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This House believes in a global language
This House believes in a global language
English has in the 20th century become the global language; it is the language of trade, diplomacy and the internet. English has 400 million mother tongue speakers in the world, and another 500 million second tongue speakers. There have been many 'lingua franca' languages before, Greek in the ancient world then Latin in the Christian world until the seventeenth century and more recently French. However these languages have always been the language of the elite. English is both much more wide spread geographically and is not just an elite language so is having a much bigger effect and is in a much better position to become a single language for everyone. But is its marginalisation of other lesser, regional languages, a good thing? The advance of English is resisted within many cultures who see language as an essential component of identity as well as a key tool for accessing the history and literatures of individual peoples (George Orwell explored this theme in his novel 1984 with Newspeak, a language created with the purpose to suppress a population's thoughts), yet others believe one global language would be useful; in fact L. L. Zamenhof created Esperanto specifically for this purpose at the end of the 19th century (although Esperanto never really gained ground as a language in its own right). Should everyone be taught English as to make the language the only one globally?
|Points For||Points Against|
|Language integration is already happening.||Different languages use different sounds making a global language unrealistic.|
|A Global language is necessary in a globalized world.||Having a single language is a slippery slope to a decline in freedom of thought.|
|It wouldn't be that impractical to make everyone learn English.||Local language and culture would decline significantly.|
|Works of poetry, songs and novels could be translated into just one language providing access for everyone to a diverse range of culture.||All languages have their own peculiarities making them unsuitable for speakers of some other languages to learn.|
|Translation in business or politics can be very expensive and time consuming.|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
Language integration is already happening.
Integration is something that is already happening due to the existence of Creoles. Bryson (1991) states that, "According to Dr Loreto Todd of Leeds University, the world has sixty-one creoles (languages that are a mix of two different ones, such as the many different Pidgins spoken around the world) spoken by up to 200 million people." Creole languages are the ultimate form of language integration, and most would argue that this isn't language death, and can in fact enhance the culture through the new language.Improve this
Creoles aren't an example of language integration.Creoles are simply a natural shift in the language, and not necessarily a complete overhaul and integration, for example English itself became 'Frenchified' after the Norman Conquest, but it is still far removed from the French language we know today.Improve this
A Global language is necessary in a globalized world.
The world is becoming increasingly more and more globalised and a common language of communication is necessary to help this continue. Countries are more interdependent than ever and with the advances that we have seen in technology in the last few decades, communication is instantaneous. For us to be able to effectively communicate, especially within fields such as international trade and economics, as well as diplomacy, a common working language is key. McDonalds for example have almost thirty three thousand branches in almost every country in the world1 within such big global companies communication is essential. Not surprisingly these multi-national companies increasingly opt for English as their corporate language regardless of where the company originally comes from, for example Japanese based Rakuten is to make English its company language from 20122.
1 Dean Praetorius, Subway Passes McDonald's To Become The World's Largest Restaurant Chain, The Huffington Post, 7th March 2011,
2 Ulara Nakagawa, Unconventional Rakuten, The-Diplomat, 12th May 2011
The world today demonstrates that globalisation can occur even without a global language. McDonalds has obviously not been hindered by having to speak different languages in different countries. As a company that employs people on low wages and is based on a franchise system there is no need for employees to be able to speak a global language to be able to serve their local customers. Meanwhile in international relations, speaking a guest country's language is generally seen as good manners; even from tourists.Improve this
It wouldn't be that impractical to make everyone learn English.
The United Nations already has universal education high up the priority list. The second millennium development goal is to achieve universal primary education and to 'ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling'. Universal schooling is the key to teaching a global language. This does not mean that children will be forced to learn a global language, but because of the utility of the language most will want to when they are given the opportunity. The global spread of English encourages non-native speakers to learn a second language; English. Without English, a second language would only slightly increase the number of people you could communicate with. With English (or, if it ever takes off, Esperanto!) there is a stronger incentive to learn the single language that will dramatically improve your ability to communicate with others around the world.Improve this
It will be difficult and impractical to make everyone learn the same language.Picking just one language disadvantages those whose languages are replaced especially if they are unable or unwilling to use the new language. It would be extremely practically difficult and expensive to teach everyone the new language, especially when literacy levels, even in their own language are very low in some countries. Those without good enough language skills may find it hard to get a job at all, thereby disadvantaging those without access to good education, something that is seen in countries where knowledge of English is becoming essential, such as Spain.Improve this
Works of poetry, songs and novels could be translated into just one language providing access for everyone to a diverse range of culture.
Poetry and other significant literary works could be translated into English so that everyone can enjoy them. This would be equally true of scientific and technical information as well as teaching staff and institutions. Most popular classical works are translated into other languages without loss of meaning e.g. poems of Robert Burns from the original Scots into English. And why would we purposely want to make it difficult for people to understand each other? Surely understanding each other is more important than learning about their culture but not being able to converse whatsoever. This would have immense benefits for science as researchers all over the world would be able to understand each other's work.Improve this
Translation is not always successful in preserving ideas or literary constructions meaning cultural diversity may be lost. Translating works into English could be seen as another form of cultural genocide. This is particularly true of poetry (the works of Shakespeare for example), where local dialects and word sounds are essential to the understanding of the piece. However many new works a global language would provide access to, true appreciation is best gained from studying them in the language in which they were written. By reducing the use of other languages we risk cutting people off from historical documents and literature in their old languages, works which often carry emotional or religious significance. Understanding of some languages may be lost altogether if they are not spoken every day.Improve this
Translation in business or politics can be very expensive and time consuming.
Translation is very expensive, but while there is no common language also necessary. All sorts of documents have to be translated into several languages even within countries, for example UK councils provide information on their activities in the major minority languages within their area. With a global language this will be cheaper and quicker as well as reducing the potential for misunderstanding. The European Union is the big example of this with all documents needing to be translated into every member state's language. The total bill for the EU in translation fees was €800 million in 2004, that's €2 per citizen1.
1 Roxburgh, Translating is EU's new boom industry 2004.Improve this
Not translating causes its own problems.Meaning is given to words by their cultural context rather than a dictionary definition. This means people from different cultures may use the same word to mean different things in different contexts, even when speaking the same language. Crucial cultural distinctions maybe overlooked if translation is no longer considered. It would also be much more expensive to create a new language, and to make everyone learn it (e.g. Esperanto), and international organizations seem work perfectly fine with translating. Misunderstanding from having different meanings from the same words would be as great as the translation costs.Improve this
Different languages use different sounds making a global language unrealistic.
Different languages use different sounds and so can't always distinguish between different words in other languages. Many languages don't distinguish the sounds English makes significant use of. Chinese makes little difference between the voiced and unvoiced consonants. Samoan has no consonant clusters, let alone a word-ending consonant. To native speakers of such languages, the likes of short closed-syllable English words like "kid" and "kit" are just difficult to differentiate.
Isolating languages that do not require the learning of a complex inflection system is probably a preferable kind of international auxiliary language to fusional languages that do require such learning. However, English is not optimally isolating; it still inflects, and in an irregular way even. For instance, while a truly functional isolating language would have a word to periphrasally express past-ness of an event for any predicate, English requires that the verb itself inflect just like in Latin. It doesn't make possible isolating and consistent forms like "go --> [past] go", "see --> [past] see", "love --> [past] love" but fusional and inconsistent forms like "go --> went", "see --> saw", "love --> loved". And this is further complicated by the irregular conjugations for present and past participles such as "going | gone", "seeing | seen", "loving | loved".
Unlike in French or German, mistakes that people make in English are easily understood by native speakers. The English language is a simple one with simple sounds. These sounds separate words nicely. It is for this reason that the English find it very easy to understand people from other countries even if their level of language is low. The English language is from Anglo-Saxon origin instead of Latin. Whilst Latin was a beautiful language, it is also a very complex one with elongated words and sentence structures. The Anglo-Saxon language however is one that can be used with very few and very short words. This makes the global spread of English as opposed to other languages a good thing. English does not have complicated accents or masculine and feminine forms. If a non-native speaker asks 'You have water?' it will be understoodImprove this
Having a single language is a slippery slope to a decline in freedom of thought.
A single language reduces the freedom of thought. In George Orwell's 1984 Orwell has placed an essay at the back of the book explaining the novel's concept of Newspeak, a single language formed by the novel's dystopian government in order to eradicate free-thought and what is known in Newspeak as 'crimethink'. To force everyone to learn a single language is a 'slippery-slope' towards this type of language, as cultural identity would be the first thing that is lost and then maybe free-thought would eventually go with it.Improve this
Having a single language does not result in everyone thinking the same way or government control over thought. Every language and culture has a broad range of people within them with competing ideas. In democracies this is actively encouraged and the government plays very little role in the creation and changing of language.Improve this
Local language and culture would decline significantly.
Language is the primary form of cultural recognition, and if this were to disappear then culturally every nation with its own language would lose the biggest recognition of its cultural identity. Many nations do not like this form of 'cultural genocide' and actively rebel against it (such as France who try and limit the amount of English loan words that creep into its language). This will happen because once there is a global language the language of instruction will be, in many places, predominantly that global language; that usually in turn is the language people become most fluent in. Multi-linguals are likely to only have a more impressive command of one language. There would be pressure for that language to be the global language and once local languages are less well-spoken than that language, there will be little point in learning them any longer so they are likely to decline and disappear.Improve this
Local languages are in decline anyway even without a global language so a global language would not be the primary cause of this. There are always bigger languages within a region or nation that attracts people to use it so that they can communicate better with other groups.Improve this
All languages have their own peculiarities making them unsuitable for speakers of some other languages to learn.
While in many ways English is easy to learn this does not mean the language would be a better choice of global language than any other language. English has its own peculiar and highly irregular orthography. For instance, "o" in "box" is pronounced not straightforward [o] but [É] in Britain and [ÉË] in the U.S.; "u" in "bud" is not plain [u] but [Ê]. It's heavily inclined towards non-isomorphic diphthongs such as "light" [laÉªt] and "lure" [lÊÉ], which defies most other language speakers' common familiarity with straightforward pure vowels. Literal phonemes are irregularly dropped, as in "wednesday" [wÉnzdeÉª] and "leicester" [lÉstÉ]. "th" varies between [θ] and [ð], and both sounds are less than common among other languages.
English also abounds with the kinds of consonant clusters that are completely alien to many languages. For speakers of those Austronesian languages that have no consonant cluster at all, the likes of "sixths" [sÉªksθs] prove extremely difficult.
The statement that (the orthography and phonology of) English is "very easy to learn" or "easily accessible to the many" cannot be further from the truth when the learners means international.
There are many alternatives -- natural or artificial languages -- that do not involve uncommon (non-ASCII) letters/characters/symbols other than English.
For an introduction to the International Phonetic Alphabet symbols that appear in this argument please see http://www.omniglot.com/writing/ipa.htmImprove this
The English Language is still very easy to learn.Otherwise, why have so many around the world already learnt it? English does not contain its own writing system, the Latin writing system is shared with hundreds of other languages, so there are no difficult symbols to learn for a newcomer. This is often not a problem for those whose native tongue is not based upon a latin writing system. This is because many languages that do have their own writing system also have their own Latin equivalent, such as Pinyin for Mandarin Chinese, as well.Improve this
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