Do We Need A Universal Language?

Jacquelyn N. Tawney Hanna W131-4480 10-16-07 Exploratory Essay

JT 2 DO WE NEED A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE? This is a tough question that we must face in this new millennium. Some may argue that a universal language is necessary; others may feel that it would be a waste of collected effort. A large percent of the population would most likely pose a new question: who cares? Before we can even ponder the different arguments of this issue, we must define what is meant by the term “universal language”. On a very extreme scale, a universal language would be one that every human being on the planet speaks and is fluent in. It would be the only language in which we, as a world, write and converse with. From another perspective, we can consider a universal language as one that everyone knows and can use fluently, but only uses when necessary. It could be one that only national heads would use this language. As to who this issue effects, it is clearly everyone. Every single person of the estimated 6,602,224,175 that populate this world (www.cia.gov) must communicate with each other. Through speech, written text, or even sign language, different languages are used, and it is necessary for everyone to consider the possibility of a universal language to simplify the daily issues we have in communicating globally. However, in the case that the universal language is only used by government leaders, we already defeat the purpose of the national language. But what are the goals in having a universal language? Tying together all two hundred and sixty five nations (www.un.org) with one

JT 3 language would be the most prominent, prolific goal, with many others following close behind. If there were one language, this great universal language, we could strike down the language barrier and communicate as one, thus joining together the six point six billion people who live on Earth (www.cia.gov). This could end wars, eliminate poverty, cure cancer! Maybe the outcome won’t be so extreme, but in the least we could all work together towards a universal peace. With the good also comes the bad. In attempting to establish a universal language, we come across a few bumps. Which language do we switch to? How do we even begin to spread the new language to every single person? And more importantly, won’t we lose the values, the cultures, which go along with each native language? Apparently, there is already much debate over the topic of a universal language. While researching the current debates, one can find that some believe that English is already a universal language of sorts, playing its king card on the internet and in many science research journals . Although it is surely showing progress, English will never be able to officially hold the title of “universal language”. Why? Because every language is more than just a bunch of letters, symbols, sounds. Each is a history, a cultural record keeper. Each language originated as unwritten, meaning that the only way it developed, as it still does, was by word of mouth. Different people spoke it with separate accents, dialects, with slang. And where exactly did these variations come from? The culture. The history. The people themselves!

JT 4 Consider for a moment the Tower of Babel. Once upon a Christian time, there indeed was a universal language, with which a unified people spoke to each and everyone. But this people was cursed by God with the Confusion of Tongues, and now each of us has our own language. It is a constant battle exactly how to bridge all of us together. Hypothetically, let’s pretend that we have decided to employ a universal language, and we chose Chinese, based on the fact that Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world (www.cia.gov). Wars would erupt over this decision, with each claiming that his language should’ve been chosen instead. Many would refuse to learn the language, which is the main problem we have today, isn’t it? Ergo, the whole goal of having a universal language is defeated. In my personal experience, I think that it would have been beneficial to know a universal language. I recently traveled to Mexico, and found it difficult to communicate with the natives there. However, most of them did know English, making it easier to communicate and bargain while I was shopping. Similar experiences occurred when I went to Grand Cayman, Jamaica, and Canada. Each of these countries have their own personal languages and dialect, but they had no problem with using English while I was in their company. This brings me back to the idea that maybe English is already a universal language. According to Rodriguez in Hunger of Memory, it was essential for him to learn the public language of English in order to function in the world, and

JT 5 to do well in school (20). It made it easier for him to communicate, knowing English, especially when he was in class (21). However, after he learned English, he forgot Spanish, which shamed his family (28). Did learning the “universal language” really help in the end? English would be a great candidate in the running for a universal language. The majority of countries already speak it, and the more powerful nations use it as a main language. The United Nations even uses this language more than any of the other five of its official languages. In conclusion, it is difficult to say whether or not to institute a universal language. Only time will tell where our dialogue is going to end up, and who’s it will be.

JT 6

Works Cited Rodriguez, Richard. Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez: Autobiography. 1982. New York: Bantom-Dell, 1983. www.cia.gov. April 19 2007. September 10 2007. www.un.org. 2007. September 10 2007.