Commentaries

Eradication of Languages

By Erica Dobecki

“Why should we care?”

A sentence we hear all too often. Why should we care about your story? Why should we care about your problems? Why should we care about your language?

The writer of this New York Times post, John McWhorter, is a professor who teaches about the 6,000 languages that make up our world. He posed an important question to his students: why save a language? To which, a student in the back replied, “Tell me, why should we care?”Latin Words

McWhorter uses his article to list the reasons he is supposed to give: Russians have many different ways of saying the various shades of blue. As McWhorter stated, “if a language dies, a fascinating way of thinking dies along with it.”

Languages are so important to each and every culture because languages are the central aspect of culture. A lot of the time, we forget that when we hear a person speaking another language. It doesn’t matter about that person’s culture in that moment. What matters is that we cannot understand them and our language is the most important to us.

Our world has gained this apathetic view towards, well, everything. In high school, my mother used to talk about how Spanish should no longer be an accepted language and everyone “should just speak English so there’s no language barrier!” How close-minded would that be? She quickly backtracked and realized where she was wrong but this is not an uncommon thought.

What got me in this article was not so much the languages but more the question “why should we care?” I feel as though this generation often answers this question with “I don’t know” or simply, “I don’t.” The fact that many question the existence of 6,000 languages that are a centerpiece of each and every one of our lives is a horrible truth. It is almost as if we are neglecting the existence of that culture altogether.

“Cultures, to be sure, show how we are different. Languages, however, are variations on a worldwide, cross-cultural perception of this thing called life.”

The author makes it clear that life is important. Uniqueness is important. Forging ahead, instead of having a stubborn mind and heart, is vital. And yes, we should care about others.

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