I’ ve always liked being bilingual. It means that communication has rarely been a problem for me. Nowadays, English is such a common language, I’ve always been able to find someone who could speak it in a few places I’ve been. I guess that if one language could be called common to all, it would be English. However, some remote parts of some countries have never even heard of English ! So I guess the logical idea would be to make English a universal language.
Now, I dont’t want to be a pessimist, but that language wouldn’t last long. Think of the Americans and the English. A few hundred years ago, they spoke the exact same language. Now, they have some very different words such as rubber/eraser, dustbin/trashcan, as well as completely different accents. It is the natural evolution of speech.
But that doesn’t stop us from learning our neighbour’s idiom. Where there is a will, there is a way. A lot of young people leave their country to learn a different language. I have a friend who recently did that. She is an Australian and came to spend a year in France. I met her on the first day. Observing her adapt to her environment was fascinating. She couldn’t speak a word of French when she arrived. After a week she knew basic sentences. After three weeks she could have a simple conversation. In three months she understood most of what people said, and she could hold a conversation without my help to translate. In a year she was practically fluent.
So I suppose that an unknown language is only a problem if we make it one. Our race is known for its ability to adapt : when we are cold, we make warmer clothes, when we are hungry, we find food, when we can’t speak a language we communicate in other ways. Moreover, our language is part of what defines us. To a language we associate a culture, a mentality and often a religion. To Russian we associate snow, fury hats, vodka and Orthodoxy. To Brazil we associate bright colours, dancing and Christianity. It’s our identity, our accent is a reminder of our true origins. And when our new world has turned its back on us, when the country we’ve adopted doesn’t want us, it’s always nice to go back to where we come from.
If there is a name to reunite all the languages in the world, – « all the languages in the world » is a little long -, it would be Babel. And babel is our refuge. It’s our home. It unites us.