Dixie Darr

Universally (Mis)Understood

In Learning, Learning Tools on April 24, 2017 at 3:55 pm

An Italian pilot flying an Italian airline into an Italian airport speaks English. English is the universal language of air control. It’s the language of more than half the world’s newspapers. The prevalent language for communication on the Internet is English, a language without frontiers.

English is without a doubt the actual universal language,” reports Brazilian writer Carlos Carrion Torres. “It is the world’s second largest native language, the official language in 70 countries, and . . . . can be at least understood almost everywhere among scholars and educated people, as it is the world media language, and the language of cinema, TV, pop music and the computer world. All over the planet people know many English words, their pronunciation and meaning.”

The spread of English began during the 16th century with the British Empire and continues today with USA influence.

That makes it easy for us to move around the world without making any effort to learn other languages, and results in our perception by others as arrogant, lazy, or even stupid.

Nevertheless, the ability for everyone to understand everyone else on the planet seems like a good thing. Beyond that, language influences the way we see the world, even the way we see color or gender. See Keith Chen’s TED talk for more information.

Unfortunately, speaking the same language does not guarantee understanding. For example, tonight I will attend a current events discussion group where some of the people there may be Trump supporters. I can almost assure you that we will not communicate.

Sometimes talking to “them” feels like trying to communicate with another species. Can the value progressives place on diversity expand to include right-wing conservatives?

To quote one of my favorite poems by Carl Sandburg,

How can we be pals

when you speak English

and I speak English

and you never understand me

and I never understand you?”

Stay tuned.

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