Back in those old years when people in Eurasia continent were not quite civilized but civilized enough to have language, battle and war were the ways to conquer each other, during this process, not just innocent people were dead, so were the languages. Think of this way, because the speaker of a certain language was not very good at fighting or at a inferior place compared with their foes, their language was dying with its speakers. This is totally brutal for the language. If a race was totally wiped out, then there was little chance their language had the chance to be known to the world or the generations after them. Since that language was quite of no use to other tribes or races, nobody cares about whether someone could say it.
English, compared to these unfortunate languages, is very strong and robust. Taking some time reading history book, it is easy to discover that Britain had been conquered by Frenchmen, and speaking French was a noble thing at that time. Actually, in modern English, 70% of the words can trace back their ancestors in French. While the current situation is, in France, like a lot of other non-English speaking countries around the globe, young kids and adolescents are trying their best to speak fluent English. During their conversations with other countries abroad students, French students find that students all over the world share a similar opening “Hi, I am ###. Nice to meet you. My English is poor. I am trying hard to learn English.” France even has an authority to name each new thing in original French, not just borrowing it directly from English. The gesture of defending French is good, but also it is a little bit sad. It could be worse. Not a Japanese speaker myself, I know that Japanese directly borrows the word “computer” from English, although it is still written in Chinese characters, but it sounds very much like English pronunciation, which is pathetic.
Language is closely linked to culture. Losing a language is equal to losing a culture. Though aboriginals fought with each other, some tribe lived on and some did not. They probably did not have any language yet and even more they probably did not bear their own characteristic culture yet. Here I am not talking about the developed or developing culture. Cultures are not measured by the people can make phone calls or listen mp3 with ipod. What I am concerned with is the unseen force that eliminates a language.
We Chinese are always been proud of the situation that 56 nationalities are living harmoniously as a family. But it is sad to see that minorities are not very special to Han nationality any more and to some large minorities they don’t feel they are minorities any more. This is not to say these minorities are becoming dominant but since they live with Han nationality for such a long time, the concept of minority nationality is becoming opaque. Right now only people living in Guangxi or Yunnan provinces wearing different clothes and speaking hard to recognize languages are truly be given the credit they are truly minority nationalities with their own customs. I have known some Manchu people, but sadly none of them can still speak Manchu language or write in Manchu characters. These days only going to the museums and seeing some Qing Dynasty TV series can we see some Manchu characters. But on the other side, the Chinese government are trying to help some minorities to “invent” their characters to record their languages as a way to protect their uniqueness, which is the right thing to do.
Another unseen force is globalization. This is like the bigger version of 56 Chinese nationalities. God knows how many nationalities are living in New York City right now, not to mention the new nationality we are creating right now like Hispanic-African American or Japanese-Irish American or Spanish-Portuguese Brazilian . Given time, there would be India-Russian Chinese and English-Poland Norwegian. What language were they speaking, are they speaking and would they speaking? English? Probably, but this is definitely not the only answer. It is safe to say that Chinese or Spanish are next to come. Then here comes the question? Is this English still the same English as what the British are saying? The answer is quite obvious, yes and no. In a larger sense, what they speak is still called “English”, but in a smaller picture, they spread their language as a jam on the bread called English and give English a different flavor. Interestingly, would this situation happen to Chinese or Spanish? Although, the Chinese character “酷” officially equals to “Cool” in English, I presume some other alternatives would emerge after Chinese becomes the second-dominant language.
At the end of this blog entry, I think I am quite optimistic about the future of the languages. It will need more people to actually study foreign culture to appreciate the beauty of a foreign language as so many people are doing now as learning English. I think more and more foreign people are having fun learning Chinese. Surely, their would be a day when people having fun learning Uzbek.