TED Conversations

Tomasz Poznanski

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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.


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    Nov 12 2013: Most of us in Europe have already evolved to bilingualism or multilingualism.

    As you point out though in your introduction, every language is a culture carrier, and speaking 3 languages I am aware I adopt a different "cultural mind-set" with each language. It would be a shame to lose that.
    It is likely that there will be an "overlord" language'; I would not necessarily bet on it being English, though, despite its current status.

    Languages also have a habit of diverging with geography, as evidenced by the number of American-English dictionaries available, so there is also a pull in the other direction; people are very precious about their national and/or regional distinctiveness.
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      Nov 14 2013: My thoughts exactly. To be a full-fledged citizen of the fast evolving world now, more than one language is required. It is not only about the communicational needs, but also about bringing an entirely new and different world view, values, thinking, approach etc.

      The status of English is not exactly clear, but jugding by its fairly uncomplicated structure at initial levels, it would be within everybody's reach to learn it. Maybe it would not be sufficient for regular communication, but it would add to the bigger picture.
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        Nov 14 2013: Hi Tomasz,
        I think Spanish is also a possibility as an "overlord" language, given its impact already in South America, and increasingly in North America too. It's also fairly simple and is written as it is pronounced - unlike English.
        Some people think Chinese will be the new world language, but I don't think so - "which Chinese?" I usually reply to people who suggest it.

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