UN To Ban "Unnecessary" Languages
Redundant languages blamed for adding to climate change, terrorism and cultural division


CAMBRIDGE, UK (EnglishClub.com) Tuesday April 1, 2008 -- The United Nations is to hold its first debate on language redundancy amid warnings that the problem is "a major contributor" to climate change, a "massive threat" to international security and the cause of "rifts and divisions" within society.

Next week's meeting is the result of an improbable coalition of interests, and follows sustained pressure from the US Administration, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Program.

"We're reacting to two very sobering reports about the impact on climate change of the huge number of languages in use worldwide," Andrew Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Program, told Reuters news service. At the same time Whitehouse spokesman Gordon Stanzel revealed serious translation challenges for the CIA caused by "an abundance of languages." Pointing to the fact that terrorists typically use non-English languages amongst themselves, he suggested that only by making English the world's "unique" language could security be assured. Asked why the world's "unique" language should be English and not, say, Chinese or Spanish, he replied that English was already so dominant, especially on the Internet, that it was obviously the best language to choose and would cause the least disruption.

The current plan is to begin phasing out all non-English languages, which are seen as redundant and "unnecessary" due to the overwhelming dominance of English in the world community.

Issues for debate
According to UN officials, unnecessary languages require enormous amounts of paper for translations, resulting in huge losses of forested areas, and these losses have become "a major factor" contributing to climate change. Furthermore, the eventual burning of this paper in incinerators has a direct effect upon global warming by boosting atmospheric temperatures "to an alarming degree".

On the security front, a plethora of obscure and redundant languages are used by terrorists to hamper security efforts, as they require time-consuming translation, and as a result these languages constitute a "massive threat" to Washington's war on terror.

And from a socio-cultural point of view, a multitude of unnecessary languages hampers international communication, with the inevitable misunderstandings resulting in "rifts and divisions within the global village".

Latest research

Studies indicate that second-language learning is one of the most stressful ordeals a student can face, and is known to cause a wide range of medical and psychological disorders, the treatment of which is a huge drain on health resources. In one study, it was found that learning a second language can facilitate the development of multiple-personality disorder. Dr. Adrian Wong of the Camden Language Research Facility notes that "this has been seen for example when teachers assign 'second-language names' from a foreign culture to learners in role-play exercises."

It has been theorized that the human brain is adapted to the learning of a single language only, as for tens of thousands of years this was all that human development required. Dr. Wong suggests that the unnatural imposition of a second language on the human brain can lead to a serious disruption of its development, and added: " We can only speculate as to the extent of the damage done. I submit that second-language learning and teaching should be prohibited until more is known about the effects of this activity on the human brain."

"Lingua Non Gratae" to be phased out
Under the plan, languages will be phased out according to a schedule based partly on a language's number of speakers (Table 1). Languages spoken by fewer than one million people, such as Welsh or Maltese, will be deemed lingua non gratae by 2014. Languages with fewer than 25 million speakers (for example, Greek or Hmong) will be LNG in 2021, and below 50 million (say Romanian or Kurdish) in 2028. For languages, like Thai or Turkish, with fewer than 100 million speakers the date will be 2035. Next will come languages with up to 250 million speakers, in 2042, and a billion speakers in 2049. For technical reasons, French and Mandarin will be subject to an accelerated withdrawal process setting them outside the normal schedule. Citing the historical plac e of French as a language of diplomacy, Steiner said: "French in particular is causing enormous dama ge environmentally. By clinging to a past notion of French as a universal language, and trying to prop up its language through institutions like l'Académie française, France is thwarting the process of natural selection and adding disproportionately to the problems of global warming."
 
 

LNG Date
Native speakers
Example languages
2014
Fewer than 1 million speakers
Faroese, Tuvaluan, Welsh, Breton, Maltese, Icelandic
2021
Fewer than 25 million speakers
Lao, Greek, Czech, Swedish, Hmong, Afrikaans
2028
Fewer than 50 million speakers
Azerbaijani, Burmese, Romanian, Dutch, Kurdish
2035
Fewer than 100 million speakers
Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, Punjabi
2042
Fewer than 250 million speakers
French*, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese,
2049
Fewer than 1 billion speakers
Mandarin**, Spanish, Arabic
 
 
Further issues
By 2035, when all languages other than English will have been phased out, the only language that will have international sanction will be English. All other languages will be grouped under the heading of "Non-E" (non-English), and it will be an offence to use, teach or publish Non-E. Officials explain that a distinction will be made similar to that made between drug users and drug dealers. People found "using" Non-E (that is, speaking, listening to, reading or writing it) will be weaned off Non-E in rehabilitation camps. Anyone "dealing in" Non-E (for example, teaching or publishing it) will be subject to more serious penalties, including a mandatory prison senten ce with no right of appeal. Lawyers are already working on the legal implications for such a framework, and a new department will be set up within Interpol to coordinate police activity internationally.

 "Any language school owners in currently English-speaking countries who imagine that the new laws will benefit their business do not understand the concept," said Steiner. Since one of the motives for stamping out redundant languages is environmental, planners have already foreseen the environmental dangers inherent in hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people travelling abroad for the sake of improving their English. They propose two measures to avoid such problems: the use of terms like "ESL" (English as a Second Language) will be replaced by EOL (English as the Only Language); and it will become illegal to travel abroad to learn EOL. Steiner says the bonanza will go to the "EOL" schools in what are currently non-English speaking countries. Among UN plans are massive retraining schemes for teachers in such countries.

Ironically, one of the last issues that will have to be resolved is the thorny question of which variety of English to use. Interpreting the doctrine of language redundancy strictly, there is no room for more than one variety of English. Washington is likely to argue that American English is the modern, more vibrant variety that should be kept. The Australian and Canadian governments are thought to be commissioning studies intended to show why their varieties should prevail. But the most likely outcome is for all parties to accept the British argument that British English is not only a purer form of English, but the original language itself and thus not a variety at all. However, the Language Redundan cy Panel, which will be steering the new plans through to fruition, will have ample time to resolve the issue and will not need to make a decision until the start of the se cond phase in 2021."
 
Submitted by Miraj, Spring 2009, for all of us to enjoy!