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Monolingual vs multilingual world
in Global

By MayCaesarMayCaesar 2803 Pts
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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  1. Live Poll

    Should the world be monolingual or multilingual?

    6 votes
    1. Monolingual
      16.67%
    2. Multilingual
      83.33%
  2. Live Poll

    Is every culture valuable, or should some cultures be eliminated?

    6 votes
    1. Every culture is valuable.
      50.00%
    2. Some cultures should be eliminated.
      33.33%
    3. All cultures but one should be eliminated.
        0.00%
    4. All cultures should merge into a single master culture.
        0.00%
    5. Else.
      16.67%



Debra AI Prediction

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Arguments

  • This is an interesting topic. While I would agree that a monolingual world would have many benefits, I don't know if I agree with English being the primary language.

    English has problems and little issues, such as it isn't phonetic, adjectives come before the noun, and the size of the language.

    I think if we really wanted to switch to one language, we almost would have to make a new one that would draw on other languages and be specifically crafted for this purpose.

    As far as cultures go, I don't think there is such a thing as a "superior" or "inferior" culture, although some definitely have practical advantages over others. For example if hygiene is part of your culture, that has obvious health benefits. Beyond this however, topical things don't matter that much and are largely superficial, such as music and dance. 
    MayCaesarPlaffelvohfen
    At some point in the distant past, the universe went through a phase of cosmic inflation, Stars formed, planets coalesced, and on at least one of them life took root and developed into the human race, who conquered fire, built societies and developed technology .
    All of that so we can argue about nothing.
  • There are many good reasons to learn more than one language, even dead ones!

    Language structures thought patterns more than we realize and I think that some concepts are better understood when you can study them through those different structures. Think of poetry, something is always lost in translation and I think the same holds true for abstract concepts.

    There are obvious benefits to have at least one language in common and English serves the purpose well, it's easy (no offense to native speakers), practical and already permeates global communications...
    piloteerMayCaesar
    " Adversus absurdum, contumaciter ac ridens! "
  • DeeDee 1491 Pts
    An interesting question. Ones own native language is a thing of beauty which can never translate into other languages without losing some impact or meaning  , I love the idea of different languages and the idea of one universal language I wouldn’t like at all.

    I’m an artist and sell work at the weekends from a government pitch , I meet people from all over the world and communicate in their native tounges by placing my phone on speaker and using my translate app , last week I had a conversation in Arabic using this app which I found to be pretty amazing and it worked brilliantly I prefer this as a pretty good option to your fathers suggestions.

    Full credit to your dad for bringing up a very interesting topic 
    MayCaesar
  • It's shocking to hear a philologist say that. I think the point he brought up about how certain languages do not have an English translation for entire cultural practices, is pretty much the best reason to not have a universal language. I'm also not quite sure where he got the idea that Anglo Saxons are superior. They needed to use the number system of Arabic scholars to do their math, and also the monetary system used in western cultures was created by Arabic scholars. And they needed to use the alphabet that was created by the Greeks, and needed to record their ideas on paper that was created by the Chinese. I find it difficult to believe any contributions that could be tied to Anglo Saxons would had ever taken flight without those things. 

      
    Plaffelvohfen
  • There are many good reasons to learn more than one language, even dead ones!

    Language structures thought patterns more than we realize and I think that some concepts are better understood when you can study them through those different structures. Think of poetry, something is always lost in translation and I think the same holds true for abstract concepts.

    There are obvious benefits to have at least one language in common and English serves the purpose well, it's easy (no offense to native speakers), practical and already permeates global communications...
    More than twice as many people speak Chinese globally than English speakers. It seems it would make more sense to use the most commonly spoken language, and the fact that Chinese is more nuanced, it would deal with cultural differences and abstract concepts better. It seems like you don't actually believe all of humanity should speak the same language, but if we were to, you think it should be English. I also don't believe there should be a global language, but if there was, Chinese would be the frontrunner. 

    I find it interesting how much of our culture influences language. I wish I could be a linguist also, but there's soooooooooo much involved with it. Not only do you need to master the language, you need to understand traditional manners in which the language was used and how modern society shaped the language, and how the language shaped society. Nietzsche was a philologist (linguist) and he had a  sycophantic thing going on with Roman and Greek culture.              
  • @piloteer

    You make good points, logograms allow for more nuances and although it is natively spoken by a lot more people, I would argue that English is currently understood by even more because it's a lot more easy... Functional literacy in Chinese requires knowledge of about 4000 characters, compared to a 26 character alphabet for English... I don't think that if we were to all speak the same language it "should" be English, any language would do in the absolute, but from practical implementation (starting now) point of view, I'd still go with English...

    I guess there could be good arguments for a completely new "universal" language that would include logograms or maybe Esperanto?
    " Adversus absurdum, contumaciter ac ridens! "
  • @Plaffelvohfen

    No language is easy for adults to learn, but the younger a person is, the better they will be able to learn a language, especially if it's their first.  If we started teaching all newborns Chinese from this point on, we'd have a global community that would understand a very intricate and nuanced language that would be very capable of interpreting very obscure and sometimes vague cultural practices and ideas. It's worth noting how many of those Chinese speakers understand English, but how few English speakers understand Chinese. I'm not saying Chinese speakers have a better understanding of other languages than English speakers, but............................................. .....................................................ya, I don't know how to end this sentence.  
    Plaffelvohfen
  • MayCaesarMayCaesar 2803 Pts
    edited February 13
    On the matter of languages being easy or hard to learn, I do not think there is such a thing as some language being inherently harder to learn than some other language. Were it the case, we would expect the average individual living in some societies to be worse at communication than the average individual living in some other societies, which does not seem to be the case. Native Chinese speakers seem to be as good at speaking, reading and writing Chinese, as native English speakers are at speaking, reading and writing English.

    The practical difference, I think, comes from fundamental differences between the structures languages. A person who grew up in the UK will have an easier time learning Spanish than Korean, while a person who grew up in Japan will have an easier time learning Korean than Spanish.

    Some of the eastern languages have a different writing structure, which to the people who have not grown up learning a similar structure may appear very challenging. Eastern cultures also tend to be high-context cultures (meaning that sentences often have indirect complex meanings that are impossible to directly discern from the words themselves), which leaks into their languages, making them harder to decipher: in Japanese, for example, there are many polite ways to say "no" that, to a person from a low-context culture, may not appear as such (the phrase literally translated as "It would not be easy to arrange" may mean "I refuse to arrange it", for example).

    I am a native Russian speaker, and there are admittedly many essential differences between Russian and English language. Slavic languages tend to be somewhere in-between low-context and high-context ones, and Slavs usually mean what they say, but often may also spice up their sentences with some flavors of meaning. Slavic languages also have a highly dynamic spelling structure, where, for example, the word "running" in "I am running" may look very different from it in "You are running" (in Russian, "Я бегу" vs "Ты бежишь"). Most Western languages do not have that, and I imagine it may be hard to get the hang of it when learning a Slavic language as an adult.

    piloteer said:
    It's shocking to hear a philologist say that. I think the point he brought up about how certain languages do not have an English translation for entire cultural practices, is pretty much the best reason to not have a universal language. I'm also not quite sure where he got the idea that Anglo Saxons are superior. They needed to use the number system of Arabic scholars to do their math, and also the monetary system used in western cultures was created by Arabic scholars. And they needed to use the alphabet that was created by the Greeks, and needed to record their ideas on paper that was created by the Chinese. I find it difficult to believe any contributions that could be tied to Anglo Saxons would had ever taken flight without those things. 
    His point was that the culture which Anglo-Saxons have developed over the centuries, both as a result of their own evolution and appropriations from other cultures, has proven to be leading to the freest and most prosperous societies (however subjective this claim is), and hence everyone switching to this language will also push everyone's cultures in that direction, making the world a better place.

    My mother, who is also a philologist, strongly disagreed with it. Different philologists may have different opinions. :)
    piloteersmoothie
  • As I said, in the absolute any one language would do... But from a practical angle, I still think that since English already permeates global communications, and since it is already the most common 2nd language in almost every country, that it would be more practical to make this one as the "common" language (think D&D), as it already is in many ways...

    I'm not saying it would be the best one (I don't think there is a "best" one), just the more practical and easiest to implement in a timely fashion... 
    MayCaesarpiloteersmoothie
    " Adversus absurdum, contumaciter ac ridens! "
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