If Everyone Were Able to Speak English, What Would Happen to the Other Languages?

By Juliette Renaut. Juliette, 15, studies at the Lycée privé Saint-Vincent, in Senlis, France. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below. *Shortlisted for the NUHA Youth Blogging Prize 2012*

Imagine 20 years from now. English is the universal language. Travelling to Europe, Asia, Africa, South America is a piece of cake. English is spoken everywhere. By everyone. No more talking with your hands or having to point at objects to make yourself understood. No need to carry a pocket dictionary. No more fumbling around with your smart-phone translation apps. In all, communication is much easier. We all have the same lifestyle, the same culture. We listen to the same music, read the same books… But wait. Doesn’t this sound a little, well, boring?

If we all spoke English, we never would have discovered international sensations such as French singer Jacques Brel, the Three Tenors (Spanish singers Placido Domingo and José Carreras and the late Luciano Pavarotti). Or how about film stars Marion Cotillard, Sophia Loren, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem to name a few? This year the French hit movie The Untouchables has been selected to compete for Best Foreign Language Movie for the 85th Academy Awards. Worst of all, the famous Gangnam Style of the South Korean rapper PSY would not exist. Well, does one universal language still sound appealing to you? If so, keep reading on!

Let’s consider the human brain. People exposed to more than one language should consider themselves lucky. New studies show that speaking two languages protects against Alzheimer’s disease by forcing the brain to multi-task. Studies also show that bilingual people are better able to stay focused and that it enhances their mental abilities. The more languages you speak the better. Those who learn at least two other languages aren’t likely to develop cognitive problems. Even babies show little or no trouble learning two languages at once. It’s easier to learn a new language when you are young. Babies and young infants can pick up new words and sounds effortlessly during the critical period of the cortex development. After age one it gets more difficult, but it is still much easier for children to learn new words.

Languages preserve cultures. Take notice that many endangered languages with oral cultures, stories, songs passed on to younger generations may not have any written forms. We would not only lose cultural wealth but also important ancestral knowledge if we all only spoke English. Languages are the key to identity. Those populations who do not at present speak English natively would lose their singularity. Different languages promote diversity, that’s what makes life so exotic sometimes.

Presently, there are 7,000 languages spoken in the world. If we only spoke English, 6,999 cultures would be at risk of extinction. At a rate of losing one language every two weeks, it would take about five hundred years for only one language to remain. Some languages such as Spanish or Mandarin, the two most spoken languages today, would become dead languages. A dead language is a language no longer learned as a native language; some are topics of study because of their cultural, linguistic or social importance. The most famous are Latin and ancient Greek but there are many more.

So, dear reader, are you ready to live in an exclusively English speaking world? Does it still seem attractive? In my opinion, I think we should all help to preserve the languages. Each and every one of them is special.

50 comments on “If Everyone Were Able to Speak English, What Would Happen to the Other Languages?

  1. Lenny on

    Wow!!! This is really, really good! I completely agree with what you say. I didn’t know that learning several languages was so intellectually beneficial. Great work!

  2. Johnny on

    This article is very well written! The first paragraph really caught my attention; it sounds like living in an English speaking world would make all the charms of it vanish. Good luck for the competition, you have my support!

  3. veronique on

    Bravo, c’est super ! Heureusement, je ne pense pas qu’on en vienne à ne parler plus que l’Anglais ! Mais c’est un fait, on parle de moins en moins Français dans le monde . C’est vraiment dommage ! Vive la diversité et bravo Juliette !

  4. Erin on

    I was amazed at the insight of this young writer. Living in the U.S. and knowing many people that travel outside the U.S., I often hear “why don’t they speak English?” or “I won’t go to that country because they don’t speak English.” Even English speakers in the states don’t often understand one another. When I’ve traveled to New Orleans, I certainly need a translator! English speakers from the states also have difficulty understanding some accents of English speakers in the UK. As the writer points out, language is part of culture and to not appreciate it as such limits the life experience of the traveler. However, as the world becomes more and more interdependent on one another for the global economy, I think the necessity to have multicultural and multilingual people that can translate language and culture is very important. Bravo on a thought provoking article!

  5. Marjorie Erdman on

    What an insightful essay. I share the belief that half the fun of going to another country is in communicating with another culture/language. Besides, it’s a great way to make new friends. Bravo!

  6. joss on

    oustanding article (just, pavarotti is Italian*). I really enjoy it. La diversité culturelle et linguistique est la clé des échanges internationaux.

  7. Dianne on

    Brilliant essay with so many extremely important reasons to preserve the languages of the world. Thank you for a most enjoyable read.


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