Occupy Babel

1376993277000 » Tagged as: language barrier , Tagged as: Universal Language

occupy babel

daya dissanayake

It is time to occupy Babel, under one language. That is probably the only way to save mankind from self-annihilation and of destroying Mother earth. If 'barbar' originally meant a person who speaks in a tongue we do not understand, then we are all barbarians to each other.

When the descendants of Noah settled in a plain in the land of Sennar, they decided to build a city and a tower, "the top whereof may reach to heaven", the LORD said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them." This had been discussed for ages, as to why God did not want the people be united under one language and settle down in one city. God felt threatened.

Looking back after tracing man's history over the past several thousand years, perhaps we can now understand why an omniscient deity would feel threatened. The threat was not to God, but to all life on earth. If man could do so much harm against the environment and all natural resources and all life on earth, in spite of having to use 7000 different languages to communicate, and having scattered all over the earth, what would have been the extent of the destruction if he had remained all together, all united, and communicating with the entire human race in one language?

Man was not trying to reach heaven, but trying to create a heaven on earth for himself, with no regard to all the life around him. Every time man thought he was taking one step forward it was really two steps backwards for the human race.

God's intention of scattering them around the world was to conserve the natural resources, to ensure that they were not over exploited, because cities and mega cities has caused most of the destruction. It was also to ensure that man did not use his hands to undue advantage to subdue all other life on earth, and that he did not become more powerful than his own creator.

Since man is believed to be the most intelligent animal on earth, he should have realized by now that he is responsible for all the destruction around us. He also should be able to realize that the violence of man against man, and all life is because man has failed to understand the thinking and the feelings of the others, due to the failure to communicate.

Since we also believe that we are the only animals on earth who can use speech, who can use language for communication, we should be able to use such communication skills to develop better relations with all human beings on earth. If man is so intelligent, ingenious and can reach out to the stars, why is it that he has failed to develop a universal language? We should be able to use our tongue, instead of our hands, to settle any dispute that may arise among us.

It is not because man had not tried. A few men would have realized that language had become a barrier instead of bringing all mankind together, and they would have tried to develop a world language, which could be used and understood by all. Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof (1859 - 1917), a doctor and a linguist, developed what is considered the most successful constructed language in recent history. His aim was to occupy the Tower of Babel, by creating an easy-to-learn, politically neutral language. Esperanto is a language accepted by many people around the world, and it is now occupying cyberspace too, as it has been added to Google Translate, since last year.

"The English language used by nearly 400 million people has over 600,000 non-technical words. Yet most Americans use only around 800 to 1,000 words in everyday conversation. A typical American college graduate knows only 20,000 - 30,000 by the time he or she graduates, which is less than 2 percent of all English words". (reported by Dr. Dennis O'Neil, Palomar College. http://anthro.palomar.edu/language/language_1.htm).

This data makes it encouraging for all the people around the world, engaged in developing a common language or a translation system, to reverse the curse placed on mankind when erecting the Tower of Babel.

There have been moves to bring in 'Lingua Anglia' instead of a 'Lingua Franca', but there would always be resistance from people using other languages. Even if we are to adapt English as a common language, it would still be difficult to get universal agreement for the use. Another obstacle would be the English used in different countries with their own varieties of English with their own cultural influence and accents.

It is believed that communication is efficient only when what is communicated by one person is clearly understood by the other. This would not be possible today with any of the world languages, and often a misunderstood word or phrase could lead to major conflicts, even leading to death and destruction. May be Esperanto did not become the universal language, because it was based on Indo-European languages used in Europe, which could have affected its credibility as a politically independent language.

Once we occupy Babel, we should be able to share all the knowledge on earth, and all the literature on earth, with everyone, everywhere, without any barriers of language between us. On occupation, we should also be able to control and contain all the unwanted noise which leads to confusion in communication.

However, we should be able to occupy Babel soon, with the aid of all the digital technology available, so that we could communicate with people from anywhere on earth, speaking any of the 7000 languages, with the aid of simultaneous automatic translations.

comments powered by Disqus