Should we speak more than one language?

Caught in the grips of linguistic paranoia

Nataly Kelly

The Boston Globe, August 11, 2008

© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.


In this article Kelly discusses the issue of whether Americans, and maybe their President, ought to learn to speak other languages. She also writes about the opinions expressed by Senators McCain and Obhama, who both seem to be positive about language diversity.

Kelly also writes: "The Quality of Life Index, published by The Economist in 2005, showed that the five countries with the highest standard of living were Ireland, Switzerland, Norway, Luxembourg, and Sweden." She put this down to having a European address and, "they promote multilingualism."


National language is an old issue and it seems to me that the American preoccupation with languages is the more politically correct option than religious diversity. Europe, it seems, is more concerned with religious diversity. Apart from a few fringe interests, Europe does not have a language problem, only a huge translation bill.

However, I have my doubts whether Kelly was right in putting a lot of emphasis of the Quality of Life Index. To being with, a lot has happened in Europe since 2005. But I would say that the reasons why the Scandinavian countries have the highest quality of life is because they are countries with a small population, but more importantly, they have strong social policies. For example, I doubt if there is anyone in these countries who does not have health cover.

I agree that knowing different languages can go along way to help us communicate with each other, but as I have indicated many times in this blog, it is not the ideal state of affairs. Business people might be in a better position to benefit from knowing different languages, not only because business is a neutral activity, when compared to politics or culture, but also because the objectives are clear. Politicians and cultural leaders have a constituency to persuade and it is the reaction of the constituency that matters.

Yes, Kelly has a point when she says, "Know they enemy." But I think she would be better off not making enemies in the first place.

Bottom Line

Language unites us, languages keep us divided.

Tags: language, politics, multi linguists, second language, business, president, America,

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that we should have a common language because of better communication between us. For example I am Slovak and i can talk with this language just to the slovak(and we have population only 5 milions). If we have the common language, there wouldn't be any language barriers.