Would one common language help to keep the peace?

In a recent on-line debate the question was asked “Should there be one global language?” and one of the arguments delivered under the yes vote read as follows:

“If there was to be a single global language that all the world’s citizens would have the ability to communicate easily with individuals from different countries thus creating more equality. If the world was better able to understand each other than there would likely be a reduced amount of conflict because there would be no loss of communication when being translated. A single global language would also prove to be more efficient in the global economy because the worlds businesses and corporations would be better able to communicate.”

Reading through a number of both the Yes and No votes that followed there seemed to be a theme about global harmony and global peace being the result of a common language, countered by a number of others highlighting that many wars were waged despite a common tongue.

So what is it we want to achieve with a global common language?  Is it simply a way to communicate with another without having to contemplate too much about the language we use?  because if that is the case then there isn’t a language out there which is fit for purpose.  Is it to drive efficiencies into the supply chain? because if so this language already exists and it is in Bits and Bytes.  The problem here is everyone reaching an agreement on standards, ANSI X12, Tradacoms, XML, CIDX, PIDX, etc. not to mention the multiple transfer protocols, ERP systems, constantly evolving pack sizes….. and the list just goes on and on.

I can’t honestly answer this question because I personally do not believe that a single language will be able to deliver the expectations which everyone is already placing upon it.  I don’t think that by taking away the different ways to express yourself in different languages would in any way harmonies the world, in fact I believe it would have the total opposite effect.  Speaking again from a personal point of view, I find that there are much better ways of expressing certain things in Swedish than in English or German, similarly I find I can find better ways to express my sentiments in English than in German or Swedish, and yes let’s go full circle, I find many ways to express myself better in German than I do in Swedish or English.  To somebody who isn’t blessed with the ability to speak more than one language this probably doesn’t make much sense so let me offer you an example or two.

The word “lagom” in Swedish is, for me, the single most perfect way of expressing satisfaction, be it quantitative, temperate or otherwise.  “How warm was it in Greece last June? It was “precis lagom”; is that enough fish? it’s lagom, thanks…. we do not have a single word in either German or English which has such a powerful but simple way of expressing personal satisfaction, and yes, what is lagom for me, is probably not going to be lagom for my wife or anybody else for that matter.

So my favourite German word has to be “doch” it is next to impossible to give a direct translation, in fact I don’t believe that there can be a translation for it, despite some dictionaries using the word “still”.  Es ist doch nicht Wahr? (it’s not true) Aber sicher doch! (but it is!) although depending on how this appeared in the source text, and to what age group I was translating for, I would possibly take a little more “linguistic license” here and write (No way?)…. (for sure!).. but then that edges into the world of transcreation and requires a well written document brief, which is a whole new subject matter, one which I’m not about to embark upon today.

These are just two very strong but perfect examples as to why we need a plethora of languages to cover all cultures, sub cultures, dialects, genders, generations and here too the list is endless.  In our industry it is only those who understand how subjective and complicated these things can get who are in a privileged position to be able to guide their clients into understanding a single common language and that language is multilingual communication, or as we call it Localization.

So could one common language keep the peace?  Probably not but true Localization will go a long way to helping more people communicate with one another correctly and that really can’t be a bad thing can it?

Keep smiling
Keep smiling – The interpreter at my sister’s wedding in Italy earlier this year, ensuring that we all understood what they were signing up for 🙂