|«||Up to AIL contents
Ignorance of Foreign Languages
An Existing Language?[edit source]
A great many people will stop here and say: yes, we grant that it would be desirable to have one single language used everywhere, but would it not be best to select one of the existing languages and use that in all communcations between two or more nations, even if no one of those concerned knew that language as his own mother-tongue? The answer is that a deliberate choice of any one language for such a purpose would meet with unsurmountable difficulties on account of international jealousies. Frenchmen and Germans alike would fight tooth and nail against a proposal to make English a universally recognised international language, Frenchmen and Englishmen against German, etc. - and quite naturally too, for such a choice would mean an enormous handicapping of all other nations. Nor would it be possible to make all nations agree on the selection of a language of a smaller nation: visionaries have, as a matter of fact, proposed Norwegian and Armenian! It would require a good deal of compulsion to make people all over the world take up the study of either of these languages, and to the nation thus put in the linguistically most-favoured position it would be a doubtful boon to see its beloved tongue mutilated and trampled under foot everywhere, as would inevitably be the result.
One day, when I was discussing these matters with a famous Belgian historian and complaining of the difficulty felt by men of science who happened to be born in a small country, he said: Instead of writing in an artificial language, it will be much better for you Danes to write in French; if the matter is good enough, we shall read it with pleasure, even if it be bad French. I replied that no one can help being to some extent irritated to read his own language disfigured by faults in grammar and phraseology, and that a Dane would find it much easier to learn to write Ido (or now Novial) perfectly than to learn to write even very faulty French; he would be spared that unpleasant feeling of inferiority which he must always have when trying to write a serious book or paper in a foreign national language.