TED Conversations

jonathan taveras

This conversation is closed.

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?

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    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.
    • thumb
      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.
      • thumb
        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?
        • thumb
          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.
      • thumb
        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?

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.