TED Conversations

Hugo Wagner

Graduate Student - Mechanical Engineering, UC Berkeley


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Is our destiny to be one world with one language?

Are we heading towards a world with one common language?
If you think so, do you believe that it will happen naturally (because globalization requires it) or because of one country's leading "soft power"?
Would it enhance international cooperation and promote better understanding between countries?

On the other hand, what would it mean for human cultures and civilizations?


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    Aug 3 2011: Brilliant inquiry. I've always said that language is an access, but at the same time it could also be a barrier. It could definitely enhance or benefit international cooperation, but on the other hand, it could also create great mis-communication between communities. Where there is language, there is culture. And just because there is one language, it doesn't mean there is only one culture. Look at the U.S. as an example--even though English is the primary language, there are many cultures within that language. And within each culture, there are sets of languages. So just because an engineer is speaking English it doesn't mean that I know what he's talking about or that I understand the engineering culture.

    However, the beauty of living in the U.S. is that I could live harmoniously within various cultures and languages. There are laws that protect culture and language. Granted we have a lot more work to do--but we've come a long way.

    I use to think that language is the answer to it all--war, poverty, conflict, etc.--but the more I explore language, the more it becomes prevalent that it's not that simple. How can we all share a single language while preserving culture?
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      Aug 4 2011: Hi Ranny! Thanks for your reply. I think you've raised an excellent question: if we can become one global village with one language, it doesn't necessarily mean that each house of the village has to be painted in a single color...
      But it does mean that the inhabitants will have to respect their neighbor's affinity for one exotic color.
      I also tend to believe that if we want to be able to share a single language while preserving cultures, we need to decide now to preserve languages while sharing a global culture. And by global culture, I mean a culture of cultures -- not a melting pot of every culture (which leads to a predominance of the more popular one), but an acknowledgment of what each one of these cultures brought to the world.
      So, if we need to ensure preservation, we may need rules, which leads to the underlying question of the debate: will it be (one of) the role(s) of a global governance?

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