I would like for you to imagine two different scenarios. In the first one, you are born into a small but wonderful community. Your community is surrounded on all sides by five very different communities, each with a different history and culture. Over the years your community has differences of opinion with its neighbors, but concerns are generally resolved by airing out the problems in a public forum for all sides to discuss and eventually dissipate quietly over time. At times the other communities close their borders to travel, but you can always tell what is happening there by reading a newspaper or watching their TV programming, so you can feel comfortable knowing that they are not up to anything nefarious, and in this, you can feel comfortable with your neighbors. You frequently travel to these other communities for fun, to seek enlightenment, or to make new acquaintances.
Now, for the second scenario. It begins much like the first where you are born into one of five different communities, but in this version, each community speaks in a completely different language. You see the benefit to learning one or two secondary languages, but it would just not be reasonable to learn all five, after all, you can get by just fine on one, since your community has everything that it really needs to survive. As there is no way for all of the communities to understand one another easily, it is no longer possible for the communities to air out their differences in a public forum where everyone can hear every argument and voice an opinion for everyone else to hear. There will be a small number of people who will act as interpreters, but it will greatly limit the number of people who can be involved in the conversations and will slow down the speed of any dialog. How often will people tire of trying to explain complicated issues in a foreign language and simply resort to violence? Will the few people who have the means to communicate in multiple languages use that advantage for personal gain to the detriment of others? If you have no way to comprehend what leaders in the other community are saying, how do you know they are not saying something disparaging about you or your community, and if they cannot understand you, how can you set the record straight when there are differences of opinion? Are you more or less likely to make a long term friendship with someone who does not speak your language? If you do not have any friends in the other communities, why would you put forward much effort to support them in a time of need? What is the likeliness that you will make much effort to understand a culture that is different from yours if you cannot understand what they say?
So, what am I getting at? When people speak the same language, problems can be solved and friendships can be built. When people do not speak the same language, it creates an environment of distrust and societies can be manipulated into acting against one another more easily. In the history of the world, more wars have been fought between civilizations that spoke different languages than ones that spoke the same language. Looking at the current list of armed conflicts in the world, the worst and longest lasting outbreaks of violence are in regions where more than one language is spoken. Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan each have multiple languages spoken by different sectors of the population, and the people of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been involved in protracted conflicts for decades, while not understanding each other’s language.
I do not want to sound like I am suggesting that speaking the same language automatically inoculates a society from war. The United States and Canada even went at it over 100 years ago. Nor, do I believe that speaking different languages dooms societies to be engulfed in perpetual war. The Western European countries have had good relations for the past 60 years, but that is coming off of the War to End All Wars. I am merely implying that when all parties involved can speak and understand each other clearly, people have a much easier time finding a way to solve problems peaceably rather than resorting to violence.
Why am I bothering to bring all of this up, you might ask? Everyone knows that the world is set in its ways and we could never hope to change the primary language used by any country, right? Well, I say we can, and it could be done within one or two generations and without any bother to all of the people living today who are not interested in learning a second language. Here is the plan.
Step one. Pick the unified language. It really does not matter what it is, as long as everyone agrees to it. There are many different factors that would have to go into such a decision, which I am not going to get into, though I do have my opinions on the matter. So, once the decision is made on which language to use, we can move on.
Step two. Starting with Kindergarten, all children will be taught school primarily in the agreed upon language. This means that all subjects, math, art, history, social studies, whatever, will be taught by a teacher speaking the unified language. All Kindergarten children will use the unified language for the entire school day and will complete homework assignments solely in this language. After a year, these Kindergarteners will graduate to 1st grade and a new batch of youngsters will start school for the first time. At that point, you will have all children from both of these grades being taught in the unified language, while the rest of society marches on as it always has. This process continues year after year, until the country finally reaches a tipping point where more people are proficient in the unified language than the old one.
This process will take a solid 40 years or so, long enough for the original set of Kindergarteners to have grown up take their place in adult society and raised children of their own. In the meantime, the older generations will age out of the workforce, or simply pass away, as happens naturally with time. They can live comfortably in a society that continues to speak two languages, the one that kids learned at school and the one that they spoke at home, until the time comes that there is no one left who relies on the original language. That is when real change will start to take place around the world as countries that traditionally had to rely on interpreters to haggle out deals can simply have open dialogs.
If you are thinking there is no way that a 5 year old can handle two languages at the same time, I offer my own personal experience in this matter. My children attend something that is known as a foreign language immersion school. This is not some kind of school for the gifted, but simply a standard public school that is run by the county that I live in and is offered to all residents regardless of income or intellect. Starting in Kindergarten, they are instructed entirely in the foreign language, and when they come home, we speak only English. Homework time can be a little challenging, but it is nothing that we have not worked through. Once they get to the higher grades, school will include some courses dedicated to English, just to make sure they know the proper grammar and are familiar with the most appropriate works of literature, but it is relatively minor compared to their work in the foreign language. Most children are considered fluent in the other language by the time they finish 1st or 2nd grade, and they are definitely fluent in the language that we speak at home. Also consider that this program does not cost any more than a standard education otherwise would. You still need to supply a school, a teacher, and books. Now, all of these will just be in a different language than before. Plus, if we select the unified language to be one that is already widely used in some part of the word, there will already be ample supplies that would not have to be devised, as surely there are already children learning in that language today.
So, now that I have explained why a one world language would be so important, as well as how to achieving it. What is stopping us from making the world a better place? If an end, or at least slowing, of war is not a good enough reason, let me slide one more thought your way. Imagine the world is faced with a new problem unlike anything it has ever seen before. It is a known problem where we have time to act, but not infinite time, say, we see an asteroid headed straight for Earth, and we know it will take five years to get here before wiping out all known life forms, except for the cockroach. In such a scenario there would really only be a handful of individuals qualified to work on a solution to this problem. A few in America, a few more in Europe, some in Asia, and so on. Now, if all of these people could get together in a room and openly discuss the problem using one language, there is a much higher likelihood that they would come up with a solution in time to implement it before the asteroid hits. If, on the other hand, we had to deal with such a situation as today’s circumstances, where each pocket speaks a different language, it would make cooperation much harder between these groups, and it would decrease the chances that a solution could be devised in time. In which one of these scenarios would you rather have an asteroid hurtling toward you?