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jonathan taveras

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Are we moving towards a global language? if so, are there any up to the task?

..as our debate grew steadily, my brother and I considered for a moment that we may have to agree to disagree on this one. He was adamant. " it's already been chosen!!" he says, "English!". The first and most obvious answer. Of course english! America being the powerhouse, global superpower that it is,..knowing the language becomes a tool to forge your destiny in the world!…tall order.. technically most people on the planet speak mandarin, so i'd say they pretty much have a head start. But my focus went deeper, and this is usually where My brother looses it. Does it necessarily even have to be a spoken language that originated from a specific peoples? I asked. What is language in the first place? WHy did we first need to create these sounds with our mouths? Major eye rollage…I continue..at the very least to transmit information easily and efficiently? Spirituality,science, technology,..all leading us towards unity. he definitely agrees here and says, "english" in a way that I know he is no longer interested in debating. like when your winning in monopoly. So I've been wondering about it for a couple of days now and decided to ask the community what your take on this is?

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    Dec 11 2013: Well, language helps you understand yourself because you can explain yourself to yourself. Then it helps you to communicate to others, you can share what you know, or feel, and get the same coming back from others.

    I can't say for sure how common English is because I don't travel much.

    Music can speak to people of different languages. For example, I have watched "Gangnam Style" by Psy, the most popular video in the world, even though it is in Korean and I don't speak Korean.

    I suppose you can communicate through other means than language, like how you dress, or how you move. Facial expressions.
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      Dec 11 2013: "Well, language helps you understand yourself because you can explain yourself to yourself. Then it helps you to communicate to others, you can share what you know, or feel, and get the same coming back from others."
      I agree, and this is my problem with so much variety in language. so much is left to subjective interpretation. Its nearly impossible to get the same message across, in different languages,without being altered for cultural or ideological differences. Facial Expressions remain the purest form language.
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        Dec 11 2013: well, Jonathan, you might want to watch and participate in another new conversation on TED conversations. A fellow in China has said the Chinese government has just stopped requiring Chinese students to learn English, he wants to know what we think.

        I certainly wish there were only one spoken language. I think it would make life easier and more interesting, do you agree? They tried to make a universal language, called Esperanto, but it didn't catch on with the people of the world, I wonder why not?

        Some people would say facial expressions are influenced by culture too. For example, there are cultures that value not showing too much expression, and other cultures are freer. But even if this weren't true, it wouldn't seem that facial expression could be the universal language if you think language is for communication, because some things are too sophisticated to be communicated by facial expression alone, they need language. How could you and I have this conversation without language, we need language to have it, don't we?
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          Dec 11 2013: "…A fellow in China has said the Chinese government has just stopped requiring Chinese students to learn English…"
          I feel ambivalent and neither is positive. If they've truly rejected english for educational purposes, then there is nothing that can be done. If multi-linguality is not an educational priority, so be it. If the've chosen to do so because they believe to have the global language already, then its even more worrisome. Two global superpowers preaching the one true language…..it will not end well. Besides it's not like America has made a point of learning new languages to bridge cultural differences.

          "...I certainly wish there were only one spoken language. I think it would make life easier and more interesting, do you agree?.."
          Without a doubt! Clear communication is essential for the success and survival of any type of group or team, even organisms.

          "...They tried to make a universal language, called Esperanto, but it didn't catch on with the people of the world, I wonder why not?.."
          I believe there must be pressure to affect change. I propose, English has grown to be a powerful language because of America's ascent to the top of the global economy. Because of the domination of the dollar , during the first world war, English became a commodity and has remained so ever since. If we were in a situation where we could not afford,to NOT understand one another, then we will create this global language.

          "...How could you and I have this conversation without language, we need language to have it, don't we?…"
          We sure do! but I ask, Do we need so many? And It might seem ethnocentric to choose one language over another, but this is where we must consider the value of individual cultures or one global culture,not for us , but for generations to come.
        • Dec 12 2013: I see Esperanto as a remarkable (if little known) success story. It has survived wars and revolutions and economic crises and continues to attract people to learn and speak it. Esperanto works. I've used it in speech and writing in about seventeen countries over recent years. I recommend it to anyone, as a way of making friendly local contacts in other countries.
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        Dec 11 2013: good replies, jonathan. So why do different languages spring up in the first place, any thoughts?

        But I'm also wondering about what the purpose is of your conversation? You'd like to know if we're moving towards a universal language for what purpose? Are you planning to travel, and you'd like to know if one language will help you communicate as you travel? Or you want to do international business and you'd like to know if you can do it with your current language grasp? Or what, what is your purpose in asking?

        There must be people in the world who believe it's good to have many different languages. I wonder what their arguments would be?

        I would think any language is up to the task of being a universal language if some people are already using it to communicate. I mean, if a few million people are communicating using Zulu, that means it's an adequate language, right? So if we made Zulu the universal language, it should be adequate for everybody, right?
  • Dec 11 2013: Kindness is a global language.
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      Dec 11 2013: I agree. but I meant language in terms of communicating information efficiently. Although kindness is a type of language it is also limited when it comes to transmitting all types of information. A message is transmitted kindly.
      • Dec 11 2013: Verbal language is extremely limited. Body language, sign language, music and acts of kindness are a lot more universal and understandable. Look at a UN meeting where whatever the speaker is saying is being translated into many languages and you see a puzzling look on there faces as the translation does not always make sense but when they stand and applause everyone in the room understands immediately. Go to a sports game and even if your back is turned or you are downstairs getting food or even a block away when somebody scores everyone no matter what language they speak understands immediately. When Nelson Mandela or any great person dies the shock waves are felt around the world and everyone feels the sadness no matter what language they speak and the same apply's to any great disaster. We are all connected like the water in the Oceans and a tiny ripple anywhere is felt everywhere.
        "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop." - Mother Teresa

        If you want to change the world, smile, say thank you, pat someone on the back, pet an animal, plant a tree, give freely of all you get, pass it on, help some else for no reason, pay it forward... in other words be kind, kindness is a language everyone understands.
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          Dec 11 2013: I do agree that our emotions have a language of their own, but is it possible to communicate the score as effectively as the reaction to it. Or when an icon dies and the loss reverberates across humanity, can we communicate his or hers exploits and endeavors as efficiently as the feeling of loss. Without a doubt our emotions and the way we express them are very clear, I wonder if this can be so with information.

          "..Look at a UN meeting where whatever the speaker is saying is being translated into many languages and you see a puzzling look on there faces as the translation does not always make sense…"

          This is exactly my point. I believe that so much more is lost in translation. In fact, most of what makes a good speech is lost. It's true that just by watching a powerful speech in a different language, the emotion comes through and is inspiring, but everything can change if you understand the language. You can find yourself in precarious predicaments if lead purely by emotion. which is why I endeavor to find a universal language for information.
      • Dec 11 2013: Jonathan while you are thinking about universal languages you may want to look far into the future when we communicate like starlings or schools of fish where millions are somehow on the same wavelength and act as a group simultaneously. I believe it is explained with Quantum Mechanics using the "entanglement" theory.
        If I was designing a new language I would shoot in the direction of telepathy instead of characters and symbols, a method as old as the caveman. We are supposed to be evolving not going backwards. It's like the car.. it has not changed in a hundred years because the corporations are milking the oil thing for all it is worth. The same with the energy, instead of being independent they want us all dependent little slaves.
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    Dec 14 2013: it will be a language that is dynamic - able to change. English is that kind of language.

    a lot of people complain about poor grammar and spelling as well as text-speak and so on, blaming technology or the internet or a generation of people who don't know/care but it is through all of these very things that english will survive many other languages.
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      Dec 15 2013: I agree. the more concise the language becomes the less misinterpretations there will be. It may take shape as abbreviations of most words!
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    Dec 13 2013: Thanks to the internet I think that your brother is right.

    And for simplicity let's assume that the future language of the world is spoken and not telepathic or something else.

    So, let's look at the numbers firstly. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_languages_by_total_number_of_speakers
    Mandarin is by some estimates the biggest language, by others it's English. but let's even say that Mandarin is leading with 250 million people.

    Now as I understand it Mandarin is not a unified language, there are differences in pronunciation, vocabulary, and grammar, and many Mandarin varieties are not mutually intelligible. But let's pretend that all Mandarin speakers can understand each other.

    I think that what it comes down to is the alphabet used in the different languages in combination with the geographical spread of the English language itself. And the internet.

    The majority of the world uses the Latin alphabet, which is easy to learn in comparison to Mandarin. So that's a big stepping stone to get over when learning Mandarin, one that few are prepared to take.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphabet#Types

    And we also have the English language spread across the globe in many different countries. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_where_English_is_an_official_language

    And finally we have the internet, which is predominantly in English (55%) and only 4% Mandarin. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_used_on_the_Internet

    There are more reasons but I don't have the characters for that.

    So your brother is right according to me.
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    Dec 13 2013: Dear Jonathan, Good question. It is difficult to predict the far future, of course, but at the present stage, from a philological perspective, we are still living in a age of great ignorance about language, and thus nations are still protecting their own national languages, instead of creating a global one. English is the international language, but it is not yet a global one. In order for English to become the future global language it would have to adopt tens of thousands of non-European words, categories, and concepts on top of it. The greatest obstacle to a 'Global Language' is translation. We did it for two thousand years, it's old-fashioned and out-of-date, to say the least. Translation is pure cultural imperialism. The question is, is it really necessary - letting alone scientific, moral, or even legal - anymore to translate foreign key terminologies into Western words just to claim the West's sovereignty over the definition of thought? The true Global Language encourages writers from all corners of the world to limit their translations of cultural key terminologies in order to contribute to the formation of a global language that best reflects the cultural diversity and multitude of human thought, originality, and inventiveness. Knowledge is a Polyglot. Best! Thorsten
    http://bigthink.com/big-think-tv/knowledge-is-a-polyglot-the-future-of-global-language
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      Dec 11 2013: very good point here. words like selfie and twerking are new additions to the language. Even more interesting is the completely new language of memes and emoticons. New creations like--BRB and LOL. Can this be the emergence of a new language?