Would it be advantageous if all the people throughout the world could speak one common language?
‘Words are all we have’ – Samuel Beckett.
According to an eleventh century Arab writer, Ibn-e-Hazm, in the beginning there existed a single language given by God, thanks to which Adam was able to understand the quiddity of things. Over the chequered history of mankind, the fragmentation of this unique tongue that existed abinitio gave rise to a multitude of diverse languages. An integration of all these, or a reversion to a single language would have several repercussions.
The fundamental benefits of a single world language are pragmatic. A common language would dissolve all communication barriers and increase mutual understanding between people and the world over. Such an environment would be conducive to world peace and the end of conflicts. Economic prosperity would be facilitated as business partners are able to communicate freely, leading to a growth of international trade.
Xenophobia and other related human fears would be eliminated as people are united under one language. This would undermine at least some racism or ethno-centrism as societies become more egalitarian in their outlook on foreign individuals. On the cultural front, a unique tongue would make redundant the need to translate works of literature or to subtitle/dub movies. The dissemination of knowledge and information could be done freely and in all parts of the globe, as the world's comprehension of different cultures rises.
However, there are some drawbacks of a single world language. The convenience of a single language with its resulting blandness would not make for a full life. Language is more than just a communication of needs, it is a reflection of the social, historical and cultural milieu of society and is therefore a sacred institution. By restricting the modes of human expression to a single language we would be stultifying, repressing and suffocating man's desire to be creative. 'The limits of my language are the limits of my world', as someone once aptly noted. Also, in a manner similar to the situation depicted in George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-four', a single language is a dangerous situation as it may put disproportionate power into the few hands controlling the medium.
Although the implementation of a single language is an achievable target, the situation is bound to be transient and impossible to maintain in the long run. Cultural differences between societies transcend language. This is proven by the distinct cultures of the countries speaking the same language. Hence, although the same language, English, as spoken in Canada for instance, is dissimilar to that spoken in the United Kingdom, the United States of Australia. Also, the culture of a country may be composed of several sub-cultures each with its own language. The home of the Queen's English - the UK - is where English, Gaelic, Welsh, Punjabi, Bengali and Urdu, all coexist. Another obstacle in achieving this target of common language is political pride, which could create conflict between nations, when the choice of a dominant language is being made.
In the light of the above discussion, I would suggest that if we are to succeed economically, socially, culturally and politically, then the world must embrace plurilinguism. The future is a multi-lingual one.