This conversation is closed.

Can forcing language upon nations actually kill the nation?

Although a very long talk and not everybody agrees with her, I'm curious about her statement "the only way to kill a nation is to kill its language". Although English is spreading into every language, it's not modifying the language largely.

However did historical events kill nations? During colonization, where often another language was forced upon people? I'm sure it's quite powerful, over time culture is modified because of 'lack of expression' maybe. The only thing then left for a nation is its own history (which, due to colonization, gets blended in with the colonizers...). Thoughts?

Closing Statement from Joost Kuckartz

A nation is different than a country: it is defined by a group of people who have common descent, history, culture or language. Completely killing a nation is not possible, however forcing a language does modify the culture. Cultures are however constantly changing, adapting to the challenges at hand.

Colonizers have been trying to force languages upon people, and it did change their culture, but the complete killing of a nation did not happen. The culture of nations is so resilient that, even when the language is lost, they are still considered a nation. Complete assimilation of nations (the blending with colonizers) has not been discussed.

The short answer to the posed question could therefore be "No, forcing a language upon nations does not kill the nation, it modifies it".

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    Jan 17 2014: I think if people speak their nation's language, they'll practice their culture and traditions and won't forget them. But if people don't have the chance to practice their language, the cultrue of the nation could be killed.

    Regarding the fact that we have 56nations in China, the Han nation is the major nation among the all. So the rest are called the national minorities. We force different people with different nations and in different areas to speak Mandarin to some extent( no laws or local stipulations or punishment )because there are so many dialects and Chinese used to have some difficulties in communicating with each others in understanding. This is to say in order to facilitate and strenghthen people's communications, we force people to learn another language(Mandarin) to some extent. But we can't say letting those national minorities learn another language equals that we intended to kill their own languages. Actually they always have the freedom to learn theirs at schools and select which language to use more in different situations. We are acceptive to those national minorities who want to move to other big cities and places to live their new lives, and in that case they may use their own language much less and their children may not be interested in their parents' languages due to the bigger growth surroundings.
    So from this point, we can say forcing languages upon nations won't 100% kill their languages, they can learn an extra language and learn more things. They can absorb other cultures of other languages and merge them into their own as well.
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    Jan 15 2014: I believe what matters is not so much the history of a people as much as the people themselves.

    Does it really matter if "my people" at some point in history painted their toes black and every third toe green or is it far more important that I am viable, needed, efficient and adept at surviving and overcoming in our current global society?

    Seriously.. you cannot live in the past, you cannot eat yesterdays bread. Live in the present and look to the future. Survive/adapt/overcome .. don't mire in the past .. and if you REALLY think we should?

    ..PROVE IT.. throw away your cars your electricity, communications all the modern conveniences ..and live what you preach... the past of nations and times

    Keeping and cherishing things of the past is romantic, picturesque, but rarely functional, more of a luxury than a need.

    Language? We need a language to communicate, beyond that.. language divides us and creates us and them... us and them creates war and sadness.. WE .. are where the strength is
  • Jan 9 2014: Some of the confusion on this topic may be because Americans do not understand what a "nation" is. The USA is not and has never been a nation. A nation is not the same thing as a "country" or a "government". A nation with its own government is a "nation-state". A nation is a people sufficiently united by history, descent, culture, and language. "Sufficiently" is very fuzzy. The USA has a language but barely has a history compared to the rest of the world, and descent is highly varied and our culture is very young and fluid. We might become a nation some day.
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    Jan 8 2014: Honestly, I had high expectation for the talk since the title is so intriguing, but obviously I was disappointed. If her disagreement stems from the increasing usage of English among the speakers of another language, that is simply a sign that the language is evolving. Even English didn't look or sound the way it looks/sounds today. Language evolves along with society.

    However, addressing your questions, there is an example of the so-called "cultural genocide" to kill a nation. The most extreme case that comes to mind is China's policy towards the minority languages in its region, particularly Tibetan and Mongolian languages. (Over 90% of Chinese population are Han Chinese, leaving less than 10% of population speakers of 55 minority languages in China)
    There is a long history of war and hostility behind it, some of which you can check here:
    - Book by Warren W. Smith titled "China's Tibet?: Autonomy Or Assimilation" (partially available on google books)

    Now, this is a very sensitive and subjective issue (when is history ever objective?). I am not a historian nor an expert in the subject, and will welcome civil and constructive discussion.
    • Jan 9 2014: I am quite curious about this process as well, which was the reason for this conversation. One of the items coming to mind you brought to attention as well: the Mongolian nation.

      The nation of Mongolians could be considered inner Mongolia plus the country Mongolia: they all have common descent and originally had the same language. I say originally, because now the people of Inner Mongolia have many Chinese words mixed into their language, and (although I'm not 100% sure) use Chinese characters. Are they forced to use this or is it simply 'easier' because they have to work together with the rest of China?

      Originally all Mongolians also had the Mongolian script. The country of Mongolia still retains its spoken language as original, but because of long-term Russian occupation they were forced to use Cyrillic. They still use this today and although the newer generations do learn the original script in school, many never use it and forget. In a couple of generations or even faster, it could be a dead script.

      Does this mean that it's an example of 'successful killing of the nation through language'? I wonder. After the Russians left Mongolia, the Buddhist culture which was banned during the communist period, is making a comeback. So some cultural aspects 'bring back'the nation.

      In China the Inner Mongolian but also the Tibetan example are probably good markers of how a nation might be killed (or assimilated as they are doing).
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        Jan 9 2014: Hi Joost. I don't think the transition from Mongolian to Chinese came as a natural response because the rulers are now Chinese or Chinese scripts are easier. From the materials I've read, there was a systematic attempt from the Chinese government to forbid the Mongolians use their language or even practice their culture (even traditional dances). But the most effective method of all is probably to have it banned to be used in schools, so the young have no choice but learn in Chinese. If the records were true, this is an attempt of cultural genocide. Rather than finding themselves in trouble with the authority, they chose to sacrifice their mother tongue and use Chinese. This is much better than the punishment awaits.

        I say "attempt" because as you said, there are some rebels who still use their native Mongolian and script, and people who escaped Mongolia and later return, and now are teaching children their culture once again. However, in the decades it was banned, and the limited times the language was used, of course the mastery of Mongolian have decreased a lot. I heard its particularly true for Tibetan, where the native language speakers are so few, that it's now endangered.
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          Jan 10 2014: Another case to look at is the case of Kurdish and the Kurds.
        • Jan 11 2014: Dewi,

          You use the term "cultural genocide" while others use the term "killing a nation". Both are vague and unsatisfactory.

          Access to a world language is a tremendous move toward a cooperative human race. From my interactions with English-speaking foreign nationals, I get the impression that their views have been widened, and their acceptance of others increased. That's a good thing.

          None of them think they've lost a culture by adding a language. As a translator I'd expect a more nuanced view from you.

          Nations aren't real. You can't kill them. Beware ideology!
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        Jan 11 2014: Dear Ormond,

        Did you read my initial comment? I totally agree with your opinion that the increasing usage of English in other languages doesn't count as a sign of a cultural invasion, or "killing a nation". Languages evolve, including English. And the increasing access to world languages, using your term, is a means to further expand our vocabulary by adapting what was foreign language into our own. And it is a good thing.

        I addressed cultural genocide in my comment because despite the direction this debate has taken, the initial question from Joost was the instances of historical events actually killing a nation. Now nation is a concept that far exceeds language - it also entails culture, history, people, and place. The instances when nation is systematically being killed, through killing the language, is commonly known as the cultural genocide - and some instances I provided, and added by Bryan and Marjorie above. However please do not confuse cultural genocide which is a conscious act of killing a nation through forced measures - to the mish-mashing language that young people do nowadays.
    • Jan 9 2014: Killing the language was an explicit policy of the "Indian Schools" run by the USA and Canada in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Children were compelled to speak English only and punished for using their own languages. The idea was to eradicate their cultures and replace it with "white" culture. However, as you note, this is very different from a natural economic lingua franca (like English today, French in earlier times, Greek earlier than that).
  • Jan 19 2014: I am Welsh and the English have tried for hundreds of years to kill my language. They have tried everything to stop
    us using it, even today they try to take over our villages and force us out. But we will not be forced to stop using our
    language. So I say if your language is strong then no they will not win.
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    Jan 15 2014: Hi Joost,
    I cannot think of any useful purpose in forcing anything on anyone.
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      Jan 20 2014: Well said, if you could only practice what you preach.....
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        Jan 20 2014: Have I ever tried to force anything on you Johnny Atman?
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    Jan 12 2014: i think that would be fairly accurate.

    i have read about colonists banning traditional music, dance, rituals and religions. they always managed to find a way back into peoples' lives albeit probably underground.

    i would think that a culture is most effectively expressed in its own language (as opposed to being lost in translation) so killing a language (which means discouraging its daily use) would have a profound effect on any culture and it's heritage.
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      Jan 12 2014: I agree. Speaking 3 languages (English, German, Portuguese) I am acutely aware of how I adopt a different way of thinking and a different mind-set, depending on the language I am engaging in.
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    R H

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    Jan 12 2014: I believe that there's ample evidence (here in the USA) to demonstrate that within roughly the 3rd or 4th generation of immigrant families, the 'native' language, culture, beliefs, rituals, values, mannerisms, dress, and relationship development patterns that were brought with the people when they came, can be completely dissipated, if not eradicated - except for token recognition on select 'holidays'. The newly adopted country becomes the identity. I believe this happens whether this 'immigration' is chosen freely or forced upon by conquest. Also, regarding language itself, there are concepts that are un-translatable between languages, so those concepts are lost when the language is lost. In the grand scheme of things, this makes us 'weaker' as a species as we begin to limit our ability to solve problems with an ever-shrinking view of life through the loss of those concepts lost by eradicated language - but that's just my take on it.
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      R H

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      Jan 12 2014: Your perception that the rational, or 'analytical', thinking expressed by certain dominant languages is incomplete in describing the totality of the human experience is very refreshing. There is a 'wholeness' of being - through knowing and sensitivity and experience and an as-of-yet 'indefinable' intelligence - that the rational mind/thinking/reality cannot explain, nor realize even exists. Your observation regarding 'problem-solving' capabilities being minimized by the loss of divergent languages was even more uplifting. As we become homogenized, we lose the very thing that makes us most successful - our diversity. Thank you for your comments.
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        Jan 20 2014: "There is a 'wholeness' of being ... that the rational mind/thinking/reality cannot explain, nor realize even exists."

        So we must rely on the "irrational mind" for explanations and "proof" of its "existence?"
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      Jan 12 2014: Hello Carolyn,
      The Dalai Lama is reported to have said: "The world will be saved by Western women". So I think the "divine feminine perspective" you mention may well be a perspective whose time has come.
      I think the current Patriarchal phase in history (started 6,000 years ago, as evidenced by the "male" version of God in the Old Testament) is coming to an end.
      Language, as a carrier of meaning, has a role to play in that. To what extent I am not sure, given the attempt to change culture through the use of "political correctness" in language.
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    Jan 11 2014: Nations are shackled by foolish leaders, lamb-brained followers, mediocrity and bad government policies.
    Languages are used for communication. Learning a new language does not neccesarily abort good thinking altogether. And good thinking is all a nation needs from leaders and followers alike.
    • Jan 11 2014: Nations are not countries. Nationhood has nothing to do with having "leaders", "followers", or "government".
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    Jan 9 2014: That's one way of if not killing but suppressing a nation. My nation has faced it & heroically fought to blunt that ill motivated plan of colonial invaders back in 1950s.
  • Jan 8 2014: We dont need "nations". We need "free" humans - no borders to stop us cause certain "nation"/group/band took control and block access to regional resources. If we are going to survive and continue human life on this planet is by common effort and not in separate groups/"nations".
    • Jan 8 2014: That's probably not a very good idea...
      When you shove large numbers people of different ethnic and religious groups into one nation/group, especially without asking them, the result is usually a violent civil war some time down the line. Look at Yugoslavia or Syria for recent examples.

      The only other way for this type of arrangement to work is with a strong, central dictatorship. Which is pretty much the opposite of what you're trying to achieve, if I understand you correctly.
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        Jan 8 2014: I agree, we don't need nations.
        but the only scenario in which a world without man made borders would exist is if all the races and languages amalgamate into one.
        Hopefully we would see that happen in the not too distant future.
      • Jan 9 2014: Do not ask. Give them options. Open the borders (just like birds can fly over with no stop) -
        humans will find their own way to connect and cooperate.
        • Jan 9 2014: More likely the mass migration of people from poor nations into rich ones will cause a massive spike in xenophobia, followed by the rich nations being not so rich anymore, and a lot less politically stable due to a huge influx of immigrants (there's a big difference between some immigration and a mountain of it).
          The poor nations on the other hand, will slump even further into poverty as they find themselves short of young men and women who would otherwise be part of the workforce.

          There's a reason the world's borders aren't that open. The disparity between rich and poor nations is simply too great to open the floodgates all at once--the resulting instability will do no one good.
      • Jan 9 2014: What in this context means by "poor" and "rich"?
        Do we have enouth resources on planet to feed, cloth and house every single human on planet or not?
        Do we have enouth resources on planet to bring everyone to the highest possible standard of living?

        By the way xenophobia appears to be less dangerous than global war.

        Before unification of USA states were at war and hate one with another. After - conflict resolved.
      • Jan 11 2014: Dictatorship is ONE way, not the only one.

        If you want a gradual easing of borders, the Euro plan seems to be working. Just because it encounters difficulties doesn't mean it won't work.

        There's enough work, food, housing, etc for all, so the possibility for a world Constitution and rule of law is possible. That's not a dictatorship.
    • Jan 9 2014: Having no nation, I think you focus more on a world without borders (no countries therefore). Nations will still exist until the world has been completely mixed - and maybe then still will exist. We might all end up with English (or another of the world's languages), we would still have a culture or we would have created a new culture containing mixes of other cultures. Also the location where you are will largely determine how your life will look like. For example the lifestyles of Saharan Africa or the Arctic Circle regions will always be different, and will therefore always be considered different nations.

      You're reference to the control and resources, this will always be difficult. 'Everybody equal' refers to communism - but that's quite out of the scope of this discussion.
      • Jan 9 2014: I wouldn't dare for such predictions since technology advances very fast and may change your environment in a blink of the eye. So your variables of today may be invalid tomorrow.

        No need "everybody equal" need "equal right to access resources".
      • Jan 11 2014: " Everybody equal' refers to communism - but that's quite out of the scope of this discussion. "

        If the public media were beholden to the people, not the oligarchs, the concept of equal opportunity wouldn't be scorned so much.

        Oh, wait! This media isn't controlled by the oligarchs, and the world is getting better!

        To those who can see the dawn...
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      Jan 10 2014: as per Joost's point above, we have nations whether we want them or not.
      • Jan 10 2014: It's only in our heads. We can forget it as soon as we decide to do so. U C - 12 guys from different countries trapped on one island - if they are going to survive all together - they have to unite - have to accept that they are humans and not to point to their differences to take advantage one of another. Less talk about nation and more about humanity/human.
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          Jan 12 2014: If only the world is as simple as 12 people in an island. But it's not, the world is thousands of islands with thousands of cultures and languages. Some place has got tons of oils but no water, others have got metals, others are rich with farming lands, some have nothing at all. A nation is an imagined community, but so is the world. We can't talk about improving humanity without understanding the setting where it all lies down to. Putting it out of context is simply a hypothetical argument that is in no way realistic when applied to the real situation.
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    Jan 21 2014: Might we strive for a compromise when it comes to language? Why must we accept a “zero sum game” with one “winner” and one “loser?” Prior to her point regarding "killing language," Ms. Talhouk cites the example of the esteemed poet, Khalil Gibran, observing that, “Mastery of other languages demands a mastery of the mother tongue.” This is the opposite of a call to remain monolingual. Can we not each live as bilingual—one tongue that unites us, and the other that makes us culturally distinct?
  • Jan 20 2014: Yes and No. Korean Peninsula had wars, occupation, Political division. Korean language still remains intact as well Korean culture.
  • Jan 20 2014: Let me offer the itemized answer to the question on the effect of an imposed language on a nation's culture and tradition:
    1. The imposition of a different language certainly will be harmful to the nation's culture and tradition which are the national pride and self esteem of it's citizens. However, the word "kill" is a little bit exaggerated, the national pride is a much strong emotion that is not so easily destroyed completely. This is particularly true with the sentiment of them vs us for the people who are being imposed upon.
    2. There are peculiar cases of self-imposed evolution of a language by the nation's own leaders or scholars. For example, the Japanese language was originated from the Chinese, started only with a few sound/words related to the "dialect" of the local inhabitants. The pronunciation for this "dialect" was then alphabetized into the Japanese alphabets.
    This arrangement also resembles the Korean and Vietnamese language. However, the recent development in Japanese undergoes a very different route than the others, in that when the Japan open its market to the West economies. The Japanese scholars took the quick path by "translating" ALL the science and technology terms by simply mimic the pronunciation; e. g. the word radio is spoken as "rah-ji-o" in Japanese. (probably happened 100+ years ago). Besides the loss of cultural identity, these changes also make the language quite difficult to learn because the student there must know quite a bit of both the Chinese and English construction principle in order to make the inference of words within each of the (foreign) languages. As most of you probably know that the word connection and links are different in Chinese (pictorial) and English (subgroup components) links.
    3.The language difference is not the only factor for the mutual hostility and competition of humans. The hostility or conflict long existed among people,from neighboring villages, who speak the same language and with the same culture.
  • Jan 16 2014: Languages are tied to the cultures and experiences of the people they represent. So when a language is essentially killed or taken over by another language, the people of that culture will lose the connection to the history that the language represents.
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    Kant B

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    Jan 15 2014: I think that we should keep our languages alive because it is a part of our history.
    I will take the example of Past African civilizations which disappeared after war and colonisation. They had efficient medicine we've lost.
    Asian people growth with their culture and now we can see the result , They handle easily many diseases we feared.
    Languages are part of this culture we have the obligation to protect it.
    It's an exemple between thousand ..look around ..
  • Jan 14 2014: Language is the framework upon which we base our thinking upon. The eskimos have m, many words to describe snow/ice. Similarly, most polynesian language have many words to describe the state of the sea and sky.

    Both the US and Australia tried to destroy the languages of the American Indians and the Aborigines by force moving children into schools where only English was taught and spoken. Check out the "Rabbit Proof Fence" if you are interested in this effort. It continued into the 20th century in both countries.
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      Jan 15 2014: I hope all languages are abandoned with the exception of one universal language.

      I do not particularly care which language becomes the universal one, however I hope it is the most efficient and effective one.

      Communication is fundamental if "we" are to exist.
      • Jan 15 2014: My concern would be the loss of human cultures with the disappearance of the languages.
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          Jan 15 2014: From a luxury point of view I can definitely appreciate that concern. Culture is very much an art form with nuances that make each beautiful and valuable for its own sake.

          That said, is it to be admired more for its form, or its function, and why?
      • Jan 15 2014: By culture, I do not just mean art, I mean their history, the very being of a people - eventually they may not even appear in the history books - maybe it is right, I think it is wrong to forget where you have come from.
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          Jan 16 2014: I believe it is far more important to keep your eyes on the road you are on, and the road ahead, than in the rear view mirror, when it comes to "function."

          This world we are in is all about function. No longer is survival about growing food or hunting game. Instead, we need to be sharp versatile multipurpose tools in a corporate toolbox. Our usefulness = our job security. Our job security = our ability to feed and look after ourselves and our families.

          Hordes of people live @ or below the poverty line enduring great suffering. Will knowing Aztec (for example) feed them? or empower them? I find this unlikely. Yet .. many people have limited resources. Governments, have limited resources. Most or many countries, are multicultural today.

          Shall we have our governments spend precious resources ensuring that every culture that goes into making up a multicultural society be properly funded, protected and represented especially in language?

          In a multicultural country shall we set one or two cultures above all others as gods, while we tramp the others under foot like so many grapes? Where is that line? Currently the line is the most powerful culture subjugates the rest. I cannot recall having met a person who speaks Aztec, nor imagine how far that would put them ahead of someone who speaks Somali.

          I can imagine how a person speaking say English, a language of business spoken in every country of the world, could be very advantageous.

          We so often here People aching for their desire for equality.

          We will not achieve equality until we give up our differences.

          It is not our differences that makes a people one, it is what we share in common, that starts with the ability to communicate and that is language.

          Forget where you came from, that your people and my people once were enemies because a hungry child stole a goat. Join hands and let us brave the future as brothers and sisters, one people, one language, one future.
      • Jan 17 2014: Martin,

        Lets replace Aztec with German because the German language no longer exists in the future. Are you ok with the statements with this substitution?
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          Jan 17 2014: Yes.

          A language to communicate with each other is a necessity.
          Anything beyond that point is a luxury.

          At what point would we deem it wise to put a luxury ahead of a necessity?

          Would you rather speak 5 languages on an empty belly or would you rather speak one language and have a full belly?

          With a world filled with starving people and drowning in poverty where should we put our priorities?
      • Jan 18 2014: Martin,

        Thanks - think I understand your point of view.
  • Jan 12 2014: To @Dewi Barnas - Is as simple and 7 billion humans one one rock flying in the darkness of space. And is also not that complicated for human brain to bridge differences (for "how?" see "Nationalism" helps only a very small group of people to gain control on all others by dividing them in more small groups than "humanity" or "earthlings" and as result to get bigger piece of available resources. See - for an example of vision upon holistic way of resource management.
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    Jan 12 2014: Without verbal language there is body language, so there still would be some way to survive, and even if there was not any language, humans still have one vital attribute for their survival, which is the will to survive. All though it would be more difficult to survive with a lack of communication, I wouldn't see it being impossible. I know this may not be the best example, but prehistoric life had no language. Their main reason to survive was to hunt, and mate, and they got along swimmingly until he environmental change, but even language can not prevent environmental change.
    All though it would not kill us, I do not think that language should be taken away, because it would effect our lives in a negative way. Language in a way forces us to use oar common sense, it teaches us things that we wouldn't otherwise know if it weren't for language, and it helps us to interact with each other in a way that otherwise wouldn't be possible. It really brings people together.
  • Jan 12 2014: Taking a few examples show the weakness of the argument. Ataturk changed the script from Arabic to Latin, which has done nothing to weaken Turkish. Parsi (Farsi) was nearly wiped out by conquest and replaced with Arabic, but Furadsi and others were able to reestablish Farsi as the dominant language after 150 years of linguistic and cultural assault. But only partially the script is Arabic as is some 40-50% of the vocabulary.

    For Suzanne Talhouk, to talk about Arabic as the indigenous language is bizarre. Her ancestors (or the majority of them) spoke Kna'ani, only to be slowly replaced by Aramaic in the 7-6th century BC, to then be replaced by Greek some 400 years later, and then by Arabic in the 7th cent CE. Although Aramaic still is found in the liturgy (mainly among the Maronites) and in the spoken language, e.g., aiwya for yes.

    As far as preservation, it is a joke, since the written language is standard and has not evolved, and serves as a religious as well as an imperial language. And there is no, nor can there be a standard for the spoken language, since each region/dialect/subset will guard its own accent/style/and words. Tell a Moroccan that his Arabic is incorrect. Just make sure that he is unarmed when you make that assertion. Likewise tell an Egyptian that ghein is pronounced with a Gh sound and not a Rr, or it is Jamal not Gamal. There are a lot of possible responses, none of them good or nice.
  • Jan 11 2014: I don't think language can be separated from the other components of culture. They are all too interlinked to be truly separate. Forcing anything upon another culture harms that culture. Cultures that choose what to bring in or leave out continue to thrive. Look at any culture in the world from let's say 1960. Today that culture may have the same name, but will look much different than it did in 1960 because of the decisions that culture has made. When a culture is forced to change things, it loses its identity and becomes absorbed by the forcing culture.
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    Gord G

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    Jan 11 2014: Gday Joost, you must have a strong sense of the power of acculturation. Australia is well known for the issues connected with immigrant populations and the effects of lost languages of indigenous cultures.

    Canada has the same issues.

    I think the lose of language is one of many deficits of a subjugated culture. I think the biggest impact is the separation from the elders in the culture. The individuals who maintain the stories that inform and enrich the nation.

    That said, the history of the world has always been a story of subjugation...conquest. It's only in very recent times that the world has become aware of the limiting nature of aggression.

    So my thought on your question...

    Force is never positive.
  • Jan 10 2014: I don't think she was simply referring to any nation, but especially the Arab countries. Arabic is a very powerful and all-embracing language. For example, the word 'Sabr' can't be simply translated by 'patience'. It is in fact a passive action that signifies multiple ideas like patience, perseverance, endurance. It's basically a concept to remain spiritually steadfast.
    By simply replacing these Arabic words with a very wide rang by using plain English words, we Arabs would maybe lose a lot of the accompanied empathy that comes with these words.
    For that matter, Suzanne Talhouk highlighted the fact of preferring using loanwords than the use of difficult and unnecessary notions, like the use of the word 'Internet' in the Arabic language instead of the Arabic equivalent.
    I think she didn't do such a bad speech. Maybe she could have given more concrete examples, like the 'freedom, liberty and independance' example, but all by all she did a good job! She transmitted this idea that has been prevailing a long time in the Arab linguistic world.
    • Jan 10 2014: In such a case, one would correctly translate "Sabr" as "spiritual steadfastness" and no "patience". Translation is not a matter of single-word for single-word correspondence. What one language has a "word" for, another uses a phrase. Many people have a thoroughly bone-headed misunderstanding of translation and of language in general. That one language has a single "word" to refer to something that another language requires a phrase to refer to in no way makes the former language "superior" to the latter in terms of that concept, only that the first language's history happened to have a need to refer to that concept in a particularly compact manner.
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      Jan 11 2014: The Arab-speaking countries are a good example of a language (Arabic) being forced on indigenous populations. Along with the loss of their native languages, the nations conquered and colonized by the Arabs were pressured into Arab customs and religion, and they certainly lost a lot of their national identities, replacing these with pan-Arab identity. A good deal of national identity was recovered after the retreat of the Arab empires, but the loss of their languages is permanent.

      But this is how language changes. Anglo-Saxon was lost in Britain when the French invaded in 1066. And Anglo-Saxon was itself the language of invaders. The Indians of the Americas have functionally lost several hundred languages in favor of Spanish, English, Portuguese and French. But again, this welter of Indian languages had developed from a few (even just one?) core languages in the space of a few thousand years. So is there a gain when one or a few languages fractionate into hundreds?

      Language is a means for separation as much as for communication. Where a need for a separate identity is strongly felt, resistance to "pollution" of the language may be strong. But there is no "unpolluted" language (in spite of the efforts of the Academie Francaise), and there is no perfected or unchanging language. It's perfectly normal for a language to take in foreign words. I'd estimate that most languages are made up mostly of "foreign" words. So relax about our languages taking in borrowed terms. It doesn't hurt a bit.
      • Jan 11 2014: Anglo-Saxon was not lost. There is far more "Anglo-Saxon" in modern English than there is from any other language.

        Let me illustrate from the above sentence. Here are all the "Anglo-Saxon" words:

        Anglo-Saxon was not lost. There is far more "Anglo-Saxon" in --- English than there is from any other ---.

        Here are all the non-"Anglo-Saxon" words:

        ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... modern ... ... ... ... ... ... language.

        If I wanted to eliminate those words, I could write the sentence as:

        Anglo-Saxon was not lost. There is far more "Anglo-Saxon" in today's English than there is from any other tongue.
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          Jan 11 2014: You've misunderstood me, Bryan. I wasn't talking about Anglo-Saxon words, but about the A-S language as it existed. There are of course a great number of words derived from A-S in English, just as there are many derived from French. (About 40 percent are from French.) But we don't speak French, and we don't speak the Anglo-Saxon language. We wouldn't understand much of A-S if we heard it spoken, because the pronunciation would be as different from ours as the French words we've appropriated are from ours. Not to mention that A-S grammar would be unrecognizable to us. I'm afraid the "Anglo-Saxon" sentence you wrote isn't real Anglo-Saxon. The word "Anglo-Saxon" for example, isn't Anglo-Saxon. It's true that A-S words live on, if in a different dress; but I'm afraid that as a language Anglo-Saxon is gone.
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    • Jan 10 2014: It has nothing to do with the language. One might as well blame the existence of scales for body image problems or blame rocks if someone picks one up and bashes in a head with it. Too much superstition leads to blaming the tools for human behavior.
  • Jan 10 2014: She seems to be extreme or biased, but actually she said distinctly that it would be absurd to exclude words like the Internet or computer from one's language because their are not invented in the same language community ( and everybody knows French and Spanish created their own words referring to computer). In fact, in 2/3 hundred years many languages will disappear and the guilty is not English. By that I mean we absolutely require in a global world a global language not only for our economy, but also for the improvement of our humanity: we need to preserve our own language, and TED is a proof. As we can see, and this is more relevant, is that a lot of translations are available, because this is the kind of communication which is recommended to spread. Tolerate other is the way to underpin an interconnected society likely to accept each of us, and I have to acknowledge that sometimes the presence of English can be considered intrusive in situations such as that one described by her. The problem must always be attempted in a perspective which first of all regards the use of language humans make not the language itself. Ricoeur, a french philosopher, used to say that translation is an ethic challenging due to the fact you have to be open-minded to understand not the language but the world surrounding the community of people who speak that language. As a matter of fact, some languages encompass concepts that others don't, therefore our spirit as an individual and as a part of group needs desperately a big effort towards the simple act of getting to know. To summarize, if her talk has developed a sense of self-cultivation of a culture, I am very sorry but if it has promoted a better feeling to take care of one's own language without being against another I am delighted to suggest her talk
    • Jan 10 2014: If one is going to take that silly attitude (of hers), then we must IMMEDIATELY BAN the words "internet" and "computer" from English, since THEY ARE NOT OF ENGLISH ORIGIN!
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    Jan 10 2014: It did sort of send the original American nations into oblivion. Mezo American tribes were taught Spanish and the northern tribes, English and French. Language is a basis for culture and once it's gone, the rest is not far behind.
  • Jan 9 2014: The language is not the only product of a nation , the culture also includes many aspects . Maybe the culture is the soul of a nation ,eliminating the culture is a horrible thing .Forcing the language for many years may function just like eliminating the culture .We can learn another language but we should cling to our own culture including the native language .
  • Jan 9 2014: when the European Union members come together for conference,they usually have so many translators to translate among different languages. Most of those Union Officials can speak English,but they don't, instead,they hire a lot of translators,very expensive ones. As a result, it costs them billions of European Dollars. Does our communication have to cost that much? Where does that amount of money come from? I guess it's the tax payers' money!

    One of the pathetic thing is that we have so many languages to learn,which makes communication so expensive. People have a choice,which is to pick a easy language that can be commonly accepted and quickly picked up as a common language,or we can just speak different languages and cut ourselves off the whole world.
  • Jan 9 2014: if a nation means its people,than you simply take away their human rights,that will kill the nation,that aside,nothing can,language is a means of recording information and expressing ideas,it's for communication largely! For me,i would not be so foolish to think of a language as a whole nation and see killing a language as killing a nation.

    Imagine USA as a miniature of the whole world, it has a combination of different ethnic groups and different culture. It proves that people from different cultural background and race can actually live together with causing any severe conflict and in the mean times speaking the same language!

    Those who goes for protecting a language perhaps do not understand the basic meaning of a language.Language,since its invention,has been serving one of the most basic and important purpose,which is communication! It is the isolation the cause different languages to exist! But our way of recording the information could never change.

    not unless people can come up with a way to learn English really fast and still keep their own mother tongue perfectly, most of the people don't want to spent that amount of time on studying a new language. For those who speak English as a second language,like me,still can not express an idea or a thought quite clearly,so are most of the non native English speaker out there. So,there never has been an effective way to communicate if there is no common language. Killing a language somehow it's inevitable,you have to give up something to achieve something else.

    For the anti-globalization people,they want languages to be different,the more different languages out there,the better. But nobody wants to carry a translator with them all the time when they travel or on business trip to other countries! I don't see killing a language is killing a nation,the process of global village is a process of eliminating small languages,to narrow them down to one or several big languages.
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    Jan 8 2014: What are the components of 'nationhood'? (Englishman living in Portugal married to a German {who was brought up in the Middle East}, speaking all 3 languages but whose ancestors were of Gaelic/Scottish & Welsh origin).
    • Jan 9 2014: If you take the definition of a nation, it actually does not always take into account the borders we are used to when talking about a country. A nation is defined by a group of people who have common descent, history, culture or language.

      You bring up an interesting example which happens more often: the mixing of people of different nations. Will people who choose this, mix with culture and eventually associate themselves with the nation they reside in, or will they become a 'global nation', which could be defined by a nation in which all of its contents are 'mixed'?
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        Jan 10 2014: Hi Joost,
        Good question. I think we are very slowly moving towards a situation where people's sense of identity is more related to internal factors than to external factors. In other words, the more in depth we have undergone the personal inner journey and test of "know thyself", the less important are external factors such as geography, culture and language, etc.
  • Jan 8 2014: In most parts of the world, English is rapidly spreading as a second language to be used when necessary, and is nowhere near capable of displacing people's first language. So, no threat at all, really; beneficial if anything.

    As for historical events, military invasion and cultural suppression is hardly the same thing as forcing people to learn another language. Those can kill a nation just fine, but its a very different process.
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    Jan 8 2014: Good question. Jared Diamond talks about the intersection of language and culture in his new book "the world until yesterday." He cites some interesting data on how when cultures are able to retain there language even if they intergrate a meta languge, such as English they fare better than cultures who assimilate a languge without retaining their langauge. I feel it is important to realize language has so much cultural knowledge ingrain in it. Any culture is bigger than any one can really fatham and to me at least language is the best way to articulate a culture. Art can maybe express a culure moe vividly though.

    As we become more globalized through technology I don't see how the dominant language, English, Mandarin, Farsi, Espanol will increase. At the same time human have an inate capasity to learn languges. We should encourage people to cherish their languge as they would any multigeneration art project. After all what is really the point of globalization if we assimilate every culture we come into contact with?
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    Jan 8 2014: Languages have always changed and culture always evolves. Just because people adopt a new language and modify their culture a little (or a lot) doesn't mean they are dead.
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    • Jan 9 2014: The English language is not analytical, it is synthetic. It assembles new meanings from around the world and incorporates so much. Europe's mythology has a strong "feminine" aspect--it just isn't given much attention in popular works. Fortunately, scholars have "rediscovered" it in the past century. As for your use of English to denounce English, and given your name, An bhfuil Gaeilge agat? Ta/ beaga/ini/n Gaeilge agam.
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        • Jan 9 2014: That is not English's fault. The English language does not force anyone to ignore its rich traditions of emotion and experience. One might as well say that a knife forces someone to commit murder instead of making a salad.
        • Jan 11 2014: Carolyn-

          I sense more feminism in your comments than interest in the weakening of culture.

          I'd say there are cultures growing, and cultures shrinking. Why the assumption that all new cultures are bad? And all old cultures good?
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    Jan 7 2014: Forcing Language upon a nation can strip a nation of its identity, and I guess that can be synonymous with killing in a way. When a people looses their Identity, then they also lose their sense of direction and purpose. A life without purpose is a life not worth living.
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      Jan 7 2014: If you loose your will to live when your national identity evolves, then you're probably a fascist.
      • Jan 9 2014: National identity has nothing to do with political systems. A nation can exist without having its own government. A nation is a cultural construct, not a political one. Americans, being quite ignorant of what constitutes a nation, think that "nation" means "country". No country is a nation, although some nations have their own countries.
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          Jan 10 2014: I think Hitler would agree that a Nation is a cultural construct. So do I, but I think it's a bad thing to be reluctant to change, unlike him.
        • Jan 11 2014: Bryan,

          Thanks for the reminder that nation and country have actual meanings, frequently conflated.