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Hugo Wagner

Graduate Student - Mechanical Engineering, UC Berkeley

TEDCRED 200+

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Is our destiny to be one world with one language?

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

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

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  • Aug 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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