06 October 2010

A Great Feast of Languages

Can a multitude of languages unite humanity far better, and more peacefully, than one universal language?

Even as a native English speaker, I find so many variations in the way people speak, write and perceive my mother tongue that perhaps even English is more than one language in its current usage.

The title of this blog post, like the last one, and the blog title itself, comes from the works of William Shakespeare, who also wrote in English, but in a very different way than I do! "A great feast of languages" is interesting because it comes from one of the Bard of Avon's more inaccessible plays, Love's Labour's Lost.

Communicating about the Tower of Babel or the poetry of a bard, whether in words or pictures or some other means, requires definitions, explanations and interpretations in a style of English I can easily understand. I want language to make the past and the present accessible to me. But how might my words be interpreted four hundred years from now? How might my words be interpreted today by people who use language in a way that differs markedly from mine?

Here are some more links you may appreciate:

BBC - Are dying languages worth saving?

BBC - The tragedy of dying languages

Wikipedia - Shakespeare's influence

The permanent recording of possibly useful knowledge is something we can appreciate when we think about what may have been lost to posterity if it had not been for the efforts of scribes and printers. Perhaps one of the greatest contributions to our understanding of the world was by Aldus Pius Manutius, who lived in the second half of the 1400s and died in 1515. He helped to preserve many of the most important Ancient Greek writings.

I have always had a great deal of difficulty communicating in languages other than English, but at least I try, especially while travelling. My life is enriched by translations of the great feast of languages, with many delightful dishes to taste in an ongoing banquet of cultural treasures.

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