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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 19 2013: I hope so. Communication is a cornerstone to advancement and diversity a hindrance. The more easily people communicate the more efficient they are as a team and the more efficient they are as a team the more efficient they are at accomplishing projects.
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      Nov 19 2013: Hi Chris,
      Welcome to TED conversations.
      Sometimes communication across languages opens up new possibilities for advancement because each language is a carrier of differing values and perspectives. Indeed, in this case diversity is not a hindrance, but a catalyst to creative problem-solving.
      Once one language dominates, so does one mind-set, which increases the danger of dysfunctional group-think. Also, although it's O.K to have a linguistic "like-attracts-like" for a certain set of assumptions of "being on the same page", it does not necessarily mean people understand each other any better, or even are able to resolve differences any better.
      • Nov 20 2013: Joshua,

        Thank you for the welcome.

        I'm curious about your truth statement:
        "Once one language dominates, so does one mind-set, "

        I haven't seen that happen. In my IT "world" the foreign nationals who speak great English have still kept their unique backgrounds and thought processes. I don't see the relationship between how one language affects mind-set. I would think similar regional cultures would affect mindset, but not language.

        As a matter of fact, even in the US, mind-sets are extremely varied depending on which region people hail from.

        Regards,
        Chris
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          Nov 20 2013: Hi Chris,
          You're right. I was using language more in the 'cultural' (and cultural-regional) sense than in the sense purely of language. But embedded in "mere language" is still a host of cultural values and assumptions.
          I'm always aware when speaking other languages (German, Portuguese, French) that words and phraseology and that country's history just how deep embedded assumptions can be, about "how things are", etc. These are very present in the language of any conversation. In this sense one can speak of a "German cultural mind-set" or a "Portuguese cultural mind-set" with a broad sweep of expectations of how things are done.
          Of course, people are people and cosmopolitan professionals of any country probably have more in common around a particular industry than people speaking one language in one country with diverse work experiences - as you have pointed out.
          I think cross-cultural diversity is generally a good thing, and brings new perspectives to the table of creative problem-solving, though of course lack of language skills per se can be hindrance to progressing a specific project.
      • Nov 20 2013: Joshua, thanks for the replies. And I agree that cross-cultural diversity is a good thing as far as bringing new ideas to the table - and it all starts with communication in some form - and a common would go a long way to speeding things up. The story of the tower of Babel springs to mind - the one change that was made was to strip them of a common language thus causing [in their case] an impossible to overcome interruption.

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