TED Conversations

Tomasz Poznanski

This conversation is closed.

Will we eventually have one global language?

Lately, I found myself wondering whether we are slowly sailing towards one global language. If you take a closer look at the current linguistic processes around the world, you will quickly notice that there is a limited number of languages that substantially influence all other languages. Such media like the Internet only intensify this process.

If we assume that English shall continue to spread and make such a tremendous impact worldwide, is it prudent to say that our languages are gradually melting into one? Will they transform overtime to the extent that despite using different languages we will be able to understand each other?

Or are we evolving to bilingualism/multilingualism? Our mother tongue will be retained, but the "overlord" language will be required to fully participate in the global affairs.

Would it make our everyday existence easier, or - on the other hand - would losing other languages trigger a decline in culture-dependent thought diversity?
(see linguistic relativity or Sapir-Whorf hypothesis for details)

Please share your thoughts.


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Nov 12 2013: While the trend is towards fewer central languages (and fewer, central most things with globalization), we're nowhere near a global language, and won't be for the foreseeable future.

    Mandrin Chinese is the most common native language, and it doesn't reach even 20% of the world population, and doesn't seem to be spreading much beyond China (a few businessmen learning it aren't enough to put a dent into the demographics).
    English has more if you count all the people who know it as a second language, but we're still nowhere near a majority of the world population--estimates range from half a billion people, to three times that much, depending on how strict your requirements are (from barely able to ask where the bathroom is, to proficient in both the verbal and written aspects of it). Still less than 25% of the world's population given even the higher estimates.

    A more realistic situation that already exists in large parts of the world, which would still take at least a good few decades to become universal, is a scenario where almost everyone speaks at least basic English, but as a second language which isn't used for day to day communication.
    • thumb
      Nov 14 2013: Would you be inclined to say that ubiquity of English would facilitate any sphere of our everyday existence? I mean, apart from obvious travelling benefits, what exactly does it provide us with? Does it mean that everybody would become a citizen of the world?
      • Nov 21 2013: Citizen implies government, and a world government is a pipe dream even if we all spoke the same language.

        In terms of practical effects, easier communication and travel, which is always nice. Again though, English probably won't come to replace the other languages, just supplement them.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.