Technology and World Languages

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I've always been extremely interested in the science and concepts behind learning different languages. I often find myself wondering why we haven't developed a single worldwide language. Its odd that, apart from already being multilingual or using translators, we can't even natively communicate with a majority of our own race. Do you think we will at some point develop a "worldwide" language? Also, apart from personal cultural interests, is learning a foreign language even worth the time with the technology we currently (and will) have?
 

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  • #2
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I often find myself wondering why we haven't developed a single worldwide language.
We did... math :)

Spoken languages are intimately intertwined with culture. We have a lot of cultures, so we have a lot of languages. I am thankful for it. The world is a more fascinating and richer place because of it.

Do you think we will at some point develop a "worldwide" language?
Maybe, but not for an awful long time. Hundreds of years at least.

Also, apart from personal cultural interests, is learning a foreign language even worth the time with the technology we currently (and will) have?
The technology is not even close yet. You travel to the middle of nowhere Russia and tell me your technology can help you :D
 
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The technology is not even close yet. You travel to the middle of nowhere Russia and tell me your technology can help you :D
Phone with google translate? =p

I know there has been a few attempts at creating an "international" language (Esperanto for example), but I'm surprised (or at least saddened) they didn't really catch on.
 
  • #4
Evo
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I know there has been a few attempts at creating an "international" language (Esperanto for example), but I'm surprised (or at least saddened) they didn't really catch on.
Many people already speak English and English words are used in many languages that don't have equivalent words. Why would you think replacing English would be a good idea?
 
  • #5
phinds
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Many people already speak English and English words are used in many languages that don't have equivalent words. Why would you think replacing English would be a good idea?
Not only that, English is one of the most, if not THE most, prolific languages in existence in terms of the number of words.

I remember a quote, sadly not exactly and can't remember who said it but to paraphrase:
Most languages borrow words from other languages. English chases other languages down an alley and mugs them and robs them blind
EDIT: found it:

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary.
by James Nicoll

I prefer it without the first sentence but left it in 'cause that's the full quote.
 
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  • #6
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Many people already speak English and English words are used in many languages that don't have equivalent words. Why would you think replacing English would be a good idea?
Not specially logical grammar and awful mismatch between pronunciation and spelling? ;)

I'm not saying that effort would be worth it.
 
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phinds
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Not specially logical grammar and awful mismatch between pronunciation and spelling? ;)
I think "awful mismatch between pronunciation and spelling" is a gracious understatement of how bad it really is, particularly compared to some other languages.

Still, English, not matter how bad, is a standard, and by gum, standards is standards, and sometimes standards are created by .... well, you can read the story here: www.phinds.com/standards/
 
  • #8
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Not specially logical grammar and awful mismatch between pronunciation and spelling? ;)

I'm not saying that effort would be worth it.
Well, I never said it was without it's problems. :oldtongue:
 
  • #9
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The problem isn't so much finding what language would work the best based on the technical dexterity of it. The problem is finding a language that every country would be willing to learn. There's going to be a lot identity culture clashes involved in such a transition, especially if we use a language already established by a country. Think of how many countries would be insulted by being told the new world language is English.
 
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The problem isn't so much finding what language would work the best based on the technical dexterity of it. The problem is finding a language that every country would be willing to learn. There's going to be a lot identity culture clashes involved in such a transition, especially if we use a language already established by a country. Think of how many countries would be insulted by being told the new world language is English.
There is no way everyone is going to learn a new language either. Are you old enough to remember when the US was going to switch to metric?
 
  • #11
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There is no way everyone is going to learn a new language either. Are you old enough to remember when the US was going to switch to metric?
Agreed. No, I was born in '80, but I can imagine.
 
  • #12
phinds
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The problem isn't so much finding what language would work the best based on the technical dexterity of it. The problem is finding a language that every country would be willing to learn.
Well, for the French, at least, this is a very easy question. There IS only one language that's worth learning and that's French.

For the American's too, it is an easy question. There IS only one language. Period. Everyone already speaks English so why would anyone want anything else?
 
  • #13
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Just one small correction:
For the American's too, it is an easy question. There IS only one language. Period. Everyone already speaks English text-pidgin so why would anyone want anything else?
 
  • #14
phinds
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Just one small correction:
You speak only of younger Americans, not all Americans, but I do get your point.
 
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Why would anyone learn someone else's language? At the expense of her own?
And how could a specific string of characters be considered preferable in any way to others, to identify a thing or concept?
And how could 7B people possibly agree on so many strings?
And even if they did, each region would develop its dialect until each one practically becomes its own language.
Considering only programming languages, you'd think one would be enough, math maybe, or binary, but no.
Everyone wants his own language, religion, gouvernement, ideals, philosophy to be spread all over, which leads to either conflict or compromise.
How badly does each one of 7B people want this?
 
  • #16
phinds
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How badly does each one of 7B people want this?
My guess would be that for at least 80% of them, it isn't even a question they've ever considered, much less would they care anything about this discussion which they would see as one of interest only to those who don't have to think about where there next meal or drink of potable water is coming from.
 
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Not specially logical grammar and awful mismatch between pronunciation and spelling? ;)

I'm not saying that effort would be worth it.
At least it's easy to learn it :D
 
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My guess would be that for at least 80% of them, it isn't even a question they've ever considered, much less would they care anything about this discussion which they would see as one of interest only to those who don't have to think about where there next meal or drink of potable water is coming from.
Unless a language helps survival (i.e. financial incentive), there is no interest for anyone to convert. And assuming English or Chinese did become global, either would eventually go the way of Latin for example, and branch into Italian, Spanish, French etc. A language can be created by any local population who doesn't feel like being constrained to foreign authority. Asking for someone to speak a given language is like asking for votes to a specified political party.
 
  • #21
Astronuc
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I agree with Greg on language. Having different languages enriches the world. There are different and often unique expressions in each language.

Besides, I've been in neighborhoods, or countryside, in Europe, and the local folk did not speak a lick of English. Fortunately, I could converse in German, or Spanish, and struggle in French, but I could communicate, and it was fun and useful. Usually when I travel to a country, I try to learn some of the language, or some phrases, with which to engage in some basic pleasantries or conduct some basic transaction. It's appreciated when a foreigner demonstrates some interest and effort in a local language.

Interestingly, I once had the privilege of having dinner on a river boat in the mountains of Shikoku in Japan. Our Japanese guide from Tokyo has a hard time with the local dialect, because it was a regional and older dialect of Japanese. The boat was operated by a local fisherman, and he and others used cormorants to catch fish. Some of the fish we ate came from the cormorants. It was a fascinating experience.

I can imagine some Americans traveling to Australia, Wales, Ireland or Scotland, and even parts of England, and having trouble with the local dialect of English. My wife has had difficulty with some dialects of English, especially from parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, and further north.
 

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