessity to have a common language to work effectively with one another, a universal language for humans does not appear to be a reality until several centuries to come. World would mostly be multi-linguistic until one of the dominant languages would slowly but certainly take over. But in that process, this dominant language will have to evolve and embed all the qualities of the other languages. With a world well connected, this forecast seems highly likely. This thought might be frightening or even offensive to some at the moment, but change unwinds itself at its own pace and this would only be a reality perhaps more than a thousand years from now. We would no more be alive to react to it and the people living then would not relate to this debate at all; just like how we remain ignorant about Latin and Sanskrit.
From few basic languages to a variety of them; from a variety of them to fewer modern languages; from those few modern languages, maybe to one ideal language in a distant future. Time, therefore, seems to spin like a wheel. Consequently, maybe one day, man might after all complete the Tower of Babel.

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