I recently had a very interesting discussion with my father, a philologist by education. He claimed that the world would be a much better place if everyone only spoke English and no other languages existed. His claim was based on two assertions:
- If everybody spoke the same language, then people would be able to easily communicate with each other, no matter where they are from, leading to more mutually beneficial social and economical exchanges and, ultimately, benefiting everyone in the world.
- Anglo-saxon culture led to some of the freest societies in the world, and hence English is closest tied to the ideas of individual freedom among all languages - hence, if only one language is to be had, it has to be English.
Further, he argued that there is nothing wrong with, say, Japanese culture suffering from disappearance of Japanese language (a lot of, say, Japanese poems cannot be directly translated to English without some loss of meaning or artistic value), since the Anglo-Saxon culture is superior anyway, while the Japanese culture is too stuck in the past.
I strongly disagreed with this notion. In my view, there is inherent value to diversity of languages and cultures, and, say, Japanese culture coexisting alongside the Anglo-Saxon culture allows people more choice in what culture to immerse themselves. If the world was monolingual and monocultural, then, in case the culture was not to your taste, you would have to suffer in it - while in a multilingual and multicultural world you can move to a different place with a different culture, if your homeland's culture does not suit you.
Languages are closely tied to the cultures they arose in, and it is impossible to eliminate a language without a culture suffering and shrinking. Hence there is inherent value in diversity of languages in the world.
In my view, it would be best if everyone spoke two languages fluently: one international language (English is a good candidate), and their own language. In this case we could have the best of two worlds.
I should add that my view on this has changed significantly over time, and while in the past I believed that having only one language and only one culture was for the best, now such a possibility seems to me extremely limiting and just plain boring.
What is your opinion on this?