"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Global Language and Lingua Franca

As our global society moves towards globalization, we are encountered by many communication barriers. One of the most important barriers faced on the path to greater global connectivity is the lack of one language to communicate with.

Throughout history, people of diverse speech have adopted a lingua franca or common tongue for commercial or diplomatic use. In our time, English has emerged as the primary language of most international businesses, and this is largely due to the legacy of the British Empire and the superpower status of the United States, in the 19th and 20th century respectively. But like most natural languages, English is often difficult for non-native speakers to use it effectively due to the dissimilar nature of their mother tongue. This lead to the recent resurgence of an international auxiliary language (IAL). An IAL is a language constructed to allow easy international communication.

The idea of a global language for better communication is not a new one. The idea was pioneered in 1880 by Johann Martin Scheleyer, a German priest. He created the VolapĆ¼k language by combining English, German, and French vocabulary. Many other constructed IALs were later introduced. Perhaps the most well known IAL initiative is the Esperanto movement. This movement was introduced in 1887 and has now developed into a global phenomenon with between 100 000 to 2 million speakers and even some native speakers.

An IAL has many advantages over an ethnic or a national language. It is more suitable for international communication since it was designed for that specific purpose. They were conceived to appeal to speakers of many different native tongues. This concept of neutrality is important, as an IAL is not associated to any one ethnic group or state, The linguist who created these artificial languages also kept ease of learning in mind. For instance, Interlingua which is another IAL developed in the mid 20th century, was developed to have the most simple grammar and vocabulary consisting of words that are common to the widest possible range of languages.

The success of IAL is further boosted by the popularity of the Internet. The emergence of the Internet in the 90s made information about IAL easily available to the world. It also made learning the language easier as enthusiasts and new learners can practice over the Internet. As of July 2007, the are over 86000 articles in Esperanto on Wikipedia, making it one of the largest wikis (15th overall in term of articles on Wikipedia).

The uses of IAL are numerous. In the world of politics, diplomats can bypass the need for a translator and converse directly with each other, this allows for more efficient and effective communication. The same notion can be reflected in the business world and in academics, and can make global partnerships and collaborations easier to forge, as more prominent business leaders and researchers are emerging outside the English speaking world.

While IALs are still a long way from replacing the prominent languages of our time, Its potential is to great to be ignored. As we move towards globalization in the 21st century, key barriers such as the lack of a means of effective communication should be removed to allow for a better integrated global system.


"Esperanto." Wikipedia. .

"Interlingua." Wikipedia. .

"International Auxiliary Language." .

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