Hugo Wagner

Graduate Student - Mechanical Engineering, UC Berkeley

This conversation is closed.

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 4 2011: I am a big fan of keeping all the languages and simply inventing the Star Trek 'Universal Translator'. I think we would lose too much in uniformity.
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      Aug 5 2011: My sister, who is a translator, doesn't believe that it would be possible, saying the translation depends on some things that can't be generated by algorithms... But, I've met a guy who is working on that kind of technology at an institute in Germany :D
      • Aug 5 2011: Wouldn't such a device be made possible by incorporating a sensor array which could recognize and factor in things like location, facial features, pigmentation, body language (perhaps even facial and voice recognition across a network) ect.? It would of course require a very large, reliable and accurate database.
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          Aug 6 2011: Sklyar! thanks for embracing the fun behind the idea. Yes, all of these things are quite possible and many of the devices that we thought impossible that were originally seen in Sci Fi have become realities- like communicators = cell phones.
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          Aug 6 2011: I think it's possible, at least for everyday conversation, but translating poetry is something else. I'll give another reference to star track :D There's an episode where they find a planet with no music, but the "people" are fascinated with mathematics. The bold doctor gives them classical music, and they instantly start making new compositions with their computers. But the doctor is disappointed because there is no "poetry" in that kind of computer generated music.
          It's like google translator :) almost never gets the point :P
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          Aug 7 2011: I think all it would require is, like you say, a sensor array.. but it would probably only need to understand context. For example, the word shalom is often incorrectly translated into the English word "Peace"... although in Hebrew it does mean "Peace", it also has other meanings (such as "oneness" and "completeness") - hence to say shalom can be a form of blessing, that you wish the person to be at peace with God, as in be kept united with God.
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          Aug 8 2011: Marija! I loved your response! I remember that episode vaguely. Perhaps it highlights that we can move forward with technology but that the human touch will always be needed. Your point about poetry is profoundly true!
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          Aug 9 2011: what about putting all the money on training people to learn many languages rather than spending on development of ultimate translation robot? :)
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      Aug 7 2011: COMPLETELY and utterly agree, although maybe the Star Trek translator theory could be slightly debated upon :P
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        Aug 8 2011: Debate Star Trek and its view of the future? It sounds like fun Julian!
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        Aug 9 2011: A translation robot is really not what we need. People talk in the dark, they talk when their hands are full, they talk with their words and their tone of voice and their expressions altogether.
        We all have 100 hours to learn Esperanto (actually the lessons take about 12 hours- the rest is integrating what you know and practicing, to make it your own). Then we have a comfortable language for everyone who doesn't happen to share our mother tongue.
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          Aug 10 2011: Hi Penelope, when I was in highschool there was an Esperanto club and that was almost 40 years ago. If Esperanto is going to take off- it is taking its time!
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    Aug 8 2011: While one billion people remain illiterate, often from ethnic minorities or even majorities, often in Africa, live on one dollar a day, we need to propose the logical solution to multilingualism: maintain mother language instruction as the UN and UNESCO prescribe and the planned international second language, Esperanto.
    www.EnglishTeachersforEsperanto.blogspot.com
    www.EsperantoFriends.blogspot.com
    www.Esperanto-un.org
  • Aug 7 2011: Would a world with _one_ language also be a case of Chimamanda Adichie's "The danger of a single story", when we lose different languages to look at things with?

    It's one thing to only have different words, maybe different sentences - but different languages almost force a different way of thinking...
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      Aug 7 2011: I absolutely agree. Learning a new language can be like seeing the world through a new pair of eyes.
    • Aug 8 2011: Really .......
      ?????????
      PLEASE tell me when did mark say "NO OTHER Languages " HE DIDNT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      he said we should work on the ability to communicate how hopless are we when those that do speak english dont actually understand the words that came out of MARKS mouth !!!!!!
      He said one language to communicate not abolish the others which would harm culture and encourage dementia in older people he only said we should have the option to communcate without a generic one mandatory language AMOUNG THE OTHER LANGUAGES for dummies that need every wrod spelled out for them.!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      • Aug 8 2011: Sure he wasn't asking for that - but think about it from another way - how is this going to continue?

        If everyone spoke English (plus _maybe_ another language or two), you don't think that over time the other languages would fade into obscurity? And the more other languages fall out of use, the more you end up with 'one language'.

        If you think it would be enough that he didn't say 'no other languages!' - then surely, the world must be in a great place, with got knows how many languages. But - languages are dying out already, even before Mark started calling out for 'one language'. Sure, it's simple enough to say they're little used languages anyway, and probably not much of a loss. But to do that, we also have to make ourselves judges of what languages and language idioms are good -- again, leading a path to less diversity.

        One more point - I don't mind arguing with you or anyone, but do you think it helps any discussion to 'SHOUT' or imply other people in the discussion are 'dummies'?

        Surely, my English is far from perfect - I may lose a thing or two in translation or miss a word in a spoken sentence, because I can't look it up without breaking the flow of the spoken word. And in a similar way, it may also be that anything I write might not be quite up to your standards. Still, assuming that if someone says something you don't like, that they must be 'at fault'. Much like you assumed that I wouldn't have understood, I assumed it would be obvious what I meant, when - unfortunately - it wasn't.
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    Aug 5 2011: Language and culture are no mutually separate thing, they rely on one another to be broadened.

    Looking at the few remaining "primitive" or isolated tribes left in the world, a fascinating perspective has arisen from studying their language. Basically language is a contributing factor to culture, and vice versa. The way we use words and what emotions get attached to those words in social circles and in educations... make those words more than just words but symbols.

    EX: 4 = Four
    EX: >(Fish) = Jesus, Pisces, water, etc.

    How we visualize a word, matters in the emphasis we place on the meaning. A similar idea is how we actually READ WORDS... We do not read each individual letter, no, we count, size-up, and analyze as we see if the letter "aligns" up to our memory.

    http://www.microsoft.com/typography/ctfonts/WordRecognition.aspx

    Now, the question.

    IF societies decides to settle their superficial differences of current cultural religions, trends and rituals, there would be a hand full of language in a matter of a few decades.

    We will have one language? No, because there is definitely life out there, and to make strange aliens learn our jargon without learning their jargon, there are going to be disputes.

    On the topic of language there is a new considered formula to learning languages much quicker.

    Basically, by teaching you all the most commonly used words of that language, basic questions and letter emphasis... you will pick the language much faster when practicing the basics to get from point A to B. Which is really the best way to pick up a language, is when you NEED to.

    Anyways. If the worlds cultures start to blend, so will the languages.
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      Aug 7 2011: As a lover of language, that article is practically orgasmic.
  • Aug 4 2011: I hope not.

    As a non-native speaker, I love English and the fact that you can be understood speaking English in most parts of the world.

    But would I want English as the only language? ...or another? ...or my native language (German)?

    No. Definitely not.

    Only having a single language, has advantages for travelling around the world. On the other hand, speaking multiple languages is something enriching in most other contexts. Your language limits what you are able to think - even having to translate between two languages can sometimes give you insights, you might not have otherwise.
    When I learnt English in school (6 years), in the beginning, we had to get our head around the differences between 'to see' and 'to watch' - in Germany, we 'see TV', in English you 'watch TV'. We have multiple words for seeing/watching, but we don't really make a difference between them, while there is one for English speakers.
    On the other hand, when my English girlfriend was studying philosophy, when we discussed things, she was intrigued that we have two different words for knowledge: Kennen (knowledge based on experience) and Wissen (knowledge derived from learning). In English, you have the words 'morals' and 'ethics' - but they're interchangeable. In Germany, they're mostly not - ethics is the philosophical ethics, morals are based on tradition. "Double standards" in German are "double morals" (Doppelmoral), but there is no real concept of "double ethics" - given that a lot of double morals tend to stem from organically grown 'traditions'. For English speakers, those kinds of divisions might seem as unneccessary as the watching/seeing difference would seem to Germans - but having those differrences makes you think different about various issues.

    Thinking different _can_ be the root of problems, but thinking different is also, what makes progress.

    Was it Wittgenstein who said:

    The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
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    Aug 3 2011: I don't believe that having one language will "cure" disunity amongst cultures/countries. We need to celebrate our differences, it is what makes us human...through respect and dialogue we can cultivate our compassion and understanding to create a peaceful harmony with one another.
    • Aug 5 2011: Why is it exactly that we should celebrate our differences? I've grown used to taking the phrase "X is what makes us human" as a sign of unfounded confidence in one's own opinion.

      Once you look at it rationally, I think it should be clear to most people that differences in culture and language will gradually diminish. That's not a bad thing. It's just darwinism catching hold on culture - outdated culture, outdated social constructs will get deconstructed when they're useless to the current generation. Trying to promote diversity of culture is a way of trying to stop progress and trying to hold on to the past.
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        Aug 5 2011: My mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, sums it up best: "People can only live fully by helping others to live. Cultures can only realize their further richness by honoring other traditions. And only by respecting natural life can humanity continue to exist. "

        How often do you feel that you aren't good enough? How many times have you felt that because of who you are, you won't be able to succeed or because of your background or lifestyle you won't be accepted? Most people feel this way at one time or another. When we are faced with an obstacle or challenge, our insecurities rise up within us. Some of this fear is of being different, but what is important is how we express our differences and how we accept others' differences.

        Diversity is one of the greatest gifts the world has to offer. What kind of world would this be if we were all the same—if we all thought the same, dressed the same, acted the same? There would be little or no growth in society because no fresh ideas would be expressed. How would we learn and develop? SGI President Daisaku Ikeda says, "Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism deeply respects each person's individuality, situation and character and shows the way to display one's particular abilities to the fullest" (Selected Lectures on the Gosho, vol. 1, p. 154).

        Nichiren Daishonin expresses in his writings that "Cherry, plum, peach or apricot blossoms - all, just as they are, are entities possessing their own unique qualities". (Gosho Zenshu, p. 784.)

        Everyone has a specific role to play in society. Furthermore, each individual human life has a different set of experiences to bring to the table. My faith has taught me that all things have a unique beauty and mission. Every person has a singular mission, his or her individuality and way of life. That is the natural order of things. Our mission as humans is discovering what that role is and challenging ourselves to go beyond our limitations.
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        Aug 5 2011: Accordingly, you must bloom in the way that only you can. Without a doubt you possess your own jewel, your own innate talent inside of you. The question is: How can you discover that talent? The only way is to exert yourself to the very limits of your ability. Your true potential will emerge when you give everything you have to your studies or sports or whatever you are engaged in.

        President Ikeda explains further, "'To become inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim' is to realize that our existence flourished within, and even depends on, the beautiful tapestry of human relationships woven together with the people around us" (Selected Lectures on the Gosho, vol. 1, p. 155).
        • Aug 5 2011: I think we may have had a misunderstanding. When you said "we have to celebrate our differences", I thought you meant that we should hold on to the differences in our cultures (language, traditions), with the reasoning that only these differences truly define who we are. Though I myself don't have the kinds of insecurities you describe anymore (I consider myself to have grown past the opinion that I have to be the best at everything - it's enough if I do all I can possibly do and give my best to make my life a positive sum game and be a net gain for humanity).

          I can only agree with most of the things you said in response to my comment: diversity in character and personality must be allowed to flourish, and today's society has too many restrictions, too many social rules that trap people in roles that don't fit them.

          The point I was trying to make was that we should not hold on to old traditions and cultural legacy because it will only hinder cooperation and communication between humans in the future. Humanity has always been a species that has considered itself divided by some arbitrary quality (be that race, nationality, language or cultural heritage), and nowadays, with the dawn of a truly free and anonymous global communications system we can see the walls between different groups vanishing, crumbling away as we read the blogs and comments from people all over the world. We're finally starting to realize that geographic separation doesn't mean inherent incompatibility on a personal level.
        • Aug 5 2011: You could go out there right now and find as many people who agree or disagree with you on a certain issue in your neighborhood as you could find on any Persian or Chinese blog, and the internet and the English language are giving us the tools to finally realize that we're all interconnected. Having a universal language will inevitably lead to us having a universal tool of communication and a universal culture, which will be the true beginning of a global community of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.

          What I don't understand is why certain cultures desperately try to hold on to their current ideas of identity. To give an example: the Welsh language is desperately trying to keep itself alive. The older generation is trying to preserve the dying language by encouraging youths to use the language in everyday life. Tell me: what do you think would be the point of preserving a language, or a dance, or a traditional dress, or a social convention, when it is at the brink of natural extinction? Traditions are anachronisms, they get forgotten or replaced by practices that fit the times better. That's how it has always been. It's my humble opinion that holding on to and not questioning traditions is the best way of stopping progress - in fact, it's the only way of stopping progress that's ever been used and, on a global scale, has never been of any use.

          I'd also like to mention that I do not believe that any person has a destiny he or she is supposed to fulfill, or a mission. I believe that the only one there is to give life a meaning is the person itself. Everyone must define his or her own mission, forge his/her own destiny, and not accept that there is such a thing as fate. There is no one "out there" to guide us, and it's our own job to decide what we do with the precious short time we have in this universe.
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        Aug 5 2011: I think this conversation is a really great example of how two people who are speaking the same language are still having having a lack of understanding of what the other person means by what they say.

        I think the bigger issue for the time that we currently live in is how the internet/digitized communications has depersonalized human interaction and the effects that has on life and society.

        Some thoughts in response to your most recent post:

        Do you know for sure that we have a short time in this Universe? Yes, to live for 80-100 years in a given time on Earth seems short in the greater scheme of the "timeline" of the Universe, but do you have any solid proof that our "existence" stops when our Earthly bodies die?

        Furthermore, when someone declares a mission for their life, does that not supply a mission to be fulfilled?

        If someone attaches meaning of importance of a Welsh dance in their life, is that unacceptable? If a group of people who have a list of reasons for why they enjoy their Welsh dance, choose to continue practicing it, and share that happiness it brings them with their family and friends get together to promote it - who has the right to judge them for that?

        Just because you don't have the same fears and insecurities that you did in the past, you still at one time had them. And, there are probably millions of people in the world who have not evolved from the same fears and insecurities.

        Holding on to something that has a defined importance in one's life will only hinder growth if they allow it to.
        • Aug 5 2011: You think the internet and digital communities have dehumanized communication and interaction? Then why are you here? Do you not think that it's human to want to connect to as many people as possible? Do you not think it's human to try to exchange ideas and opinions? How exactly has the technology that has connected the whole globe, from where ever you are to where ever I am, allowing near-instantaneous interaction between anyone in the world, dehumanized us? If anything, it's told us that we're all of the same breed, that these things we like to point out as differences aren't actually important differences at all, and that no matter where we grow up, what religion, culture or language we get taught, we're all humans and are capable of caring for and loving each other.

          I beg of you - let's not turn this into a religious debate. They never end well with me. Usually it ends up with both conversation partners getting angry at each other and stomping off in opposing directions. This conversation was created with another topic in mind, and derailing the thread would be disrespectful to the original poster. Let me just state my opinion: I'm an extremely militant atheist. I don't believe in gods or any supernatural things, (or free will to be honest on an abstract level). In my opinion, the only thing that has ever guided the universe is the laws of physics (and maybe the identity of P and NP). I don't believe in afterlife, heaven or hell. I do however believe in the beauty of the cosmos and the grandness of the scheme that is humanity, and that humanity is capable of so much more than what's happening on the earth right now.
          If you want to talk about spirituality or religion, you're of course free to take it up with me and email me about the topic, as long as we agree to remain civil and rational.

          Yes, a self-defined mission is a mission just fine. I was merely trying to comment on the concept of predetermined roles that we either fulfill or rot in sadness.
        • Aug 5 2011: Finding happiness and joy in the simplest of things is a wonderful thing that one should cherish as much as possible. Everyone has these little things he enjoys to a disproportionate amount. I'm not bashing that. What I'm bashing however is when someone takes an opinion of his own and distills it into the mind of a child and tells this child that this opinion should never be questioned, or this tradition never forgotten. In short, I'm disgusted by the idea of sanctity, of restricting people from doing with their lives, bodies and minds what they wish to do with them in any way.

          I'm aware that many people have such thoughts, and I wasn't trying to sound condescending in any way. If that was the impression I gave you, then please accept my apologies.
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        Aug 5 2011: It looks like you have misunderstood what I said, again. I said "depersonalized", not dehumanized. Those are two very different concepts. By not interacting face to face, heart to heart, how can we truly grasp the meaning of what another human being is discussing with us? Listening is a skill that many humans have difficulty with, no matter what culture, religion, nationality, etc they identify with - even if they are face to face. What someone says, and what we say they said are two very different things. The internet and digitized communications are a relatively new adaptation in human history - for the vast majority of recorded human history, we have communicated face to face. Yes, I agree that there are countless positive benefits of this technology - however, it does add another element of confusion, as things can easily get "lost in translation" ... plus, when someone is not right there in front of you, face to face, the timeframe of which clarification can be given is undefined. If I replied to you in 30 days instead of 30 minutes from when I posted, you would go that entire time thinking that I believe the internet has dehumanized us? Enter judgements, frustrations, etc...

        I have no problem entering into a dialogue of philosophy, I believe that fostering respectful dialogue is what promotes world peace. Just because you have had those experiences in the past, with talks of "religious debates" not ending well, do you believe that your future has nothing more to offer you than the same?

        I agree about physics being the guiding physical force of the Universe, but if you are purely science-based in your philosophy, then I'd like to open up and hear your thoughts on the developments in the field of quantum science/physics. Do you believe that in the future, we will see a coalescence of science and religion in it's findings?
        • Aug 5 2011: I'm sorry to have misread that.
          My opinion is that the anonymity of the internet is a double-edged sword when it comes to this. It's really quite interesting: first off, the ability to converse instantaneously in text-form, without tone of voice, face, skin color, mood or gender to get in the way is a great thing in my opinion. There's no way one can have a prejudice against a genderless, faceless being one knows only as a disembodied opinion. As a visual species, we make a lot of our judgment based on looks - we can't help it, it's the way we evolved. Eliminating the concept of nationality and background enables two people from completely different places in society to talk on the same level, with opinion and intelligence being the only two things that really matter - just the way it should be when exchanging opinions and ideas. Of course, there's also the "youtube comment effect". While this removal of face from argument greatly fosters intellectual discussion, it also makes it easy to see the other as some anonymous voice, with one's own actions not having any consequences. This has the effect that places where many people comment on the same things (in this example, youtube) are places filled with hateful comments filled with bigotry and bile.

          However, I think that this is just a temporary cultural phenomenon. Technology will improve, and the internet is still new and shiny. We still have a lot to learn about how to properly use it. The fact that it can take you hours to communicate with me is just an implementation detail - an instant messenger provides just that: instant messaging, if need be even through video.

          Make no mistake - usually I take every excuse I get to talk with people about religion (I think it's one of the next big issues our society will tackle. In fact, it *is* tackling it right now), and I'm not the kind of person who ever runs away from a debate. I just think we should keep it out of this thread, as it has nothing to do with the topic.
        • Aug 5 2011: I've heard pretty much every argument in favor of religion/god/faith people usually come up with at least twice. Like I said, I'm rather passionate about that topic, so I welcome you to open up that discussion via email.

          I'll answer most recent question of yours with a definite "no". Of course, religion will find its way there - religion is very good with hiding in holes - but ultimately, religion is based on lack of knowledge, and science is the very act of destroying the holes in our knowledge where religion can take shelter. New approaches in quantum mechanics and its intricacies are welcoming to many spiritual pseudoscientific interpretations, but in the end I think that religion will die out.
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        Aug 5 2011: I do agree with you on the notion that to just blindly accept and follow what your elders have told you based purely on tradition is certainly a growth inhibitor.

        In the words of Shakyamuni, "Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."
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        Aug 5 2011: Yes, humans easily pass judgement based by what they see, those distinctions that you mentioned. But, do you agree that when you thought I said "dehumanized" vs depersonalized, there was a judgement made on me then? Words/language/concepts/ideas are not immune from judgement.

        Yes instant communication alleviates the time factor, but not all people that use the internet use it for an instant experience. Enter the confusion.

        I think the word "religion" has a severely-loaded connotation that has turned a lot of people off due to the violence and bloodshed it has produced over time. I too was one that shunned it for quite some time. I have personally found more knowledge and stability in my Buddhist faith than anything I have ever researched in this life (I've researched Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Bahai, Islam, Wicca, Strega, Norse, Greek/Roman Mythology, Buddhism, and many other various nuanced philosophies). Another thing about it that brings me great comfort is that no matter what crazy theories get thrown my way, even scientific findings, nothing shakes the teachings of Shakyamuni and Nichiren Daishonin. Pretty cool stuff if you ask me. In a respectful theological dialogue I had with an avid Evangelical Christian a few months ago, he listened to the condensed "elevator speech" of my faith and then concluded that I was an Atheist. I gently corrected his judgement and expressed that while I do not believe in God in a Christian definition of the word, I do not believe in an absence of the definition of what the term "God" represents. I do not agree that there is some unmoved mover controlling what goes on, I feel that the Christian representation of "God" is nothing short of what the Greeks and Romans courted for thousands of years... But do I agree that there is a force, a universal law that governs every particle? Yep, sure do.
        • Aug 6 2011: Yes, I did judge you from that concept I thought you had brought forward, but given the circumstances, would you rather I judge you for your opinions and actions or for the way you look like? The fact that concepts aren't immune to criticism is the one thing that allows us to have meaningful conversations.

          About instant communication: you're still only evaluating what people use the internet for right now. You're forgetting that there's a brand new generation of humans growing up with the internet as a normal thing right now. Just because not everybody uses the internet for instant messaging doesn't mean there's some intrinsic lack of quality in the way people communicate over the internet.

          Whether you call what you believe in a religion or spirituality doesn't matter to me. Most people will tiptoe around that and say "Oh, if it isn't a *religion* I guess it's fine.". There's a lot of people who condemn religion because of the bloodshed you've mentioned, and considering what other faiths have collectively done, Buddhism is a peaceful faith. But what I'm railing against is the very concept of believing in something just because you find it comforting, or because you want it to be true, even if there is no evidence whatsoever in your position. The teachings of your mentors might well stand firm as a mountain, but you must remember that no one is infallible, and that it's your responsibility as an intelligent human being to question your own beliefs as much as you question other's.

          I too believe that there's a force governing every particle in the universe. I believe these are the physical laws we've been refining our knowledge of for the last thousand years or so. I don't see any reason to invite mysticism into my belief system, and see no way how one can do so and still have a completely consistent opinion. As soon as you allow one irrational thing into your mind, the consistency of it as a system is broken. You run into paradoxes.
        • Aug 6 2011: Now, you're probably using the teachings of your mentors mostly as guiding advice. That's a good thing, but why do you believe that there's anything more than what we can detect in the universe? I'd kindly like to point you to the idea of "Russel's teapot" to illustrate how irrational such a belief is.

          Mysticism, in every incarnation I have ever heard of, bears you more questions than answers. The idea that something is "unknowable" or "inexplicable" not only leaves us empty-handed, but opens the mind's gates for any other irrational concept to be allowed in. If living things have a "soul", then do other apes? Dogs? Bacteria? Viruses? Fungi? Is there a bacteria heaven? If we all get reborn from the same pool of souls, how can population grow? What are souls made of, and if they don't interact with the physical world, how to they control bodies? If souls interact with the physical world, why haven't we found them? If fate exists, what is free will? How does free will come about in the first place? We can pretty much calculate what a given neuron does on given input in the brain (it'd take a lot of time to calculate, but the standard model is good enough for that), so who says the brain is anything but a big computer?

          You may laugh well about foolish religious people or people who believe in homeopathy, but every irrational belief is as arbitrary as any other. What is this force guiding the universe? Where does it come from? Does it have a mind? What makes you think it even uses the same kind of logic we do? Does it care about humans or just see them as a by-product of the universe? What is this force made of, and is it measurable? You may think inventing an invisible guiding force answers your question, but in fact it only tacks on another layer of mysteries that Occam's razor is quick to tear to shreds.

          From what you said earlier I can infer that you believe in a version of an afterlife. How does that relate to anything you believe?
  • Aug 28 2011: I don't think it's our destiny, as I don't believe in anything souch as "destiny" - due to heisenberg uncertainity principle, exists, but it's certainly a very good idea. I'm also a "Carl Sagan", "Kardashev scale", "Transition from 0 to type I civilisation" and "transhumanism" fan. I think it's essential for humans to "get over" a concept of: border, country, nationalism, race, national identity, organised religion - basically a "local patriotism". Identifying ourselves as humans and inhabitants of earth is perfectly sufficient, if one wants to identify himself at all. And obviously we cannot survive as a species if we don't work together.

    Edit:

    I'm all for bilinguinism Universial world language (sorry English people (stop being so egocentric) you won't dominate world and science for eternity) and mathemathics.

    Or, maybe a single unified language could be created... I'm sure if linguists were not baffling souch trivial issues, they could try working that one out...

    And no, I'm not form New York (as my profile suggests) or any English speaking country for that matter.
    • Aug 29 2011: i heartily agree on your first points. we need everybody to stop thinking of other people as 'others' and instead regard them as fellow humans, equally deserving. also agree with the point about labels. i've often found it strange when for example an audience applauds a tv guest based on where they are from - "so tell me where are you from?" "born and bred in new york!" *applause* - why? because he's from new york that means what? that he's a good person?

      re your point about english though, i get that we shouldn't place preference on english just because it happens to be our language, but english is already set up as a global language. english is the language of computers (my own operating system is in japanese but everything 'under the hood' is in english and so is every other piece of software that runs on it, it has to be), it's also the language of science as ovr 90% of the world's scientific journals are written in english, and english already has the largest vocabulary of any language and is flexible enough to be further expanded. the same cannot be said for any other language.
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      Aug 29 2011: Hi Mr. Anony mouse,

      [Are you related to Micky? ;-)

      QUOTE: "I'm all for bilinguinism Universial world language (sorry English people (stop being so egocentric) you won't dominate world and science for eternity) and mathemathics.

      You probably mean "ethnocentric" ... and I don't think ethnocentricity is really a factor in the process of language's evolution. English, if we want to get technical about it, is not even an "English" language; it evolved and developed. It is an accretion of countless Indo-European and other languages.

      As we interact with groups of people, people who use different words to describe our common world, we tend to merge our languages. If we live in isolation, we tend to create our own unique language. So, what happens, in the future, isn't really about what we "want" ... it will be about what we "do."

      If we interact globally, we will have a global language. It is inevitable. (I have guessed it would be an amalgamation of all languages with a strong core of English, Chinese, and Spanish. It's just a guess.)

      If, through circumstance, we interact more locally, in isolation, we will develop more languages than we have now. Again, it will be inevitable.

      Languages are not planned any more than species are, they evolve and adapt to the environment.

      QUOTE: "Or, maybe a single unified language could be created... I'm sure if linguists were not baffling souch trivial issues, they could try working that one out..."

      I do not think a created language is a viable option ... at least not for a "universal language." It has been tried many times (and is being tried, even now.)
      • Aug 29 2011: No, unfortunately my name is disambiguation of word "anonymous" is was supposed to have no relation to Micky Mouse.

        Yes, I believe "ethnocentric" would be more appropriate word. I was referring to it in context of being an universial language - which is not yet, and will not neccessarily be a universial language.

        I believe it's invetable, world will get more globalised over time and some kind of language influence will certainly happen. Maybe "English, Chinese, Spanish" like you mention.

        Current thrend seems to be leaning in globalization favour. But I agree with you on that standpoint.

        Arguably mathemathics and computer languages are engineered, and they are pretty widespread and successful. When referring to "universial language" I was thinking more about something in context of unifying "more linguistic examples of language", logic and mathemathics for example or "universial language of mind" - if you like.

        Sure it would require huge ammount of processing power to create it, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. It's success would be another issue, but imagine implications of souch tool.
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          Aug 29 2011: QUOTE: "No, unfortunately my name is disambiguation of word 'anonymous'"

          Yes, I saw that. That was why I added the ... ;-)

          I see your point about math and code.

          I was thinking more in terms of human speech - which is what I suspect Mr Wagner was speculating about.

          I suppose on some level we might consider music a universal (and very human) language. I am amazed at music's capacity to communicate emotion.
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      Sep 1 2011: I whole-heartedly agree with you, Mr. Anony mouse, in regards to your comment: " Identifying ourselves as humans and inhabitants of earth is perfectly sufficient, if one wants to identify himself at all." BRAVO! Just think of how much prejudice could be erased if only EVERYONE in the world were to drop those other 'identifiers'...if there were no distinction made between Gentile/Jew, Gay/Straight, Male/Female, etc...If we all were to be able to just view ourselves AND one another as a fellow human being, period, and then if we all worked in concert with one another to improve the lives of ALL humans, what wonderful changes might that bring?
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    Aug 26 2011: Hugo--

    I rather doubt it is our destiny to be one world with one language. In fact, I think diversity is more likely our destiny.

    As with all human realities, diversity can be and indeed has been a constructive agent. Without variation, we cease to be human. Without human characteristics and distinction, we can't grow and learn. Without growth, we can't develop intelligence. Without intelligence humanity regresses. Without humanity, economic and cultural change regresses.

    While it would seem that homogeneity would conveniently solve the problem of cooperation, it doesn't. It simply dulls humans, and in doing so, society. Society needs reasons to grow beyond its limitations, not regress back into them.

    Imagine English without the influences of other languages? Imagine a global future developed without the iterative influences of myriad and diverse languages?

    It would be akin to programmers having never progressed beyond DOS computer language. Had they not, we wouldn't be communicating here unless we knew how DOS programming code. And with the further developed ability to translate other human languages no-less, thanks to online translation technologies.

    So: vive la difference! It's good for our destiny.

    Andrea
    • Aug 26 2011: I fully agree with you but I'd also like to take your statement one step farther along. Yes, the multiplicity of languages will continue but, more importantly, individuals will know more and more languages. What is growing isn't English but multilingualism. Not long ago, someone said that of all the people all over the world who use English for work, most go home and use at least one other language -- monolingualism in English is dying out.

      The message is that all human beings are language learners (throughout their lives). The easier communication gets, the easier it will be for anyone, young or old, to add a language that they need for any purpose that's important to them. And the more multilinguals there are in the world, the easier cooperation and finding mutually beneficial solutions will get, I believe.
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        Aug 27 2011: Harold,

        To echo your thoughts and how they lay out in the context of my Western country.

        Though English is perceived as the primary language in the United States,multilingualism is as you assert, becoming the rule rather than the exception. Not only are students required to take a second language. But, as you point out, ever more families speak one or more other language at home.

        In non-immigrant families, learning another language in perceived as a sign of intelligence. In immigrant and ex-patriot families it is somewhat less glamorized, but nonetheless does demonstrate intelligence. Many value the cultural benefits of multilingualism. And nearly all see, transcending monolingualism as economically expedient.

        Andrea
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    Aug 25 2011: If loosing the archaic notion of "countries" to win the notion of Planet (as only human's real country) requires embracing one language at the price of loosing others, I'm all for it.

    Of course we loose stories and part of our history but, in such scenario, the benefits will largely outweigh the price.

    *I'm not an english native speaker
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    Aug 25 2011: What a great question. I tend to think we'll see a single translation device as opposed to a single language. It certainly makes things easier when I speak the language of whatever country I visit. However, with the incredible advancements in technology, medicine, and communication I find it hard to believe that the human race will learn a single language before it figures out how to use a single device to understand another dialect. We are moving toward a world with driver-less cars and transplants involving organs grown in petri dishes. Is it such a leap to see everyone with a device that can detect a language and translate a response?

    As for the cultural changes, it's very hard to say what the impact would be. Language has always been such a significant part of one's culture because it was a defining trait distinguishing it from others. Throughout human history any time a cultural trait was adopted in other regions, the original culture still found a way to distinguish itself through other traits. If it did not, we would see it gradually evolve into something entirely new. Although it appears a little frightening, I don't lament such changes. Through such processes, room is often made for something entirely new that we simply can't comprehend in our current environment.

    Thanks for the very interesting debate, Hugo!
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    • Aug 21 2011: it is hard to believe that the translation software will be able to translate accurately. in some languages the meaning of some words depend extremely much on the context, thus in order to translate accurately, we'd need to program our translation devices to fully understand an entire conversation or even remember previous conversations. Anyway, even if not fully accurate, it would still be usable, but just want to point out that it won't be the same as speaking the same language.
  • Aug 8 2011: Artificial intelligence could provide autotranslation that would make it totally unnecessary to speak another language.

    If you study your linguistics, you will find that languages are forever changing. A single world language - a universal first language - could not naturally remain stable.

    What would work - if it could be established - would be a universal second language, whether is it is natural language like English or an invented one like Esperanto. I feel both possibilities are rather unlikely.

    Regardless, English, as a natural language, would continue to evolve, and in fact there are - insensibly - different versions of Esperanto, as various nations all form their own Esperanto societies.
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    Sep 3 2011: The operative word here is 'common'. 0f course people will always speak in the language they learnt at home. But I do not think any other language can compete with English (how about calling it Earthish?) as a common language. Sure there are millions more who speak Mandarin? but what do they speak when abroad? There is no doubt that the home language will eventually be English for most people
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    Aug 31 2011: I wouldn't want that. It implies a uniformity of thought and deed that could easily become tyrannical. I like the fact that diverse nation states with their cultural diversity constitute a testing laboratory for ideas, that, when they fail, don't bring down the entire civilization as it has almost done in the economic sphere where a set of monopolistic financial institutions become too big to fail yet are run by short term thinking idiots. Monopoly is to be feared. People who use mathematics are already using a single language. That's about as far as I'd want to go. If anything, we'll become bilingual, speaking our native language and the lingua franca that emerges via international commerce.
    • Sep 1 2011: Yes, one world with one language, the idea gives me shivers. It is as Mr Radtke said above: "a uniformity of thought and deed", which people shoud be feared to. Yes, with one language maybe we can communicate our ideas better, but it may also have a serious downside: no change. Diversity, arguments and different ways of thinking give us sparkles, and these sparkles are exactly the things that advance our society. I would think the better way is like as Mr Radtke said above: "become bilingual, speaking our native language and the lingua franca that emerges via international commerce".
      • Sep 2 2011: @both:

        How exactly does it imply uniformity of thought and based on what evidence should we (be afraid)/(get emotional) of/over it? Nobody is mentioning any stationary state here - you are predisposing it, language could evolve and constantly stream towards perfection and correctness (logic) and always increase in complexity, but as a whole not locally. Also, there are arts for people who want to be creative in non logical manner. Maybe you are forgetting our experimental time is running out, and there are other factors besides the suicidal behaviour and stupidity of our species in play.
  • Aug 27 2011: In more and more places and situations (could be countries, regions, job-types, corporations and so forth) "transcending monolingualism" isn't simply economically (job, profession, business etc) expedient (or necessary) but it's also socially (personal, family, cultural etc) and politically (among social groups of all kinds) either expedient or necessary.

    My prediction is that the "Three Language Solution" (already a language policy in some countries) will become essentially universal: (1) a family language, (2) a day-to-day life-in-community language and (3) a work-place language. Of course, it's possible that one language might serve all three contexts, but with globalization, having two languages is becoming inevitable, so adding on a third (and fourth) isn't a big deal now and will become even easier in the near future. And in the process, many (minority or disappearing) languages will be strengthened, not weakened or abandoned.
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    Aug 27 2011: If the the current trend continues, almost all people on the globe will be able to speak a common language (possibly English?) over the next generation or two.
    But this does not mean other languages will (or should) die out.
    One world, one language is not the solution to our problems, nor will it be the rule. However, one common language that all can use will be a very useful tool in our ever increasing toolbox.

    Photography didn't kill paintings - it's better at some things and has proven to be an extremely useful tool, but photography can't give you the subjective perspective a painting can.
    This is what I feel about the importance of diversity of languages - we need all these different ways of thinking and feeling and seeing the world if we really want to mature as an intelligent civilization.
    The solution is to have expressive practical languages (art, technology) that can share these different perspectives to generate new ideas and experience the world as a shared community.

    One language would stunt diversity and growth, and is therefore an evolutionary disadvantage; we cannot, and will never, have only one language.

    (Unless, some how, all the different unique ideas in all the languages of the world [including computer coding languages, mathematics, etc] could be consolidated into one massively diverse, expressive, yet efficiently logical language... I think we would have to genetically modify our brains to hold that much abstract cognition in one mind).
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      Aug 27 2011: I agree with you. Languages doesn't just serve one purpose, just like painting isn't just for merely depicting what is there.
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    Aug 26 2011: It seems to me that we are heading towards a common language, and I'd really love to live to see it. Languages are part of our self and our culture, but needless to say, they also separate us from other cultures.
    I've read a lot of your feedbacks and I've noticed that some people worry about loosing their roots if we had a common language. Contrarily, a common language would allow us to embrace other cultures, other values and other people because we would be able to understand them. A common language doesn't mean abolishing our native and familiar language. Being bilingual; means being able to express ourselves and being understood by everyone. It means sharing our ideas, our values, even our culture in our own words, without needing translators, and making ambiguities impossible.
  • Aug 26 2011: i'm sure we are heading towards a world with a common language because it's essential for being able to understand each other. i was watching a TED talk not so long ago where in dubai, the speaker argued "would you refuse a dutch scientist who'd discovered the cure for cancer entry to your university just because he couldn't speak english?" the answer is actually yes you would, because not being able to understand dutch, you wouldn't know he had discovered the cure for cancer. some might argue that translators can assist in these situations, but this is impossibly impractical in the modern world, since such a translator would also have to be an expert in the field in which the communication is taking place or their lack of comprehesion of the subject matter would prevent them from adequately translating meaning.

    that being said, i think this common lanugage will mostly be a second language, and that most of us will continue to use our mother tongues at home or our local area. also it's clear to me that common language won't break down barriers. most crimes are committed against fellow countrimen and even often neighbours. the world won't come together while people who maintain an 'us and them' mindset exist.
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    Aug 25 2011: Let me grab my crystal ball.
  • Aug 24 2011: I always thought that would be an easier way but it would ruin our world. There would be no diversity and then our destiny would be conforming. I'm not willing to give up my liberties for a stable job.
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    Aug 18 2011: For me it's more about connecting and communicating than the language we use. If we can connect at a fundamental level so we 'get' where that other person is coming from, I don't care if it's sign language or silence. Martha Beck had shared how she really learned to understand her child through silence. It was about the spaces and what to do within them that brought them closer together.

    I live in a bilingual country and there is way too much discussion about which language to use or that we have to use both. There are language police in Quebec. That creates barriers rather than connection.
  • Aug 17 2011: I've thought about it times and times,but no idea
    I belive God made us in different shapes,languages,behaviours,... to learn
    But I believe that it will be very great progress to have one unity named WORLD
    everybody help eachother
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    Aug 13 2011: I don't believe that will be the case, however, some areas of expertise will develop their own language. Like in cooking, where French is commonly used, or in medicin, where most terms some from Latin, each specialty will develop its own jargon. Next to that, each culture will keep its own language for day-to-day routines and conversations.
  • Aug 13 2011: A single language will never be possible. Countries are like people. They are individualistic. They are unlikely to give up a trait that so define them. Plus in many cultures words exist that are not equivalent in other cultures. One universal language for business is possible. One international language. But people will still speak their mother tongue. Chinese will not be a universal language. Too late. English is spoken by nearly everyone. There is no incentive to learn Chinese unless you live in China. Even Chinese business people know English. China is mainly an export country not import. They need to learn English so that they can speak with people in many countries. The people in those countries do not need to know Chinese to buy products.
  • Aug 11 2011: Just 2 weeks learning Esperanto can get you months ahead in your target language
    http://www.fluentin3months.com/2-weeks-of-esperanto/
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    Aug 10 2011: Hi Debra, it feels that way, by a human life span but languages, like Redwoods, grow slower.
    English is over 1500 years old and it was a dying language for 300 years before Chaucer. Even the Anglo-Saxon chronicles were abandoned because English was sooo yesterday.
    A few decades waxing or waning are nothing much to a language. Hebrew was also in more severe doldrums than Esperanto has ever been, yet it is strong today.
    Esperanto will prevail in the end because it is utilitarian, it benefits people at a competitive rate.
    It will serve more people sooner as English-speakers realize that bilingualism is good for their children's brains and that this is the quickest and most flexible form of bilingualism available.
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    Aug 9 2011: We should have one language everyone should know how to speak. Communicating would be much easier. And communication is the key to a lot of success. But we should never abandon picking up another language. It only expands the thought of what what our minds can accomplish.
  • Aug 9 2011: Dear Mathieu, thank you for replying my question. I disagree with some points of your answer but it comforts me the fact that you "like" Esperanto. As an esperantist, I deeply believe that it is a possible universal language for humanity.
    I wish you very good luck.
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    Aug 9 2011: Yes but only to understand each other. Not lose our own language.
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    Aug 9 2011: Just a fan fact, the European Union spends over one billion dollars a year on translation costs, and employs a batallion of thousands of translators.
  • Aug 8 2011: I hear alot of fear when reviewing comments. This has caused me to watch the lecture several times im wondering if anyone really paid attention !!!!!
    he says one generic language we can all use is all he was suggesting so that all people have the ability to communicate he never said destroy certian aspects of your culture, or that other languages should be abolished he says only harm can come from not being able to comminicate so a generic language like english would benifit the world. I also speak some french and german speaking other languages is goodfor the brain it drives off mental illness in your older age but not being able to comminicate is the only fear he meant for us to expierience not one world one language ONLY ?? when did he say that ???. he left out the ONLY part other fools who watch the lecture but dont pay attention to it just jump to ridiculous conclusions ......
  • Aug 8 2011: I think no,may be all people in the world will speak with common language to work together,but in daily lives we'll use our native languages forever
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    Aug 7 2011: As of now, it appears that things are becoming complicated and everyone's becoming segregated instead of uniting. Such a destiny would be amazing though.
  • Aug 7 2011: The variety of languages and cultures is what makes our world special. If the day came when there was only one language it would be a sad day.
  • Aug 7 2011: One language? No.

    A way to communicate with the rest of the world? Yes. And we're already there.

    However, it would be beneficial to have a universal language that everybody knows(primary or secondary).
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      Aug 9 2011: "A way to communicate with the rest of the world? Yes. And we're already there."

      Only if you are happy to continue ignoring the global majority who will die before they can afford to learn English.

      "However, it would be beneficial to have a universal language that everybody knows"
      Absolutely!
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    Aug 6 2011: I don't believe in a uni-language society. The differences in each language is huge depending on its etymology.
    Also, the ability to express yourself in many languages in many different ways is very appealing to me especially if those languages have different sets of expressions that might not be achieved with other languages.
    Variety is the spice of life
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      Aug 7 2011: Beautifully analogized!
    • Aug 7 2011: I agree with you ! Every language has something different with other languages ! Because of this kind of variety , the world is really beautiful!
  • Aug 5 2011: Here is one approach:

    Create a Visual Language that can significantly improve human communication across multiple dimensions. Below are some of the functions and attributes I envision.

    Cross Language Barriers:
    It takes hundreds of hours for a person to learn another language thus most people can’t directly communicate with each other. By visual centric design the learning curve will be radically less (well under 100 hours) to gain a level of “fluency” to allow language barriers to be crossed.

    Imagine if a person from Bulgaria and Thailand could in a matter of days have the ability to communicate as effectively with each other as they can with people who share their own tongue.


    Faster Person to Person Communications.

    People typically speak English at 150 to 200 words per minute (wpm). A word on average is 5 bytes that is about 1kb per minute.

    How does that compare to the potential of the brain to generate words or ideas? Clearly that is a fuzzy question that has no clear answer. One reference point can be taken from brain physiology. We have (One Hundred Billion Neurons) 1011 with on average 7,000 synaptic connections to each other. Estimates for an adult, ranging from 10 EXP14 to 5 x 10 EXP14 synapses (100 to 500 trillion) connections all traveling at the speed of electricity. Though I know no way to translate that to words/ideas I suspect that it is magnitudes larger then the rate we speak of 1kb per minute.

    Imagine if what I might say to you in one hour could be effectively communicated in one minute or one second how that could improve human communications. We already see this in infographics and data charts all the time. Another example that exists is compare watching a 2 hour movie vs reading the 1000 page plus screen play that is the written form of it. And of course a picture says a thousand words.

    Alan Stillman
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      Aug 5 2011: Apparently this is already an undertaking that is being embarked on by the US Department of Homeland Security. I feel that its an impossible algorithm. We have 3000 facial expressions, and they are translated by the context of which we use them in. Microexpressions are cross-cultural, yes. However there is a huge danger in parsing complex distinctions and emotions into simple facial expressions. Our own human intuition gets it wrong all of the time, how can we then create a computer system that could figure it out?
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    Aug 4 2011: Language and culture are closely linked. Culture depends on environment and time. So languages are born, and then they die. In between, they evolve.
    Each era has its lingua franca, once Latin, today English, and while living within the era, we mere mortal human being cannot embrace the scope of the changes, we can only study the past from what is left, which in our history is mainly written.
    While we can wish to be one world, one people, one language, such a utopia would have the dark side of abolishing the cultural diversity.
    Languages are communications tools and humans adapt the tools to their needs, that's why Ebonics and Spanglish emerged, though they are not ackowledged as full-fledged languages by everyone, and that pidgins and creoles are just too estranged from English and French, having developed their own grammars and vocabulary.
    After all, most of Europe speaks Latin, which didn't die out with the Roman empire, but evolved separate branches which are now called Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Romanian, French etc.
    That Babelization seems somehow Darwinian, It simply reflects the rich diversity of cultures.
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    Aug 4 2011: Hugo, I see it as one world with a universal language of love, hope, trust, freedom, justice, truth and many other universal worldviews expressed in our diversity.

    The challenge I think is in translating and contributing the power of our convictions, enjoying this great adventure of life, working for and seeing a clear vision of our legacy. A legacy of a transformed, just and peaceful world.
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    Aug 4 2011: I think we will probably build C3PO before we have a one world language and then why would we need it
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    Aug 4 2011: Europe has many languages today and has always had many languages. In some European countries, different languages are spoken in different parts of the country. In most countries in Europe, children learn over 3 languages. And they don't do that just because it is useful when traveling to nearby countries. They also do it because it makes them more intelligent.

    So should we have one world language? Absolutely not. Having many languages is beneficial for the brain and languages also contain culture within them. Also, many languages are very different from each other, holding different perspectives on the same words, and different syntaxes as well.

    Having said that, I'm from Brasil, I speak Portuguese and English, amongst other languages, and I love English because I can speak pretty much anywhere I go and be understood. So having a shared language in additional to a regional one is probably the best solution to the language issue.
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    Aug 4 2011: Is our destiny to be one world with one language?

    It depends.

    If we maintain, or increase, our current mobility and our current "connectedness," then, yes, we will eventually become "one world" with one language. A long time ago, I speculated it would be a "mash" of English, Chinese, and Spanish with a little of everything else thrown in.

    I guessed it would take about 500 years.

    But my speculation was predicated on our ability to stay connected and, especially, on our ability to travel and relocate freely and with ease.

    If we run out of fuel, say, or if for any other reason, travel and relocation become difficult, I think it could go the other way: People could form, reform, or reenforce existing social and cultural networks, create new ones, and we could see the emergence of whole new languages and cultures. Lots of them.
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      Aug 5 2011: "I speculated it would be a "mash" of English, Chinese, and Spanish..."

      Have you heard about Lojban?
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        Aug 5 2011: Have you heard about Lojban?

        No. What is it?
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        Aug 6 2011: QUOTE: It is an artificial language based on logic. Its vocabulary was made upon many languages as Chinese, Hindi, Spanish, English."

        Sounds a bit like Esperanto (1887) which is a constructed language ... some people do speak Esperanto.

        I don't think a language based on logic will catch on. I think language has to evolve and grab people on an emotional level.

        We do respond emotionally to the idea of one language but then, in English, we say things like: Tea, Chi, Mahjong, Tai Chi, Tao, Feng Shui, Wok, Yin Yang, Tofu, and so on. All of which come to English from Chinese.

        And English loanwords* in Chinese include: Bai Bai (bye bye), Kafei (coffee), Shafa (sofa), Basi (bus), Kekou Kele (pronounced: ke ko ke la - coca cola), qiaokeli (pronounced: chi-ah-ke-lee - chocolate), etcetera.

        These "loanwords" are traversing the planet and connecting languages everywhere. It'll all work out OK (probably the most ubiquitous "loanword" of them all.)

        -------------------
        * Many loanwords from English are themselves loanwords to English. For example "coffee" comes from the Arabic "qahwa."
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          Aug 7 2011: I saw in the Science Museum in London that (I can't remember the round-a-bout percentage) a majority of words beginning with 'a' in the English language are from Arabic, such as admiral, for example.
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        Aug 8 2011: Hi Brian,

        The estimates of the number of people who speak Esperanto ranges from 10,000 to 2,000,000 - 3,000,000. And there are, apparently, about 200 "native speakers;" people whose first language is Esperanto (because their parents spoke it at home.)

        Both Esperanto and Lojban are constructed languages. There are hundreds of constructed languages. One author (I cannot remember her name) stopped counting when she had collected 500 or so languages. Richard Kennaway has compiled a list of 312 languages on his website [http://www2.cmp.uea.ac.uk/~jrk/conlang]

        Some constructed languages are "serious" (Esperanto;) some are not (Tolkein's Elvish; Klingon, etc).
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          Aug 15 2011: Ok, I'm not here to compete, to prove which is better, nor to flame TED's.

          I just mentioned Lojban as it has Jone's speculation characteristics. Have you read Lojban Introductory Brochure?
  • Aug 4 2011: Destiny? The human race does not have a destiny. Common language? We already have this without spoken or written language, but a language of gesture and facial expression that is understood world wide. Empathy is the global language my friend.
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    Aug 3 2011: Although I don't think we will ever boil our verbal communications down to one language, I do think technology will advance to the point where we will be able to understand each other regardless of what language we speak. Perhaps an implant, maybe an ear computranslator. I just made that word up so don't even think of taking it. It's mine.
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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?
  • Aug 3 2011: It may happen that one day, there will be a single ubiquitous language that every single man and woman on planet Earth is affiliated with and proficient at. However, the notion that every other language will become extinct is simply too difficult to endorse.

    Language, in the conceptual sense, has grown to be differed from its original intention as a mean for the effective conveyance of meaning. It now carries with it meanings beyond meaning. Those are the essential products of human civilization, of humanity nonetheless. Language, now one could say, is synonymous with history, with values, pride, lessons, knowledge, self-identity and heirlooms of each nation. To give up on the mother tongue, is to give up on one's nation, one's culture, one's people, one's ancestors, one's birthplace, memory and self-identity. With such disastrous losses, who could possibly do that to themselves and to their children? What nation could possibly do that to its people? It is usually the case that a language was only discarded and swept away when a nation was discarded and swept away, its people were too few to vitalize the ancestor's heirloom.

    Such a scenario in that all language would become extinct but to leave a single one vital, would be impossible. Even in the vile instance that all nations were to be thoroughly swept away. Humanity went extinct along with all traces of its existence, but to leave just a group of people who speak and know only a particular language. For a short time, maybe there will be a single and only language. However, it will be inevitable that humans will grow in size and number. It will be inevitable that there will be borders. It will be inevitable that there will be nations. So comes deviations from the origin, thus cultures. Then it will be inevitable that there will be a multitude of languages characterized each and every culture.

    After all, the diversity of language and human nature are so tightly entwined that it seems impossible to separate.
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    Aug 3 2011: I don't think so.

    If the telephone couldn't unite the world, the internet won't.

    Terms like "Global Village" and "Global Community" have been in use for some time. I don't think they have any real meaning beyond being a convenient sound-byte for the public speaking circuit.

    If, somehow, we got to the point of having one language, it will end up as either NewSpeak (see 1984) or it will spontaneously evolve as all living languages do.
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    Sep 3 2011: i don't think so.
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    Sep 2 2011: I sure hope so and I hope that language is English! lol

    Seriously though, I know another language and I recognize the interesting qualities that differnent lagnuages possess-it's like the language is shaped by the land, by the way the people are in that particular 'culture', maybe even by the colors of that environment, the food etc. I think that is part of the reason sometimes words are not translatable--because the people who speak them lived different lives and therefore the words just don't fit everywhere.

    It would be nice if all humans spoke ONE common language but retained the language of their homelands, whatever that may be.

    That being said, it is important to note that language changes; it is a growing, changing thing--in written history and, no doubt, in pre-history as well.
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    Sep 2 2011: A wonderful talk by Mark Pagel, but a concluding question too simple-minded for his caliber. (Sorry, Mark!) It is true that language competition is an ongoing process with the most notable effect of driving out existing languages (and in very rare cases the revival of others). However, if we talk about cooperation and languages in a world where so called social media has become an important aspect of how we communicate then we need to acknowledge an option that is ultimately driven by both humans and technology. This option is the creation of language pairs. Language pairs is a means of bundling, or connecting, languages. In Wikipedia, for example, this is the language section that you see on the left-hand side of most Wikipedia articles. It shows in what other languages the same entry, or rather concept, is available. All that is required is one click on the language link. Now, there is still a problem, that is, if I only speak language A, how do I read entries in language B? Enters another example of language pairs used in Google Translate. Google Translate's main asset is not only that it translates from one language to another instantly but, in fact, that it provides a system in which any of the adopted languages can be translated to any other: think of Norwegian to Hindi, for example. While many discuss the flaws of machine translation, only few have noticed that the powerful asset is the language pairs that can be randomly chosen from all of the supported languages on Google Translate. Now, this is an early inspiration for the future of human cooperation and we should all try hard to develop this perspective further, instead of retreating to questions too simple for our capabilities.
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    Sep 1 2011: Perhaps, someday, we will have one language. Here in Brazil we speak portuguese, to be a succesful professional career you need to speak english, and spanish, and now some companies are considering mandarim (chinese). So, we're going to have professionals that can speak four languages! This is not a endemic phenomena so far, but it is gradually happening.

    Thus, the use of foreign words in brazilian portuguese is getting stronger, we are inventing new words ou simply adding foreign words to everyday use, probably, I think, in few years we'll have a whole differente language. A new brazilian portuguese full of foreign words. Expanding that phenomena to the entire world, is possible that we might create somo sort of hibrid language.

    In the company that I work, sometimes, I chat with chinese employees. I dont write or speak english very well (as you probably noticed) and also they are not orthographically correct when writing, but it was perfect for communicate an idea. My point is maybe we'll have one language even if this means use a language in a very deficient way.
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    Sep 1 2011: The world does share one language: body language.
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    Sep 1 2011: At least TED events should be in English.
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    Aug 31 2011: I think universal translators will be perfected sooner :)
  • Aug 30 2011: It sounds interesting .When i learned english ,i would swith it into mandarin ,although i know it's bad for me ,i would do that uncontrolly .i think the reason is that it becomes my tool to talk , i can handle it smoothly .as for english or japanese ,i have to spend more time .
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    Aug 29 2011: I don't think a _complete_ common language is necessary, but I do think we need to find a way to discuss common values. While having a singular language would make that easier, if we come up with vibrant ways to discuss values, then we'll inevitably find a way to extend that shared understanding.

    In order to do that, we need commitment towards mutual respect and objectivity. Without that, corroboration is very difficult.
    • Sep 2 2011: Well said. Speaking a language doesn't mean we interpret the same words, phrases or sentences equally. Common values would make communication so much easier.
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    Aug 29 2011: MY OPINION: In the biological sense of the topic, what is anything's destiny? Evolution happens very slowly, but very fast in relation to these kinds of topics. If one considers when the sun will burn out, most scientists guess between 5-7 billion years. Who knows what kind of adaptations humans will make, as well as technological advancements we will make even one billion years from now. Maybe prehistoric apes were wondering what their destiny was, and they probably never would've guessed being human beings was the answer. I guess all I am trying to say is that there is such a wide realm of possibilities for our human race that any guess made like a unified culture is simply not able to be confirmed.
  • Aug 29 2011: not so much destiny maybe, but ideal state (well actually trans-galactic on one language IMO ;) ) And I would be willing to learn Chinese to that end since 1/3 of the world already speaks it, Esperanto since anyone can pronounce it, or English which happens to be my primary, and the "business" (also computer) language. we also don't mind if you make up the odd word :D

    Just not French ;) I wasted 15 years learning the bloody thing only to find out 5 years later you need university training to write it without heavy grammatical errors - bah I say :D
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    Aug 28 2011: Won't be French that language ............... don't you think so ?
    • Aug 28 2011: I don't think it's up to you do decide, but considering facts - most probably not French. Maybe Chinese or something "xyz", that has yet to come to existence [Maybe some global equivalent to "Esperanto"] ? It's still chronologically far way off, so it is impossible to predict what will it be with any certainty, but it might not be English, as you are suggesting...
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        Aug 29 2011: Something binary. Flawless. If anything. If any time.
        • Aug 29 2011: There are many interesting different types of logic not only binary :) Binary is the most primitive one that's why it is used in computers nowdays :) Try quantum logic or Many-valued logic :P
  • Aug 28 2011: It is only possible if that particular language is Cantonese .Chinese can never give up on chinese because all the chinese's foundamental concept are hidden in the chinese language. Even if the meaning is able to be translated into english , the relationship between the ideas will be gone.In chinese , the word itself tell us how the word are related to similar things.
    • Aug 28 2011: you've argued that chinese is irreplaceable, but that doesn't mean that chinese cannot remain people's native language while they learn a second language to use for global communication.

      i understand the difficult translating chinese, it's also very difficult at times to translate japanese into english, and so i recommend not translating. use english or chinese, don't try to switch between both. also cantonese or any other form of chinese isn't really suited for the modern world. characters are difficult to display on computer screens (the more complex ones become unreadable), and while the world vocabulary is increasing, the number of chinese characters is not, and so creating new words in chinese is only possible up to a point.
      • Aug 29 2011: It depends on what you mean by global .

        The world vocabulary , you mean english or other language ?

        All kind of language has its limit on creating new words.

        It is very difficult for a person to be profound in two languages, especially when you dont need to use english in your everyday life . It is just like for a english speaker to learn chinese in England.

        Even if Chinese is the world language , there will still be two type of chinese language : old chinese and morden chinese . Besides , English comsumes less memory in computer programme.

        I believe Chinese language has a more complete system on "making" words , and the word itself gives more detail on its meaning. Also , I feel that Chinese words are more connected to daily life.

        In conclusion , I believe every language has its value on different aspect , and we should make use of its advantage on different "knowledge". Unless there is only one race , or there will be different languages.
        • Aug 30 2011: i disagree, languages without characters rely on combinations, and there are so many combinations that new words can be easily created, while with chinese (for example) no new characters are being created so you have to string together a bunch of characters that mean something else.

          In japanese for example, there is no character for 'car', so you have to call it a 'self-moving cart'. perhaps you could tell me the chinese word for 'laser'? type the characters in chinese, please.
      • Aug 29 2011: I disagree with your point about not switching between Chinese and English Mr. Jarvis. I work at a company with some native English speakers, and some native Mandarin speakers. While both have adapted and learned enough of the other language to be able to create some level of communication, there is a much more productive level of communication when the languages are applied at different times. I find myself speaking with other native English speakers in broken Mandarin/English, and often it boils down to the fact that in English you can be more descriptive and communicate more through an overall sentence, whereas in Mandarin there is often more meaning behind individual words.
        • Aug 30 2011: sorry james i didn't explain clearly and understand your objection. i'm the same, some things are easier to say in english and some in japanese. what i meant was if we try to use both languages in every situation, we find it difficult or even impossible to convey the meaning when switching to another language. as in your example, mandarin has more meaning behind individual words, and that meaning doesn't exist in english, so it is lost if you switch. by 'switch' i mean 'convert'.
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          Aug 30 2011: Here in Holland I had a neighboring woman from the Congo that is capable of speaking Congolese, French and Dutch in one sentence. Her children understood every word. As English was formed out of a mix of up to 5 or 6 different languages they kept best of all while some similar words got different meanings it would be best to speak as we are able to and try to understand each other anyway.
          In a hundred years there may be a world language.
      • Aug 30 2011: i agree with u ,for chinese when they learn a second language ,they also can remain their own languares.as a chinese ,u not only know the mandarin but also know the dialect of your country .why do they need to learn english ? From my opinion ,most of them learn it for communicating with more foreigner to know their countries and cultures and finances and so on .
        why should have a world language ?if u wanner know it exactly ,u could spend time to learn it and talk with the local people .Is n't it good to have different characters of countries?
  • Aug 28 2011: I think we have to be bilingual, as many others said before me. The language of science is English. It is not a question. I think anyone on the globe especially in the developed countries have to learn English.
    Why do we need our native language? The different languages define the brain differently. Our different language structures develop different thinking shames in us. And this means different ideas to share in our common language.
    The other reason to keep our native language to identify ourself. I think we have to keep our different cultures.
  • Aug 27 2011: Maybe so! Language is a tool of communication. If we share one kind of language, the misunderstanding caused by different languages will be reduced. But it doesn't mean we will abandon our own language. I think its more likely that every people master two kinds of language.One is the mother tongue, the other is THE WORLD LANGUAGE. So we can both protect our cultural diversity and communicate better.
    Moreover, if you are a Christian, you know that, in the Bible, human beings used to speak the same language. Why shouldn't we go back to the origin?
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    Aug 27 2011: One purpose to having language is to transfer one idea to another. Unfortunately no language have the ability to do that perfectly, which is why I believe a universal language isn't necessary.
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    Aug 27 2011: Of course...one color too. Language will ultimately be a forced change. It will completly destroy cultures. Civilization will continue. International cooperation and countries will be a thing of the past, because we're one world.
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    Aug 27 2011: I think that having one language it's like having only one specie of plants or animals, without diversity there is no life.
  • Aug 26 2011: Relating this debate to birth rates worldwide one might say the common language will be Portuguese.
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    Aug 26 2011: I think with so many factors available to alter the course of history, it would be foolish to say it wasn't possible. Over the millenniums, empires have risen and fallen and one can imagine that a scholar or statesman pondered the immortality of their culture/language/power. Regardless of which language is used universally, or is adopted by all nations as the official one has no clear winners. I do, however, feel such a move would improve our situation as a species. As an instructor of English in South Korea, I have witnessed first-hand how communication errors/the language barrier has impeded social interactions. I don't believe that abandoning the instruction of other languages would benefit us. In the same way that the balance of power favors those who speak the language of the specific environment, the universal adoption of a single language would destabilize some of the advantages that our present, varied state provides. If a university grad in Seoul can speak English fluently, they have a broader job market to access. If everyone speaks English, that particular advantage will cease to exist (or diminish).
    I would like to get feedback on an extrapolation of Mr. Wagner's question. As a group of European nations have formed the E.U., why not the African nations or the South American nations? The Asian nations? Would that enhance cooperation and better understanding?
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    Aug 26 2011: There used to be one language......in biblical times.....then it changed, for GOD saw what people wanted to do and what they are capable of when they all understand each other.......They build a tower.....God gave them many languages so they won't understand each other, and never again will there be ONE language.....
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      Aug 26 2011: Hi Hugo,

      I have heard from a student of the Bible that we should be careful when we make factual assertions based on Biblical text.

      If I may quote directly, he said, "I take it that you know that we currently don't yet understand the Hebrew language completely, and we don't have a complete translation that we consider to be 100% correct.......so how do you make your statement to be fact????"

      I think he has a point.
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        Aug 26 2011: Like I said.....prayer and leading spirit.....and of course, the one part that was definitely translated correctly and is backed up by scientific and historic evidence....

        Also the fact that it's not just revered to in the bible but in other religions as well and even in the Greek mythology.....
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          Aug 26 2011: So what you're saying is if we have any questions about what part of the Bible is true and what part is not true (due to errors in translation, of course) we should just check in with you to see what the leading spirit has to say?
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        Aug 26 2011: No that's not what Hugo was saying Thomas. Please don't twist his words in the conversation. He answered your question as to why he stands behind his statement.
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          Aug 26 2011: Hi Corvida,

          Thanks for your comment but I wasn't asking you. I was asking Hugo. I'm sure he can answer for himself if he wants to.
  • Aug 26 2011: There is almost one language for the business. English is the "one".
    But for the rest, countries have to keep their own language to safe their culture. It's the roots of our live.
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    Aug 26 2011: i dont believe that world will speak only one language,
    since every country has they own culture and history which they will preserve... So i think people will still use they own language to communicate with others in their country
    but i believe that one common language will be widely understood & spoken in the future..But it will only be used to communicate with foreigners.
  • Aug 26 2011: The world converges toward the 'standarization of the language'. The actual need of the people to communicate with other people from any country create the requirement of 'speak the same language'. The lost of the own customs of every region at this time is something that has passed to a background especially due to globalization.

    Thanks for share ideas!
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    Aug 25 2011: I think our world is heading towards one language society in the long run. I am not happy about it.Every country has history, culture and language is part of it. Loosing it, means loosing part of that country. No one would want that. I believe, some countries are definitely superior than others, therefore the " soft power" and maybe be over taken towards the " one language" world. Take English for example, it is mostly commonly used to talk between two different countries. It is the most common language on the internet. If it would be any language to take over, it would be English. Also, I'm not sure if anyone heard about a language, called Esperanto. It is suppose to be the one language for those who do not know the language for the country which they go into, it is like a universal language.I am not too sure about it. However, there is an up side, it would help the world to come closer to better understanding. At this point, the question is, does the negatives out weigh the positives?
    Personally, i think if we work harder, learn languages and proceed them as they have been for centuries, long before our generations were able to think about this type of question. Not letting go of the magnificent history and taking it as it is, seems to be a good print on OUR history when someone would look back to us.
    Great Question.
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    Aug 25 2011: I feel that it is somewhat difficult to speculate because if it were to happen I feel it would be very very far in the future. Some people want to hold onto their language as hard as they can. So, to have one universal language would mean the possibility of their "home" language to disappear. The reason that everyone would end up using the same language is because of how "small" the world is becoming with technology. So, I will be interested to see what happens....
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    Aug 25 2011: My dear ..it's very very difficult! Every countries would like your lamguage as better than others... and than ? More confusion than now ...Love, Nella
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    Aug 25 2011: @Joe Fansler: I take it that you are a non believer? you don't believe in the existence of GOD?
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      Aug 25 2011: That's a good thing. He isn't blinded by dogmatic bs.
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        Aug 26 2011: Ok, Cole, Why do you say there is no GOD? Do you also think we came from a piece of rock?
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          Aug 27 2011: Why is this so important?
          Do you want to save people who do not believe? Are you trying to redeem their souls?
          Or are you just being a coward and throwing out snobbish questions to make you feel better about yourself?
          Who will the Lord prefer to see enter the Kingdom of Heaven -
          1) the man who lives a good life and genuinely wants to improve the lives of others (and truly follows the teachings of Jesus Christ)
          2) the one who regurgitates terms like GOD to comfort his own ego?

          To quote your own TED profile:
          "I'm passionate about: Wealth Creation"

          To quote Jesus:
          "Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24)
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        Aug 26 2011: @ Cole Barnshaw and Joe Fansler:

        Before I discuss the topic of the existence GOD with you Cole and Joe lets see if you can answer this first.....


        A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff - grass. Yet a
        deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty,
        but a horse produces clumps. Why do you suppose that is?"
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          Aug 26 2011: The reason is that is how their digestive tracts evolved in order to process the food they evolved to eat.

          But then you knew that, didn't you?
  • Aug 24 2011: Denying or roots will lead to such incidents.
  • Aug 23 2011: As soon as we all become telepathic our thoughts will become our common language, but it will not be spoken.
  • Aug 22 2011: When we unite as a species instead of a nation, a country, or a world, that is when we will need one dominant language with many derivatives. It could happen before then, but it will not. We aren't so focused on teamwork across a species yet. Not as though we haven't made strides as we have, great ones indeed, but nowhere near to the point of one language. Look how many countries have so numerous languages that it is hard to travel from one district to another and expect to understand the current dialect from your knowledge of the previous one.

    The information about the aramaic was very interesting. I would expect that bible to be quite numerous in the page count.
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    Aug 21 2011: If music is a spoken language... then we already are speaking one language.
    none can deny the feelings, thoughts, ideas, impressions you perceive from a musical piece.
    somehow, we all cry to a sad melody, we all get fired up when hearing a revolutionary anthem...

    but if i to answer the question in a straight forward manner, i think we wont...
    every country, civilization clings to its history, takes pride in its heritage, that includes their language.
    even tho globalization might serve some languages to spread faster or be more common, still we are what we are...
    it has been said that the path to future relays on the legacy of the past.
    and as many will be trying to unite the words we speak, others will reject that, naturally...
    a proof would be going to Germany and speaking English or French, 95% wont answer you back.
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    Aug 21 2011: English is the language of business and really almost the "common denominator" within many areas of life. I would like to share two short stories to prove my point. When I was in Serbia in 2005, I found a bookseller on the street who knew English; and I was suprised at that fact only because he was MY age-in his 50's-and not many people that old could speak it fluently. When I commented on that fact, he told me one man was really responsible for him to seriously learn the language. Of course I asked, WHO? And his response was Bill Gates, for when all this "tech/net stuff" came about, programs were only in English, so he had to learn it in order to conduct business on the net! And that is something I had never contemplated before. My second story again involves another Serbian man plus a French woman who was visiting Belgrade on holiday. They met and were instantly attracted to each other; however, she didn't speak Srpski and he didn't speak French, but they discovered that they both knew a bit of English, so they used that to communicate. It didn't take them long at all to fall in love, and they promised to stay in contact via Skype. A year later they got married, and even though he is now living in Paris and trying to learn her language, they still use English to communicate. Sigh.... how romantic!

    And it is stories like these that makes me feel like the world IS getting smaller; but I do NOT want it to be just one language being spoken, for then like some have already stated, we would be losing more of our cultural identities-our true selves- which is already happening in bits and pieces. .
  • Aug 21 2011: There will never be one language because if we all spoke for example English eventually societies throughout the world would invent new words, new phrases etc to reflect their culture and social interaction. A new language would develop. Then we would have different sectors of English.

    English isn't exactly the same as it was a couple of centuries ago and I am sure it is the same in other languages.
  • Aug 21 2011: I believe ultimately the world would be a better place with a ubiquitous language. However, in reality, the thought of transitioning countries and societies to another language would be too difficult. You would create a socioeconomic divide. The poor would become poorer because of their language disability and those who could afford English (as an example) lessons will get the better jobs, creating a greater class divide .

    A ubiquitous language would be beneficial if there was a point in everyone speaking one language. 10-20 years ago, American was might of the world, economically and military. Therefore, if you wanted the best career opportunities, learning English was a must. However, now as China is becoming the dominate economic power of the world, in 10 years, knowing Chinese will be a must.

    Having a unilateral language would only be advantageous if it benefited you as individual.
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    Aug 21 2011: Ciao Hugo!!! just a few words... I certainly hope not!!!!!!!!!!!
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    Aug 21 2011: For the most part we analyze the need of diversity from our own cultural perspective. I hear a lot of ethnocentricity and past poetic sentiments here sprinkled with some spirituality and religion. The truth may possible be that communications as a whole will shift to a system that the brain can cope with. With machines processes exponentially challenging the extra 90% of hidden brain power (that is if we can finally tap that boost power) the need for attention will overload the brain unless we opt for either a new language which will definitely put a nail in the cultural diversity coffin or a modified one comprising of bits and pieces of the most brain energy saving expressions. This does not sound particularly great to any of us finite-short -span-lifers but most likely when planetary travels become a reality hearing may also evolve and from the vast distance we will finally understand that earth is just one. When that time comes we may just as well speak "Earthian".
  • Aug 21 2011: I've had this discussion with several people before and I've heard many times the argument that if we'd have only one language, world would be boring.
    I believe that we see world as way less complex than it is. If you look at mankind nowadays and analyse where we are, we'd see that we are quite at the beginning. We haven't yet discovered almost anything about spirituality or physics. We've got some ideas, but that's pretty much it. We haven't yet colonized any other planets (actually most people don't even travel outside their town for their entire life), we didn't manage to evolve or understand more about our spirituality (we still believe in the same things as we did thousands of years ago - we still have so many religions that hardly changed/evolved) and we still don't understand much about how/why universe was born.
    Having a common main language (even if others would still exist, being kept by people who are passionate about other languages) I believe to have a huge good impact on the world.
    For example, my mother is a primary school teacher and since she doesn't speak English, I used to read articles about what other countries do in her field of work and tell it to her if I found those to be interesting so she can do it with her class as well. Many of those she did do, but I'm sure that if she could speak English, she would have done so much more.
    Or, looking at all these communities of immigrants living in countries like US, Canada, Australia, you will notice that they many times don't communicate well with other communities. It is not because they are different, but mainly because they don't speak English well enough to have a full conversation. That's pretty sad. One example is a colleagues from work, who I've talked to a few times about ideas of how to do stuff in the team and had some great ideas. But how many of his ideas really get communicated? I'd say maybe 10-20%?!
    Overall, I think that there is more good than bad coming with having one main language.
  • Aug 20 2011: People will speak what is necessary to stay competitive in business and at home speak the language from childhood.
  • Aug 19 2011: Whether it is true or not, I surely do not hope so, it is like mixing a nice spectrum of colors into a dull grey.There is an obvious trend in globalization and social networking, technology innovation, and science is led by the West where the common business and science language is English. However, I hope the cultural beauties in art, literature and all social forms of expressions do not get polluted much with this trend, not in the actual language used but in the nice quirks and local taste of expressions within nations, ethnicities and any defined social group.
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    Aug 19 2011: Have a look again at the Hebrew word and the translation thereof .....age, generation, nation, time......You want to take a word from an old language and translate it to a current language with a current dictionary? shouldn't you translate the OLD word with an OLD dictionary to know what it meant at the time it was said......? Did you know the word GAY is in the bible?

    "Jas 2:3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:"


    in our current terms the word gay is:

    ".....Gay is a word that commonly refers to a male or female whose sexual orientation is attraction to persons of the same sex. It was originally used to refer to feelings of being "carefree", "happy", or "bright and showy"; it had also come to acquire some connotations of "immorality" as early as 1637....."

    Taken from an old dictionary from the Hebrew word it means:..... bright, clear, gay, goodly, gorgeous, goodly, gay

    I take it that you know that we currently don't yet understand the Hebrew language completely, and we don't have a complete translation that we consider to be 100% correct.......so how do you make your statement to be fact????
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      Aug 19 2011: Hi Hugo,

      Yes, of course we would like to examine the original words and their meanings. But regardless of what those meanings are, believers, of all persuasions, will find a way to interpret them in such a way that their beliefs are upheld.

      Do you know what language Christ spoke?

      It was Aramaic. (Not Greek or Hebrew ... although he may have understood those as well.)

      Here is an example of how accurate (or inaccurate) translations from Aramaic into any other language might be:

      Aramaic is richly ambiguous. The opening line of the Lord’s Prayer, in Aramaic, is:

      Abwoom d’bwashmaya.

      In the King James’ Version of the Bible, that line has been rendered as:

      Our Father which art in heaven.

      However, to capture the FULL meaning from the Aramaic, the line would be more accurately translated as something like this:

      Oh Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos,
      You create all that moves
      in light.

      Oh Thou! The Breathing Life of all,
      Creator of the Shimmering Sound that
      touches us.

      Respiration of all the worlds,
      we hear you breathing – in and out –
      in silence.

      Source of Sound: in the roar and the whisper,
      In the breeze and the whirlwind, we
      hear your Name.

      Radiant One: You shine within us,
      outside us – even darkness shines – when
      we remember.

      Name of names, our small identity
      unravels in you, you give it back
      as a lesson.

      Worldless Action, Silent Potency –
      where ears and eyes awaken, there
      heaven comes.

      Oh Birther! Father-Mother of the Cosmos!

      ----------------

      All of that is contained in the single, short phrase, "Abwoom d’bwashmaya."

      This is a topic I enjoy. And while it is tangentially connected to the current topic of language, if you would care to discuss it further, and in more detail, I suggest you start a separate conversation.

      -------------------

      The word used in Matthew 24:34 is the Greek "γενεὰ." It is more accurately translated as "this generation."
      • Aug 21 2011: that's very interesting. I knew that Bible lost some of it's meanings when it was translated (from various language that it was written in to English), but I didn't expect such diversity in how to translate the original text.
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        Aug 21 2011: Thomas,

        I did know that Jesus spoke aramaic. I believe the bible exactly as it was written, and I have recently started to study the history and languages of that time, as to make sure I get the correct version. My language is Afrikaans, so I had grown up with a translation from a translation from another translation. In my studies so far in the Hebrew language I have seen that one Hebrew word can mean, wood, bark, branch, tree, carpenter, plank, etc. All out of just one word. I would take it that the translators took the word and translated it to English in a way that made sense to them at the time. they also translated it from studies made at that time. The Original Hebrew language is a lost language, and what they translated is what they understood at the time, since then they have made a rather significant amount of corrections after some more studies, but never made those corrections in the translated bibles.

        I also combine my studies with prayer and the voice of the holy spirit as my guide. I will rather be wrong about there being a GOD, and Him coming again to gather He's children, than to be wrong about there NOT being a GOD, and risk eternal flames.

        God is Truth, and everything in the bible did and will happen as it is written. If some interpretations thereof is wrong, then it is the people who make them that is wrong,and not the bible. And may God have mercy on the souls that try to change it, and on those whom have already changed it

        Rev 22:7 Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.

        Rev 22:12 And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
        Rev 22:13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.

        Rev 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
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          Aug 22 2011: Hi Hugo,

          Yes, I gathered you believed in the Bible's inerrancy.

          There is a version of the Bible that is translated from Aramaic, it is called the Peshita. You might like it. Elaine Pagel's "The Gnostic Gospels" is very illuminating.

          Enjoy your studies.
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          Aug 24 2011: i wonder why more Christians do not find it ironic that the Bible is without a doubt a flawed translation with stories and ideas that are highly contradictory with many stories proven false and most ‘laws’ not able to be honored. But, most ironic--the very end of this great book claims..."And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
          I guess it really take faith to look into the dark and claim to see light!
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    Aug 19 2011: I beleive we are in fact heading towards one common language. I think that it will happen peacefully, pulling those who wish to communicate across seas and nationalities. I don't beleive it will be a push for one language because english is such a widespread and well known language. I'm not saying that english is the right way, or it's better than any other language, that's not my intent. Although I am saying that alot of people across alot of lands speak the language, even as a second language. This focus will bring english up from a second language to some to a single language for all. If it were to completly take over and at any point in the future we were to lose the languages of the past, it would be absolutely dreadfull to lose any language or way of communicating, relevant as it is or isn't.
  • Aug 19 2011: I would say, since we are living in Mechanized world where we depend on Machines to dilute our work load, we already have a universal language ie Machine Level Language in the form of binary "1s and 0s".

    Here, we are communicating among each other with the help of this language. The use of translator software helps me get information from websites hosted in any foreign language. ie Nowadays I can easily get information from Chinese / French / Spanish or any foreign language websites and view the web pages in my native language. So binary language or since we represent data in the form of bits and bytes, I would say this is our Universal Language.

    Sometimes, when I talk to people who speak the same language as mine (English, Hindi or even Malayalam- My mother tongue) I have experienced that people understand my words in a different sense or meaning. This could be just because my accent happen to be different, my expression was not what they were expecting etc. Of course these factors wont be an issue while communicating technical / mathematical / Scientific information. But on the issues what we communicate to each other on a daily basis.

    Again all these languages or should I say "the different kinds of sound we produce" can be only understood by humans. Yes, even animals can understand them or I would rather say "Obey", since animals should be trained to do so.

    To Conclude, I've always believed the one and only and the fastest universal language to communicate in this world is "Body Language".

    Watching Discovery Channel / Animal Planet we can see how fast animals communicate to each other...And there was a time when humans were living among them.

    Again, Not sure if I was able to convey my thoughts as much I intend to in this language. :)
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    Aug 19 2011: I would like to know which events in the bible did not and will not happen Thomas...... I also don't know of any specific "due dates" as you call them, in the bible.....I disagree with you, but as you say.....maybe this is not the time or the discussion to bring it up.
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      Aug 19 2011: Hi Hugo,

      Matthew 24:34 is a good example.

      "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place."

      The Bible has Jesus telling his disciples that what is prophesied will come to pass in the lifetime of those to whom he was speaking - i.e. sometime before, say, the year 120 AD, assuming some of that generation lived to a ripe old age. (It didn't happen.)

      Another obvious event that did not, and will not, happen is the flooding of the entire earth (Genesis 6 - 9)

      If this is a topic that interests you, perhaps you could start a separate conversation.
  • Aug 19 2011: Honestly, I sincerely hope we don't end up with only one language. One of the things which makes us humans unique is our complex languages. And I don't know about you, but I think it would be a shame to lose all that beautiful diversity.

    I can speak fluently in 5 languages, and I think learning foreign languages is not only good for communication and a better understanding of other cultures, but I also feel it aids with learning everything from science to maths to art.

    Additionally, no culture would be willing to give up their language. The only way there could be just one, global language is if this language was forced on others. And that would mean not only the loss of thousands of years worth of rich cultural history, but also genocide. And that is not what we want.
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      Aug 19 2011: QUOTE: "Additionally, no culture would be willing to give up their language. The only way there could be just one, global language is if this language was forced on others. And that would mean not only the loss of thousands of years worth of rich cultural history, but also genocide. And that is not what we want."

      I am not sure why we think that language is "forced on people" - language evolves.

      Our emotional attachement to a given language is irrelevant just as our emotional attachment to anything that naturally evolves is irrelevant. Things will change. They are changing. They will continue to change.

      We do not even speak the same language we spoke twenty-five years ago. It has changed (and most of us didn't notice.)

      We have had thousands of languages and most of them no longer exist. Perhaps the world is poorer for it but does their absence make any difference in the quality of our lives or in the appreciation we have for our culture and our heritage?

      I don't think so.

      No one speaks Latin, Geez, or Kpati and the world is still a wonderful place.

      A baby's laughter and a sunset are still heart-warming and awe-inspiring - no matter what language we describe them in.
      • Aug 19 2011: Let me rephrase. What I meant was that certain languages would have to be banned from schools etc.

        And I agree that language does evolve and change, and that is only natural. However, I still feel that the loss of a language is a great loss. You are effectively losing the identity of an entire race. Their absence may not be felt directly, but it always leaves many unresolved questions.

        For example, take the Indus Valley incsriptions. We have found many tablets, but we still don't know what they mean. As a result, very little is known about this ancient civilization. The death of their language has resulted in hundreds if not thousands of years of history being effectively wiped from existence. Archaeology and speculation can only take you so far.
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          Aug 19 2011: QUOTE: "For example, take the Indus Valley incsriptions. We have found many tablets, but we still don't know what they mean. ... Archaeology and speculation can only take you so far."

          Yes, it would be wonderful to be able to translate the Indus script - and we may be able to at some point.

          There are lots of things that have been "lost to the sands of time." Things we will never even know we have lost.

          I think what we have now may be lost to future generations too.

          I sometimes imagine an archeologist ten-thousand years from now digging up a cache of DVDs (or their replacement.)

          What would she make of them?

          And what language would she speak?

          While the loss may be real, her sense of loss would have to be concocted.
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    Aug 19 2011: It will happen only through genocide......No culture will be willing to give up their language etc. The only way we will have one language in the world and one currency, will be by the near extinction of all cultures but one....

    Now if you are a christian like me,.....you will know that this WILL happen as it says so in the bible....
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      Aug 19 2011: Hi Hugo,

      The Bible says lots of things and many of them have not and will not happen (and, in many cases, their "due dates" have come and gone so there is no recovery, so to speak.) But that's a topic for another conversation.

      As to your premise that language will be unified only through genocide, I disagree. Cultures do not "give up their languages;" languages simply evolve, often merge with others, and, eventually, become one.

      If we end up with one language, it will be a natural process of integration and sharing. As I mentioned in an earlier post, if we continue to interact on a global scale, it is inevitable. And - if it happens - it will take centuries.

      As others have mentioned, if we do have a common language, we will very likely maintain local and regional languages. This pattern is evident in many places already.

      If we cease to interact globally, for any reason, then language will probably fragment into many more languages than we have now - again, this is a natural process.

      Personally, I think we will have a common language but not even in our great-great-great-grandchildrens' lifetime.
  • Aug 19 2011: Imagine for a minute that the world does speak only one language. Now let the world keep moving, 100 years later, will everyone still speak the same language? 200, a 1000 years, will we still speak the same language? We can use existing examples where something similar did happen and by analysing these try to see what would happen. Does England and Australia speak the same language after so long? Yes, they do. Does Portugal and Brazil still speak the same language. Yep, we do. But is it exactly the same? Of course not, the dialects are too diverse. You can even say Brazilian dialect or American dialect, these countries are so big that even inside them you have plenty of very distinct dialects. Where I am going with this, last time I tried watching a Portuguese (from Portugal) video on YouTube I had to turn on the subtitles to understand what they were saying, the vocabulary, the phrase structure, the pronunciation, the prosody are distinct enough to make the spoken language to be almost unintelligible. People used with English may not see this as clearly since the language doesn't seem to have changed as much as Portuguese but the point is they do change and left alone they will evolve into different languages. With the time we had in our examples we could only see very distinct dialects forming so let's take a look at an older language, Latin. It evolve into several completely different languages, someone who speaks Italian will not understand something written in French. There will be similarities but the differences are enough to make a full understanding impossible.
    To close my argument, the world is not heading towards a single language because even if it did the language would branch into dialects that would become different languages with time. What can, and should in my view, happen is to stimulate people from various nationalities to speak in as many languages as possible. Some languages are so diverse that even stimulate different ways of thinking./2000cha
  • Aug 17 2011: I highly doubt we are headed towards a common language, mono-linguistic world. Language diversity has always been diverse and I imagine it will always be so. That said, it does not mean that there will not be a dominant language for such things as business and science, as seen currently with the English language. It would be interesting to see a language specifically developed for the purpose of being a universally understood while avoiding favoring only certain countries.
  • Aug 17 2011: i think that could never come true. it can't be one language, it will just like now, people learn english but can't abandon their mother-language. each nation will and should keep their culture, language is just a way to communicate.
  • Aug 17 2011: In the past 30 years I have seen English emerge as a global auxillary language. It seems to have started because terribly important communications had to be available, such as airline pilots and landing towers or doctors and their training, computer banking and so on.
    What harm can come from all of us being able to speak to one another? I have travelled the world and been filled with joy to be able to speak to Russians, Thais, French, Lucians or Japanese people.
    Our global society is advancing toward peace and the common recognition that this planet's rescources belong to all mankind. That includes our garden of colorful cultures and languages. Being able to to speak to each other will be a great ipmpetus towards peace.
  • Aug 17 2011: I sure as hell hope not. Only a very powerful tyrant would be able to impose such a program on all of the people in the world. God help those who dare to disagree.
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    Aug 17 2011: I believe that we will eventually reach a point where everyone will need to have a shift in languages. It will be tragic when many languages go extinct and cultures go through shifts but when it comes to unifying humanity the extreme problems that are associated with miscommunication.
  • Aug 17 2011: I think the main language that the different people and nations are spreading today is HATRED.
    Nations full of pride,lack of consciousness and corruption.
    Today in our time,all we can see is War,Destruction,Famine,corruption,Murder etc. we are all in sin and badly suffering from it.
    For me the main language that we should spread to be united with each other is Love.We need it so bad,specially in this time of crisis our economy falling and different wars and revolution happening around.
    The universal language of all mankind is LOVE.
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    Aug 16 2011: I notice two threads of thought here... One, what is humankind's destiny? Two, is it good or not? Since the question posed by Hugo is the first, I'd remind folks of Karl Popper's "The Poverty of Historicism". Also relevant (and more au courant) is Nassim Taleb's "The Black Swan". Perhaps oversimplifying, the question cannot be resolved, since events in the future which are inherently unknowable will decide the issue. Some examples... Will a major nuclear war take place at some point? Will a plague (like the Black Death) ravage the planet? And then there's always 'gray goo'.... I might add that evolution shows most organisms eventually die out -- but that new ones fill the ecological niches left behind. So too languages. In a fragmented world languages diverge into a variety of mutually incomprehensible tongues (ct. New Guinea before 1900). In a world in which folks are not 'locked away' in compartments, languages merge -- or the culturally weaker ones are replaced by more 'fit' ones (even if the only reason that language is more fit is because it is adopted by media or other elites). We do not and cannot know if the world will disintegrate (i.e. become less integrated) much as the Roman Empire did, or whether it will become more integrated (as during the rise of the British Empire). I submit all conversations on this topic are 100 percent speculative and zero percent predictive. In plain English (since I'm posting in English), flip a coin and there's your answer to the debate topic....
  • Aug 16 2011: If you happen to be a Marshall McLuhan fan, you would conclude that the written source of our language, alphabetic text, actually tends to produce diversity rather than unity. Leonard Shlain, who authored "The Alphabet versus the Goddess", also develops the same conclusion, that our language is one that drives us toward individuality rather than unity.
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    Aug 15 2011: I definitely hope we do. Not that I wish different languages to be eradicated- they're great for art, expression, unity, and secrecy- but I think that we can achieve so much more as a global entity if we can transcend the barriers of language. Even though it'd be "fairer" if we could use a constructed language, nations obviously would resist, especially the ones that possess the "soft power" to spread their language. I think we will see a rise in English and Mandarin speakers, though we can't know which one will come out on top.

    Countries and businesses could save valuable time and money by not needing to hire translators or deal with translation errors. Knowing a second or third wouldn't be a significant advantage in the workforce (though that may only seem a good thing to my monolingual self). I think international cooperation would rise, not just on the Country level, but on individual levels as well. This would have dramatic impacts not just on culture, but on promoting empathy, morality, and understanding across the world. We'd better understand other customs and the problems of those suffering. We'd understand their cries, and they'd understand our solutions.

    Culture is a collection of gestures, customs, traditions, expression, and memes. Cultures that have existed are the product of geographic isolation over centuries. I don't feel like cultures are meant to or can be kept in a stasis, and that as cultures have grown through "Cultural Diffusion" over the ages, they will grow through globalization. It's impossible to preserve a mere phenomenon. But it's not something that's lost or needs to be mourned for. Just as periods of artwork- Impressionism, Romanticism, etc- came and went, so do cultural practices, but we still see people trying to capture the themes of those periods in artwork. So, even as cultures get "tainted" with globalization, I believe that what we value in those cultures will remain and still grow, if not in a "pure" way, still a worthy one.
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    Aug 14 2011: I'm agreed with liela...
    but we can't say ..it's impossible.ya really it is very difficult..
    @Hugo Wagner..i am just against the fact that....One common language will enraise international co-operation and undersatanding...
    although we live in one-world...there are differnt people belong to differnt countries and culture.
    right!!!.NoW English is a universal language as said before...
    but it depends upon the case where we use ...like for science most of the terms belong to latin.
    secondly people living in a country would like to use their mother tounge.there is no doubt.
    so its nearly impossible to imagine idea as i think...
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    Aug 13 2011: ...For example if you learn Japanese language you just don't learn another tool to speak to the Japanese people you get insight to the thinking way by Japanese. The same applies to all languages. For example, there might be a term which might not be able to be translated to that new language. That means people will have to sacrifice that culture. Culture takes times to develop. It won't definitely be good if world speaks one language as it won't be good to have human as the only species on Earth. So, how can there be anything as better understanding if all people are homogeneous will similar thoughts as shaped by the one world language.

    On the other hand, it would mean death blow for all human cultures and civilizations even for the one who language gets adopted because it will become a pasta or stew of randomness to the point that makes it of none but still civilization and people whose language couldn't be the one will be cheated and diminished. I think there should be a competing languages unlike even today.

    Some time constructed languages are suggested as alternative for Universal language which means none's language and culture. But there inherited problem with these constructed language, they are all syllabic like English, by default Latin scripts and all. So, even if there can be made a universally accepted one language at some people will feel dissatisfied. So, homogeneity is always a no-no. Therefore, diversity is always the best choice that nature has chosen. But this seems to be challenged by some humans who feel that there be global oneness for everything. We should work from now to save diversity and learn to respect each other than merely tolerate them.
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    Aug 13 2011: It generally seems due to rapid glottalization we are heading towards a world with one language but I don't think this happening in near future. First, there much diversity than you can imagine and people even be it one loves individuality. But before we get to the global language which all existing human will speak, we have to talk about the language of Science.

    Today, English is the de-facto language among scientist so as to the point that no one will be called scientist if he doesn't know English. Why because today Science is many study and evaluate the existing corpus and only do experiment type. So the existing corpus is dominantly in this Indo-European language. This has been the advantage as well as a nuisance.

    So, a possible "destiny" might be that we might be heading one world where being "educated" means knowing that specific one language which is what is happening these days. As it is happening in developing countries like India, that one language- English in our Earth has been the equivalent of the prosperity. That might be the reason people will abandon their individuality. Therefore, I think we are heading to a world where one language will exist and other will be only for expressing feelings about virtually non-existent number of peoples and all other things will happen in that one language. But there is also a plausible way that might happen, that is the popular media like TV and Internet will completely over-swamped and speakers of minority language might just trade off death of their language or so called "modernity."

    On it's influence international cooperation: I think this will bring a negative influence on the international cooperation because people who language was once not English might feel that they have paid a large price for globalization. As languages shapes human thoughts, we might be turning ourself to a fleshy robots will all commons ideas and all. The language is not just a tool for communication but it is the mold of an culture.
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    Aug 12 2011: We are heading toward an automated brain to brain translation network worldwide, running on low power dust networks of tiny sand grains which communicate in real time, "reading" and "writing" to and from our brains wirelessly. The sensitivity by optical detectors of bio chemical electrical potentials from our brains is already in place.Those in control of the communications networks will dominate the electromagnetic spectrum and control the world. Right now, they are a Chinese controlled Yakuza mob. As defense departments around the world realize the danger for enslavement and kinetic torture, there will be a fight for control of the routing, the equipment, the re-routing and changing of information on the fly, of which translation is central. The key ability of fast optical computing and networks to systems on a chip will become the most important element of this control and will determine who wins the Cyber War.Without an automated method of ensuring human rights and choice, it can become either a greatly personal growth and empowering ability of learning and expression for the human race or total enslavement and complete brain occupation, otherwise known by the concept... Singularity. This concept denies individual rights in favor of loss of self and Borg like existence.
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    Aug 11 2011: has anyone here seen the ted talk: Wade Davis on endangered cultures?
  • Aug 11 2011: I think that's the future, The one universal language
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    Aug 11 2011: Speculations:

    Firstly-
    Apart from books with an intrinsic need for fixed content-eg poetry novels etc up to now.
    If there is an end of the convenience that a book, published by print is a fixed final word on how things are
    Until the next edition or the overthrow of that idea in a decade or six.
    Databases for instant translation get clearer and subtler as computers get faster.
    The chance is high that languages will change fluidly, run together and apart while moving on.

    Secondly
    China (the #1 English speaking nation I was told) has a pictogramic writing system
    Some people say this is the time of hybridization.
    What if languages develop that use both the linear letter word based system that brought the West scientific development, and the pictogram based system that may become fundamental to the new economy.

    2b
    The power of metaphor A tweet or short piece of copy etc. could go further and grab more attention as a string of metaphorical associations. There may be a convenience to this hybridization in communication.
    If it gives an edge to passing on ideas effectively or competing in the market place it will tend to be encouraged.
    A form with closest lineage to poetry could be a most effective way of talking to others fast and to the point.

    2c
    An app is represented by a pictogram often.
    We often touch that pictogram to operate the app.
    So as apps become more specialized and specific a series of processes may be signaled by an app logo and a couple of qualifying marks.

    2d
    Mouvement and gesture may be standard ways to handle and filter information.
    Many people may have to pay to train as 'dancers' just to get basic jobs just like they formerly had to get training in MicroSoftware like Word Excel and Powerpoint
    However tools gestures and terms that obfuscate may tend to disappear fast…
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    Aug 11 2011: What if everything is speeding up?
    What if an unpredictable global culture is forming that is beyond our present limits?
    We may have to rely on a language or group of associated languages including dance, gesture, linear letter word and pictograms, apps and nuances not yet possible to dream up let alone comprehend.

    What would be the mind of a child born to all the above

    Sometimes children find it easier to suck up from one's surroundings all the complexity in order to survive.
    What if they find all this stimulation a place to thrive
    What if the future contains more for them than our compressive ideologies
    What if they do not have enough time to waste on our neurosis and instability.

    What if our job is to pave the way by dropping our distractions
    So that we pass as few of them to our children as is possible
    As we move away from lifetimes of evolution
    Into some kind of understanding of self organization?

    The fundamental limits of our present and historic communication are only recently being perceived let alone resolved.
    Language will probably take care of itself through the convenience of change.
  • Aug 11 2011: When there is one language the world will be united, there will be less war and less killing
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    Aug 11 2011: yes it already has! Science/math is universal language! the story of the tower of babel is amazing. it was only when you all understood each other is when we were able to right the sky/stars. til the confusion of our languages. we are heading into a complete understanding.
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    Aug 11 2011: I agree with Debra. One language is too much uniformity, its probably one of the reasons we branched out so much. My question is: Will there be a time where knowing two languages fluently is required? Besides your native language, what would the second language be? Would it be either Chinese or English? Will everyone have to know either Chinese or English.
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        Aug 11 2011: Totally agree, since language is not a mere system of communication for humans, animals also have their sounds for communication, but only people managed to develop it into something more than just exchange of sounds in order to understand each other's needs. Language is a complex phenomena, language is art because it takes a genius to use it efficiently. The languages we speak reflect the culture and mentality where we belong.. We are so different and it's great! On refusing from native languages and acquiring a global one we would lose our identity turning this world into a boring place of clones.
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          Aug 20 2011: Beautifully said, and I for one am like you and do NOT want people from different cultures losing their identities which I am already beginning to see on the surface of some. :-(
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        Aug 13 2011: Me too. Yeah in America no one really cares learning other languages. Although I promise myself to learn japanese and italian.
    • Aug 19 2011: But.. other country, Not using English as a native languages, they need to be fluent in English.
      My country, South Korea, Some students are good at English than Korean because English is a standard of Getting a job, applying for the university in Korea.
  • Aug 10 2011: Great topic Hugo. A common language makes sense in industries like aviation. It’s logical to assume fewer airline accidents will occur when people speak the same language. I think many industries could benefit the same way. However, you make a point that culture would be lost. I think a country’s language is a part of its culture just as its history, art, food and so on.
    So do we give up culture for efficiency and safety? Or can we have it all?
  • Aug 10 2011: I'm not sure, It's entirely possible- however, thinking about how much culture and wonderful research and memories and artefacts would then be lost makes me shiver...
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    Aug 10 2011: Dear Brian, It is not a matte of ignoring the importance of Esperanto or any other new invented languages , but it is a matter of understanding that every language ,specially when one speaks in that particular language ,unconsciously, shows his or her culture , nationality and whatever which distinguishes him or her from other nations . Different languages
    have been developed naturally to show this important characteristic of human being and we cannot separate a person from his mother tongue.Esperanto may become a global language one day if many people in the world speak, write it in their country in everyday life . All the best
  • Aug 9 2011: I don't think so. This is big world where the same languages ​​aren't spoken the same way in different regions (even with globalization there are still words, phrases, slang, expressions that are not understood by speakers of the same language). Plus, I think languages ​​are more than a "communication tool", they are part of the culture, the "personality" of a people and therefore would not be replaced.
    However, I believe that there will be a common secondary language, a "global language", used by all people (such as Latin were used and as English is nowadays).
  • Aug 9 2011: I am a teacher. In my school medium of instruction is English. I know of many students who have suffered as a result of their parents' insistence to educate their child in English. These students cant cope up with the language requiremnts and get a low score in exams. This obviously affects their self esteem. Such students have got a bleak future if the family depends upon them.
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    Aug 9 2011: I believe we are heading towards a world with one common second language - English. This is already very much the case but we should not forget that things evolve quickly, a century ago and before, French was the international language, 500 years ago, it was Latin. We may very well live to see the day when the common second language is Chinese, although for now it is still very limited to the mainland. But with an increasing number of Chinese investments abroad, Chinese expatriates and tourists, eventually this might become the case. And let's not forget Spanish, which is widely spoken in large areas of the world, including in the US. I do not believe one common language to ever become possible, as the languages I've just mentioned have deep roots in the world and in culture, and are strongly defended (in particular through such institutions as Instituo Cervantes, Goethe Institut, les Alliances françaises, etc.).
    Regional languages may indeed disappear, as is already the case with languages such as Occitan, Provencal, etc. which are only spoken by older people nowadays. But nations do defend their language, and promote them world-wide.

    One common language could maybe facilitate communication and understanding, but so much would be lost in the way that I believe it would definitely not be worth it. Our diversity is very much linked to our languages. So let us promote it, promote languages, diversity, different ways of thinking and expressing the same idea, and creating bridges between cultures for a better understanding.
    • Aug 9 2011: Why not to learn an universal language as Esperanto? It's neutral, universal and very easy to learn. Please, try to get more information about it. I've been using it for years and I can say it's my first choice on international communication. Saluton!
      http://www.facebook.com/pages/Esperanto-Publika%C4%B5oj/146665208746526?sk=wall
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        Aug 9 2011: Dear Paulo, there seems to be a debate on TED, and I'm sure elsewhere, whether English or Esperanto should be the world language. First I believe it utopia to think one language could be the world's second language, there are just too many different cultural roots in the world, some will learn Spanish, like in the US, others French, like in some countries of Africa, and some others English.
        I do believe however that English is the de facto language, for obvious historical and political reasons. This as I said before was not the case before, and won't be the case probably in the future. Things evolve as the world stage evolves, and is one of the reasons I think Esperanto could not become the world's language: language is linked to culture, and often, it is true, to colonialism and other influences, whether political or cultural, therefore a language which does not enforce itself one way or another could not (I believe) become spoken by a majority. It is the language of the world's superpower that will be learnt by people, just as many people have started learning Chinese. This is a natural attraction towards opportunity.
        Esperanto is a great idea, but because it is not spoken by hundreds of millions of people, it won't be learnt by more. It may be very easy to learn (but so is Globish) but it is not universal. I however defend it and think it a valuable asset, more people should definitely learn it. But the very fact it is neutral is why in my opinion it will never prevail.
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    Aug 9 2011: Naturally it is impossible to have one common language. Different languages have deep origin in cultures which make human beings to know and distinguish one nation from another. We cannot change cultures. Of course if we are now communicating in English, it is merely because it is the scientific language of many developed countries and has been accepted by majority of people in the world. Why do we not write or talk in other languages? Even the language of Esperanto which was presented years ago has not been accepted by the whole world.
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      Aug 10 2011: Ali--not a science-language but a colonial language. English followed Latin, Greek, German, French and Russian as world science languages. We can choose to change because of respect to the pacifists who died in the thousands for Esperanto or follow the imperialists to their graves. 100,000,000 died in Europe during 2 world wars. We have not learned a lesson on domination.
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    Aug 9 2011: I don't think so. It can be a world with a common language like today, but a world with just one language? i doubt that's gonna happen. Languages are not only a method of communication but also their own culture succeeded from their ancestors. And to make a common language? there's only one language in the entire world, which is Korean, and blending whole kinds of different languages is nearly impossible. So, what I want to say is- unless people are idiots, they will find the way to improve the world, such as creating perfect translation machines, establishing translators' schools or something like that. I understand the speaker's point, but I think we need to find alternatives other than unification of diverse languages.
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    Aug 9 2011: the "english" we are speaking now has very little to do with the english spoken a hundred years ago. new words are invented all the time, genomics, biospherics, evolving.
    what a biochemist is talking about with a computer algoritmic designer is unintelegible to almost everyone but themselves.
    altough the platform seems to be one language, it function more like computer languages that can interact with each other.
    so we can call english the main frame, but the idea of a one world language is impossible. because there are languages within the language.
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    Aug 8 2011: No matter how smart and advance we might think we are but there is no way a single language can be universal language...... my national language Urdu gets its origin from two dozen languages that are spoken around that region from Turkish to Bengali but all those languages are still there and Urdu hasn't replace them...even today every region in pakistan has its own language and then we have national language Urdu and then we have to learn English for official purposes,,,

    no matter what anyone way say we are not alike we are all different based on our regions,religion and life experiences etc.....we are jealous beings and there is no way that today's globalization will continue, it will end either with wars or social isolation by societies that has already began with economic crisis and the xenophobia of immigrants in Europe and north America....
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    Aug 8 2011: Yes, i think it's great when you communicate with someone from other part of the world and he or she understands you. You don't have to explaine a lot of things, because that someone comprehends it very well. But from other point of view, a lot of people will loose their jobs and the first one will be translators and interpreters, cause there will be nothing to translate. And сoncerning culture and uniqueness of every nation: every country has it's own history in which a crucial role belongs to their ancestors. Some people choose to preserve this language, another choose to learn languages which will lead them to undersrtand other people, so it will make our life easier and more interesting.
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      Aug 10 2011: Katerina, culture and uniqueness of every nation will be preserved when most people speak International language,
      International english.

      It will just be easier to share their unique experiences and traditions with larger set of people.

      To rely on translators, no matter how good, means introducing a bottleneck, which filters that uniquness and richness of that cultural variety.

      AND all those unemployed translators can became teachers of International english and write stories about the
      life and cultures of foreign lands :-)
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        Aug 10 2011: Petr, it sounds like a good idea with bottleneck and new employment of translators.

        But i think linguistic process as any processes on this world is not ruled only by educated people or simply by people, it is also determened by law of nature in some way.

        For example, you can teach children at school ukrainian language but at home they will communicate russian. And it happens also with many dialects, which are spoken around the world within the family or tribe.

        But i agree with you that english language is spoken by most people of the world which gives to it a lot of chances to become the only one language on our planet :-)
  • Aug 8 2011: I think people is misunderstanding Mark Pagel's point when he says "One world with one language". As others have stated, he is not proposing to vanish with other languages, he is just pointing that if we had a world wich could communicate with each other, no matter how ( if using translation skills, or machines, or creating a new language, or using an existing one as official), we would evolve faster. He is bringing up a trend of thought wich relates language with cooperation and evolution, looking to a view that would benefit us all.
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    Aug 8 2011: I'm so glad to see this debate well underway. I just posted my own similar question on TED...I had not seen this yet. As a teacher of French and Spanish in New York, I certainly hope that Pagel's TED talk is not going to cost me my job!!! I know he's not saying we should abolish other languages, however, being that the implication is the common language is English, and my students already speak English...and unfortunately there already exists the philosophy from many americans that everyone everywhere speaks English (or is learning to do so) so why should we learn other languages?........this TED talk just fuels their conceit. Current cuts locally have taken away French and Latin programs in my region...I could be next, and somehow I don't feel that Pagel is helping...
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    Aug 8 2011: Excellent inquiry!
    I have come to believe this is among the impossible things that could never happen. I'll give you my reasons,
    1. Cultural interferences have at best enriched languages by loaning words, phrases and ideas to each other rather than driving the "weaker" to extinction
    2. I fail to be convinced with Mark Pagel's idea of the crisis of Visual theft being a point in human history and that we have chosen the road to "communicate". Just the way Papua New Guineans developed 800+ languages to protect their identities, ideas and skills, all cultures value their identity too much and will always be faced with this crisis albeit in a different way. This will keep languages alive, just the way it did in the early ages.
    3. Technologies will evolve to uphold cultures and not the other way round. Although ASCII attempted to be the script for all the knowledge in the digital world, soon unicodes had to emerge to support all known languages.
  • Aug 8 2011: In China ,we say :" frequently separating and integrating in turn after long intervals".so I think one day we will be one world
    with one language. one day the one world will be separated .
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    Aug 7 2011: No, I don't think so. And if it is, then it is not in the foreseeable future!
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    Aug 7 2011: Hello all,
    For my understanding regarding these topic were it is pretty much interesting. As we were being independent with mobile phones and internet social networking, etc, we are in a phase were we call it a necessity, not just a tool but a part of us to communicate by far and fast. as you noticed that were sentence is transformed into a code type, ex. R u ok?, 1 4 3 = i love you. Everything is being compressed for us to deliver the message in a simpler and faster way. The question is, r we gettin used 2 it? then what is the next step level of communication? we will be gettin used on the icon, as it is easier to understand globally. By this icon, it will be the global language for all of us. 10 years might be my prediction that all of us will be one language and world.
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    Aug 7 2011: I don't think it possible, let alone likely. Maybe many millenia ago when human life was not as expansive... but nowadays each language society is developed for that particular language. I have been told by a friend from Macau that, as a Cantonese speaker, it'd be easier for me to learn Mandarin than her, and that there are three letters in the Russian language that we more Western Europeans cannot split. Then there is the Shibboleth of the Semitic tribes... We will need translators as languages morph so independently of each other. If humanity was less dispersed, then our languages would merge a lot more (in cases in the UK, there has been a Pol-isation of many english words that are in the working-class's common vocabulary as Polish immigrants have come to work as general labourers and builders and have spoken with their English colleagues).

    Humanity is just too widespread for this to happen again, South Africa is so far away from the UK that the whole of Europe, the near East and the African continent would have to learn each others Latin/Semite/!Xhosa/Dutch based languages for the Brits and South Africans to speak some form of similar language, and this would have to be done for generations whilst they develop together. And that is the example of just two languages with similar Germanic origins.

    The long and short of it, no I don't believe, unless the population of the world shrunk to fit in one continent, that humans all speaking the same language will ever happen, or ever happen again if it has happened before.
  • Aug 7 2011: I agree with Mr. Kofi Anan's saying “Arguing against globalization is arguing against the rules of gravity”

    Further, my answer is yes, however, we will lose so many potential things too.
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    Aug 7 2011: I do think that the world is slowly moving towards English becoming the common language because of business and the growth of the global community. I think the idea of a common language could possibly help international cooperation, but at the same time I think it could cause resentment amongst places whose languages are not being used. I think it's very possible for the English language to imperialize the less common languages, which I think is horrible.

    As long as the common language doesn't degrade the beauty of having thousands of languages in the world, then I think it would be a good thing.
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      Aug 10 2011: Brian says: As a native English speaker, my vote is for Esperanto :)
      Well - my vote -vote of a non-native speaker of English is :: ENGLISH. Seriously.

      Esperanto would be logical - but people are not logical - and will not became logical in a near future
      (of some few thousand years - even if our descendants will last that long)

      I did listen to the interesting talk called Facing the Reality
      http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=_YHALnLV9XU bu UN translator prof Piron
      speaking in favor of Esperanto, but, I am not persuaded.

      Reality is that learning a language is a hard work - and success depends on motivation.
      In my teens I was aware of Esperanto - but I was motivated to learn English since I wanted to study physics.
      The Feynman Lectures are still not available in Esperanto. (Lectures: http://goo.gl/NJ4Jj )

      The same choice - with different motivation - is facing millions of young people today

      " Should I make choice which is theoretically logical or one which works, which gets me to where I want to go?"

      There is nothing undemocratic about choosing Global English: I do have a strong accent - but so do all
      'native speakers' from american south, from UK (particularly Scotland and Leeds :-) ) etc etc.

      If you want to do something logical AND practical, devise ways how to teach standard pronunciation,
      free, on the web and help to explain to all those speakers. who are so convinced, that their native English
      is 'more correct' then another native English, that 'native' means nothing. Being understood is the goal.

      Today, we only have variety of native dialects of English. (Are some 'more native than other'?)

      We can all agree on one International English (ien) and make it available on the web for free
      (with the Pronunciation SPOKEN - not marked in phonetics alphabet). That would help to create a large number of speakers who are fluent ion Global English - which will become much better - more respected -- then speaking some national dialect.
  • Aug 7 2011: Well everyone, close whatever your reading and open your Orwell, time to master the Principles of Newspeak
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      Aug 7 2011: isn't Newspeak is the elimination of vocabulary within a single language in order to prevent ideas to be created cognitively? elimination of other languages would not eliminate certain ideas from being able to be relayed. it may be more difficult to talk about certain things like "the oneness of nature and man" in English but if there are really concepts to vast to be defined in a word then please post an essay on said concept. At the end of the essay choose a string of syllables and make that word mean something.
      • Aug 7 2011: My mistake, I thought Newspeak has an alternate function connecting english speakers to foreign language. Thank you for clarifying.
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        Aug 7 2011: Yes, it was similar to our current "Political Correctness" in that it aimed to stop people thinking in a certain way.
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    Aug 7 2011: I don't see why the future would look too different from today regarding language. All languages with over a million speakers seem to be holding up just fairly well thus far. Now, that is not to imply some will not be more diffused than others. English is, has been, and will only increasingly become the world's common language. Much as the mathematical language is universal and held in memory in parallel with a person's original dialect, so too will the English language become the world's second tongue.
  • Aug 6 2011: every language has some words. these words stimulate certain emotions to a greater extent than other words of similar meaning. we may be able to express ourselves better in different languages. also you cannot add a word to English from outside(there are exceptions in relation to context of the word) as the word without the context will loose its meaning. we should not desensitize the languages. that is my opinion.
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    Aug 5 2011: I also think so. And I think it's gonna happen naturally since I think it's gonna come a day when we're not gonna need to have such cultural differences anymore. :-)
  • Aug 5 2011: Eventually it may or may not. The fact still remains that English Language will eventually dominate leaving the other minors afloat
  • Aug 5 2011: An interesting topic that you brought up!! I think we are moving in that direction as English is becoming a common language in majority of the countries. For example no matter what country the TEDx is held, all the presentations are in English. As of now even if every human learns the same language we won’t be able to be one world. It's like we are divided into small families which we call country. Unless humans don’t understand the power of one world, it would be impossible to become one world. It would take time, but I think it would happen in future may be in next 10000 years!!
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      Aug 5 2011: I think that by promoting one language, we miss out on all the beautiful concepts that other cultures have as common-knowledge. Where in Western philosophy and language do we find the concept of a oneness of man and his environment? Or shoten zenjin? Or even kosen-rufu? We could spend hours discussing these concepts in English that are summed up in a few words in Japanese.

      If you take two people from the same town, same family, even the same womb (twins), they will be very different people with different experiences and understandings. I don't think that promoting a culture of uniformity will alleviate the challenges of peace, compassion and understanding.

      There are many cultures in human history that embraced the notion of "one in body, one in mind" under the function of creating a "better" society, and inflicted this philosophy on their inhabitants...for example, Pre-WWII Japan, Nazi Germany...there are many many others the further back you go. Do you think that these regions are better off now that they have abandoned this quest, or before when they were still seeking it out?
      • Aug 7 2011: I think you are right in what you are saying; I am thinking more technology wise! We got such brilliant people all around the world, so talented that if we all knew one language could be Japanese, Chinese, and English anything. Imagine what the world can be. India for example is now considered one of the best when it comes to telecommunication, the only reason I see that happening is due to more and more people learning English. Not just that, as a country let's say you have so much crises and imagine nobody in that country can speak any other language except for the one that is spoken in their country, I think it would be a disaster, as one will not be able to express their crises to other countries or even ask for help. A common language is what keeps us all from growing only bigger! If you restrict a man from learning only one language depending on the country. We won’t be learning about the Pre-WWII Japan, or Nazi Germany, because there wouldn’t be anybody who can translate.

        Believe it or not, common language does matter. We can learn from each other’s culture, we can learn from each other mistakes so we don’t have to repeat the mistake and start from 0.
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        Aug 10 2011: Excuse me Stephany,
        but did you meant to say:

        .for example ... Nazi Germany..these regions are better off now that they have abandoned this quest.?

        If so, I would say YES. They are better of now, when they abandoned quest for global domination,
        so are their neighbors.
  • Aug 5 2011: A variety of languages reflects a variety of different ways of thinking, cultures and history. Globalization is requiring and inspiring people to learn at-least two languages and participate in a more globalized environment. While English may be the top language of business, all should be preserved in other areas like human cultures and civilizations. Languages in general should enrich our understanding of the world and help us communicate internationally. Being American, English has helped me travel the world, share my experiences with people I never would have been able to communicate with internationally if not for the shared language but learning spanish gave me the same gift in return my opening up that same gateway and to delve even deeper into the human experience by thinking in an entire new way by expressing life differently.
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    Aug 5 2011: I want to live in a world with differences. I want to experience endless cultures and languages. I want to see and learn new things. But we must not take greater pride in our own and disrespect others.

    heh.. My lifelong dream is actually to create my own country, with a new language and culture.. Too bad it's pretty much impossible for me. :(
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    Aug 5 2011: On second thought, I'm sure the human brain will figure it out somehow, It has done a lot till now right?
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    Aug 5 2011: Destiny? Not sure. But if it happens sure would be fun.
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    Aug 5 2011: I believe that every language is getting richer in itself these days.On the other hand Spanish and Chinese are slowly threatening the throne of English.
  • Aug 5 2011: I think it unllikely for everyday use. I cannot think of a major language displacement which has not been the result of some kind of 'invasion', cultural or aggressive; Latin all over Europe; Spanish and Portugese in South Americal; (Old) French in the British Ilses; Russian in the Soviet Empire. Even then there is often a retention of the original language; Anglo-Saxon after the Norman invasion; Nynorsk in Norway etc. Whilst I think it likely that English may serve as a language of business or science, for convenience, there is a such a wealth of literature that I think it unlikely that the major groups of languages will die out; the ones that do now are on the whole localised native ones with less of a 'written' tradition.

    However what may happen with increasing globalisation is that a creole may develop cherry picking the best concepts/vocabulary from major groups to ease communication; after all, that's how modern English became so rich, importing words along the way.
  • Aug 4 2011: It seems that the globalization urges this kind of things happenning. But after all, it will not happen, it just can be a tendency. With the great development of the world's economy, various countries with different interests have already joined the global market.Many experts convinced that finally the world will become one country. Ironically, actually the huge gap between different civilizations decide this will never happen. "Becoming one world ", its quiddity is one civilization vanquishes others. It is really hard to let 6 billion people to have the same culture acceptance.
    PS: I guess globalization actually reduce the diversity of civilizations.
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    Aug 4 2011: I would say- one person, 2 languages!
    Our native languages, but also English (or whatever is hip at the moment, like Latin and French used to be before)!
    I've always felt that, coming from a small country, with only 5 million people speaking my language, we have no other choice but learn how to communicate with the rest of the world.
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    Aug 4 2011: I don't think so.

    To explain, I'll take the example of English. Approximately one and a half billion people were claimed to be able to speak English at the start of the 21st century. And that was a quarter of the entire world population. Despite its dominance, however, it's not the world's top first language - Mandarin is. And yes, globalization is spreading. But it's highly unlikely that it will reach the corners of Chinese suburbs or Indian slums any time soon. And in comparison to that rate, there are more babies born in Asia who will be raised in their native culture.

    Besides, with so many people learning different languages all the time, it's improbable that these languages would become extinct.
  • Aug 4 2011: Are we heading towards a world with one common language? Not really.

    Language like culture can be both micro and macro. I remember listening to Dr Bruce Perry say that orphans in the old style institutions who experienced the first several years of life in cots with minimal contact with carers evolved their own unique languages with each other in clusters within babbling distance. Across a large room different clusters developed different languages. Even in a global culture there are enough spaces for many languages to emerge, survive and thrive.

    I think we are experiencing a few languages that dominate business, power and technology, but there is no way of predicting how long they remain. They are imposed top down on thousands of other languages that serve different needs to their users- think of spirituality, humor, art, local community, identity and belonging for a start.

    As mentioned earlier(sorry I can't find you now), dominant language(s) relies on global connectedness through available resources (Petrol was mentioned as an example) and there is no way to predict how long their availability will continue. History shows us that many cultures have grown to empires that eventually declined. There is also a lot of evidence that their rises and falls were closely linked to ecology and economy - something that many nations are working on but by no means producing any sound solutions at this stage. I don't believe that History is an absolute predictor of outcomes but it can't be ignored either. A language can therefore reach around the world for a period of time but will it continue on to phase out all other languages? I don't believe it can.
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    Aug 4 2011: I don't feel so. Yes many language got extinct as couldn't evolve with need of time but that doesn't mean all language will die and only one will survive.

    Nature likes diversity so also the civilization. Even with in same language there are different dilects. If we look in to the countries where people of multi-cultural origin are living together for long, it's visible when they are communicating with people of other culture or language they are using a common language, with in themselves communicate with their own language.

    Language also evolves with geo- environmental influence, connectivity will not be able erode those influences already.So I don't feel the whole humanity will evolve in to one language (one or the other language may become dominant though)
  • Aug 4 2011: Hi, I think with the internet the world is already a 1world in that sense, and English language is also now a widely used language in the world. If you like, both are now universally acknowledged.

    Having said that, (imo) the world should cherish and procreate the different cultures, traditions & mother tongues or native languages that have existed & inherited. It's wonderful to know & to learn as many languages & cultures as possible. :)
  • Aug 4 2011: So it seems there's around 6,000 spoken languages, and the rate at which they go extinct is fairly slow... I'd guess it'll take 5,000 - 10,000 years before we get a unified language at this rate. I think this makes it relatively unpredictable with our current level of technological advancement.

    It's hard to say if there will ever be only one language. However, I think it's likely that the number or languages will be greatly reduced.
  • Aug 4 2011: We have already reached one platform "the internet" which has become the medium for" the message". The next stage is one global common language; expressed in a "GLOCAL" way.
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    C. V.

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    Aug 4 2011: No.
    We tend to think that a universal language, say English, will replace all the others, just because it's useful for business.
    But business is not all there is to life, and globalization does not mean uniformity. In fact, it has been argued that globalization actually creates more nationalism.
    In the past, people lived using two or three languages in daily life. Think of a 16th century scholar: writing in Latin, using one vernacular to talk to his doctor, and perhaps a very different dialect to talk to his maid. This was common. There is no reason why a lingua franca cannot coexist with others, without displacing them.
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      Aug 4 2011: QUOTE: "In the past, people lived using two or three languages in daily life."

      I would say, for the majority of the world's population, this is still common.

      In Europe most people speak more that one language; usually more that two.

      In Africa, for example, Kenya, kids grow up speaking their local language, then they learn a common language (in Kenya, it's Swahili,) then they go to school and are educated in a third language, (in Kenya, it's English; in other countries it could be, say, French.)

      In China, there is a similar pattern - regional languages, some localized in a single village; and then a common language used "by all" and more than 300 million people who speak English. A lot more. By some estimates there are more people who speak English in China than there are people living in the United States.

      Even in parts of the United States, large segments of the population speak two or more languages - typically Spanish and English.

      In Canada, many speak French and English. And so on.

      I do not think one existing language will become universal; I think language will just do what language does: morph into something different. And, if we continue to interact with one another "globally," it will quite naturally evolve to be a global language.

      Our emotional attachement to a language (or culture) will not abate the incessant force of evolution. If it did, we (English speakers) would still be saying things like:

      Now welcome, somer, with thy sonne softe,
      That hast this wintres wedres overshake,
      And driven away the longe nyghtes blake!

      Saynt Valentyn, that art ful hy on-lofte,
      Thus syngen smale foules for thy sake:
      Now welcome, somer, with thy sonne softe,
      That hast this wintres wedres overshake.
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    Liz A

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    Aug 4 2011: Short answer: No.

    Long answer: It would be quite possible that English (or another main stream tongue) could become a universal SECOND language. But People will cling to thier regional language for a variety of reasons, not least of which the difficulty in changing over to a new system of communication. Look at the US's attempt at switching over ot the metric system; some things are widely metric (food info lables, to mention one), and the scientific community is all but required to know it, but at large the population stuck with the "English System"
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      Aug 4 2011: QUOTE: "... Look at the US's attempt at switching over ot the metric system..."

      The US attempted to switch? When?

      I know Canada switched to metric (sometime around 1964, I think) and that some things there are still in the "imperial system."

      My understanding was that the US rejected the idea outright.

      Is that a misconception on my part?
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        Liz A

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        Aug 4 2011: I am fighting the temptation to use Wikipedia. Here's an article from The Straight Dope, which is nicely condensed.

        http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/947/whatever-happened-to-adoption-of-the-metric-system-in-the-u-s

        The US has tried several times to increase metric use. The first real attempt was in 1875, after the government signed the "Treaty of the Meter". Officially, we are still trying.
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          Aug 5 2011: QUOTE: "The US has tried several times to increase metric use. The first real attempt was in 1875, after the government signed the "Treaty of the Meter". Officially, we are still trying."

          Got it. America didn't reject it outright; Americans did.
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        Aug 4 2011: You're right Thomas, we switched to the metric system and while some items still have both measures on the packaging it is often because the manufacturer is American. Many of us who grew up with the other system still think in terms of Fahrenheit for example and have to do the conversion. (Man am I ever dating myself in order to answer your question!)
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    Aug 4 2011: Google's the one language
    well - technology will unify it all
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      Liz A

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      Aug 4 2011: Doubleplusungood! Crimethinker!
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    jag .

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    Aug 3 2011: I think its a cool idea, and a heart warming one . I think it will happen, and maybe there will be 2 or 3 main languages.
  • Aug 3 2011: My answer is 'Yes'. Eventually, the entire world will use a single language. This will occur more as an evolutionary progression, born of necessity (it will be the next evolutionary step up from using a lingua franca). When this happens, I believe "international co-operation" will be an obsolete concept as we will have also evolved into a "one world" entity (a world without borders, free from conflict, and one in which "collaboration" replaces "competition").

    What this will mean for human cultures and civilizations is that there will be no 'power' (be it 'soft' or otherwise), all other languages will become extinct (studied for leisure purposes perhaps), and a 'cultural merge' will have taken place ("cultural identity" will mean something completely different to what we understand today). We will become a global resource based civilization where the well-being of our fellow human-beings (and the planet) will have replaced the pursuit of profits.

    I just hope that when this day does come, the language chosen isn't Esperanto (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanto) :)
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      Aug 3 2011: Hi Andy,
      Thanks for your insightful answer!
      I like what you said about Earth being already a "one world entity" when the use of a single language happens.
      As you said, I believe it will be part of an evolutionary process, but I wonder if there won't be something (the next giant leap in humankind) that may inspire such a social change.