An Argument for the Implementation of an Universal Tongue

I’m sure that many of you played the phone game as a child. For those of you who didn’t or may not remember it, it is a game where the participants line up in a single file line. The first person whispers something into the ear of the next person and then that person tries to whisper the exact thing into the ear of the next and so on. By the time the person gets the message at the end of the line the original message becomes distorted and in many cases doesn’t even resemble the original message. This game is used to teach children the importance of avoiding gossip; however, it rings all too true when considering the idea of language.

It has been estimated that there are 2000 to 4000 distinct languages currently in use around the world. Each of these languages possess a multitude of varying dialects. Because of these facts, it seems almost understandable that the lines of communication fail so easily. It is an unfortunate part of the world we live in yet we cling to the idea of keeping the languages intact and even celebrate their existence under the umbrella of diversity. Yet language exists for only for the purpose of communication, and in our recent global world, it is becoming a hindrance rather than a tool.

Maybe you heard of the Tyson Chicken commercial that was aimed at a Spanish speaking audience. The commercial was meant to say, “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken” but through the translation the meaning was altered and instead came across as, “It takes a sexually excited man to make a chicken aroused”. Now obviously the company did a poor job of translating their message and never intended their commercial to evoke such a sexually explicit meaning, but if something like this could slip through the cracks in such a large corporation such as Tyson, imagine what happens in the millions of daily conversations attempting to bridge the communication barrier. It seems remarkably silly to even attempt to communicate if you are aware that your ideas could easily become so skewed doesn’t it? Yet there are many people who feel that language is such an important part of cultural identity that they are willing to take these risks. I agree that our varying cultures are fascinating and deserve preservation, but I also believe that we need to embrace the world we live in now. We no longer live in isolation throughout different regions of the world. We are constantly encountering each other via the internet, business transactions, and though travel. Here in America, we have several different cultures, and since we are so inclined to intermingle these cultures one with the other, it is important that we learn to communicate in the same format.

I feel that, in order for you to truly understand my position, we need to discuss the nature of language and why it is so diverse. Why do we speak so many languages? Some would argue that god split us into the different languages at the Old Testament’s Tower Of Babel. If this is your view then I might not be catering to your sensibilities and for that I apologize. I tend to look at language from a more secular and scientific approach. I hope this doesn’t offend you.

According to migratory patterns and language similarities, scientists have determined that the reason for such a diverse group of languages results from the interaction or isolation of peoples. Through interaction, groups, given enough time, will begin to assimilate each others language until the two are identical creating a language of their own which, in many cases, will leave communication with one or the other original languages strained if not impossible. This blending of languages can be seen in our own culture as American English adopts certain words and phrases from the American Indian and Spanish languages. In the case of isolation, two groups that once spoke the same language would, though time and separation, alter and evolve their languages until they became unrecognizable to one another. This pattern can be seen as recent as the migration of English speaking settlers to America. Many phrases used in British English mean very different things in American English. British phrases such as, “I’m sorry to have to knock you up in the middle of the night” (meant as an apology for waking someone) possess very different implications to we Americans. As it is in these two examples of language, so it is throughout the world. Communication plays such a vital role in our species and yet we are increasingly turning our backs to the practice, and instead we are celebrating our communication barriers as if they are a good thing. Language, for all of it’s phonetic beauty and rhythms, only has one primary purpose: to share information and ideas. By choosing to ignore the implication of a universal language we are choosing to turn our backs on the ideas and information of other cultures. To me this is an flagrant form of social injustice and can only lend to a greater level of separation between dominant and submissive cultures.

I believe many would agree with me that a universal form of communication would help to enrich the world and bring people a sense of solidarity across the globe; however, it has become more of a sense of pride to resist these changes rather than to embrace them. I believe the conflict lies in the following: English speaking countries feel they have the right to have their native tongue as the universal language due to it’s popularity throughout the world and the dominance that English speaking countries have on the global economy. Meanwhile, people of other languages, feeling overburdened with the forcefulness of English countries on so many aspects of their culture, cling to their native language as if it is vital to the validation of their heritage. This is an understandable view, however, I think that it is lacking in it’s complexity. For example here in America, most of our communication is done in English. It is understandable then, that in order to successfully communicate in America, one must embrace the native language. Assuming that communication is a vital element of success, to refuse to learn English while residing in America, would make it almost impossible to achieve any level of economic security. Even a mediocre job such as fast food or construction demand at minimum a conversational command of the English language in order to achieve any promotions or advancement opportunities. To undermine the importance of learning English, such as our education system is proposing, leaves our non-English speaking students unprepared to live in our society, thusly condemning them to a life of poverty and economic turmoil. If our educators continue to cater to alternative language classes, we are failing our students and lending to a permanent lower class.

I do not propose that we rid the world of the existing languages. I hardly think that that is the way to approach this endeavor. Many people hold their words in high regard. Many religious activities rely of the phonetic value of the languages spoken in those rituals. I feel that those who want to hang on to their languages for whatever reason should do just that. I do not propose the dissolution of these languages; only the addition of one we all can be a part of. After all, those who work within diversity, do so with the idea that the world should communicate and share with each other. That they should learn and grow with each other, because of one another. One man cannot hope to learn every language on earth and therefore is always at a disadvantage. Until we all can employ the use of a translator that will understand all languages and dialects, I feel we have no choice but to embrace the thought of an universal tongue.

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