Guest Post by: Kevin Garofalo, student and cultural critic
“A language! Deep within the collective awareness of these people they carried, all unconsciously, a language that could say things to them that they did not want to hear… a complex and subtle combination that had evolved the way all languages evolved. Out of necessity.”
– Frank Herbert: Heretics of Dune
It is confusing to me that the people of the United States of America accept a word like “YOLO” to describe their adventurous, personal lives. Whatever happened to “Carpe Diem?” Maybe it is true that Latin is a dead language, but at least the people of Rome thought of more reasonable acronyms (SPQR). When did American-English become the standard of speaking to judge what is good or bad?
The act of verbal communication has been around for many thousands of years, in many thousands of dialects. Yet, when an exposition of a selection of these languages is paired with a song that has the word “America” in the title, a good deal of people in North America suddenly have a problem. This is what happened as a result of Coca-Cola’s “It’s Beautiful” advertisement during the Super Bowl this year. Xenophobic is a great word to describe what a lot of people felt – and still feel – but I think it is more of an ego problem.
NEWS FLASH: American-English is not the only language in the world. Do you ever wonder what kinds of verbal stories you could hear in Italian? French? Vietnamese? I do! Hell, I would even enjoy one in Pig-Latin! When we limit ourselves to just one language, we immediately close ourselves off to the rest of the world. Maybe you are saying to yourselves: “Yeah, but the rest of the world knows English so I’ll be able to communicate.” They do not; and neither does the population of North America know every language that exists in our world. So why is English better?
The quote from the Dune series above describes a language that is actually a dance. Like many of the cultures represented in the “It’s Beautiful” advertisement, the dancers are criticized in the story. The dancers are even beaten to death because of their outrageous display of fanaticism. Why? It is simply because those who do no speak their language felt threatened. Still, the dancers spoke for a reason: to be heard. Is that not one of our basic human rights?
America acted just as those non-dancers toward the Coca-Cola advertisement when it spoke out against the advertisement. Why? Fear, plain and simple. America cannot accept what it does not understand; if we do not understand the languages that dominate the rest of the world, then we are doomed to reject them outright and with no question. Learn another language or better yet, learn two! The United States of America is not the only country that exists on this planet, and that is a good thing. So adapt, because it is – as Frank Herbert says – necessary if we are to live with each other as human beings.