Article from 1935: why I don't want to see my mother tongue become the world's second language

Friday, January 21, 2011

Uploading Cosmoglotta magazines from 1922 to 1950, I've now reached 1935 and one article in the January - February edition perfectly encapsulates what is one of the best arguments for a universal second language that is not (at least in the beginning) the mother tongue of any one country. The article is on the right so click on that if you would like to read it in the original Occidental, which is quite easy to understand particularly if you know at least one Romance and Germanic language (English + French, English + Spanish, etc.). Otherwise, I've provided a translation of most of the article in English just below the images.




Translation:

Without fail, when I talk with a educated people about the necessity of an international language, their first instinctive response is: "Of course an auxiliary language is an urgent necessity, but why can't my mother tongue play that role?" And if the person I'm talking to is English, he will alledge the incontestible hegemony of English, its extraordinarily easy grammar, etc. If the person I'm talking to is French, he will remind me right away that his language was always the diplomatic language of Europe; if he is German, he will emphasize that German is today the most used language in science, etc. In short, everybody is convinced that his or her language is destined to reunite a divided Europe.

Even now, a large Swiss French journal recently published an article on its front page attacking the idea of an artificial language. "If you want an international language," it said, "you should adopt French, already known everywhere for its clarity, making it just the right language for commerce, science, and so on."

An extraordinary thing: in the same issue the editor published a long and vivid protestation against a German Swiss company writing in French; with indignation it cited the linguistic errors in the magazine and finished with the admonition: "By what right do you mutilate our beautiful language?" By what right? - I thought. By the right that the company followed the advice of the first page in the same journal and began using French as an international language!

Because the partisans of a national language demand the impossible, they impose a language full of irregularities, that one cannot truly use before many years of study; and at the same time, they do not allow foreigners to make errors in the use of that language! The linguist Michel Breal was much more perspicacious in his refusal of his own French language in the role of an auxiliary language: "When it plays such a role," he said, "it loses its finesse; international use will always tend to simplify and regularize a language, its grammar, its pronunciation. Finally, it will become another language, one that is not French, but a type of European." In this role, French would lose much more than it would gain.

Would not the adoption of a language already regularized like Occidental not be more advantageous for the French people themselves?

When I spoke about these questions with my neighbor, a professor of English, he objected straight away:

"Don't you know that English is already used all over the planet? It's without question: all peoples should adopt English as the international language."

"Well," I responded, "here is a circular that needs to be sent out to a number of American companies. Could you translate it into pure English?"

After an hour of work, my colleague returned with his translation, somewhat embarrassed, saying "I'm not sure if my English is entirely correct in a few places."

"And you studied English for seven years, and lived in England! If you, a professor of English, can't speak and write in pure English, how can we make other people use it when English is an international language, as you want it to be? Such a pidgin would ruin pure English, a pidgin that would horrify English people themselves. And speakers of UK English, which already protest against the evolved pronunciation of the Americans (for whom English is nevertheless their mother tongue) would be able to protest without end the mutilation of their language in the mouth of foreigners. If the French are indignant about Swiss Germans writing their language in magazines, it is self-evident that the same would occur with the usage of any international language."

Even in Switzerland where English is obligatory in secondary schools, very few people know the language well enough to use it without error. The easiest national language is still too hard to play the role of an international language. In order to make a national language one's own, one must study it for many years, and live in the land in which it is spoken.

In contrast to this, one should emphasize the extraordinary easy of a language like Occidental. Even after four years of studying English, I am still today unable to speak and write that language without referring to the dictionary and without making my listeners or readers laugh; but after only two months of studying Occidental, I was able to use it without any error or hesitation, and still understood as well as with English. In Occidental one is not afraid of errors and deformations because the language is already regularized and reduced to maximum simplicity. Believing it would please me, my correspondents often write to me in French, but what a French it is! And I should write to them thus: "Please do not write to me in my mother tongue anymore; write to me in Occidental, or even in Volapük; that would be easier for you and for me...less of an annoyance. I love my beautiful French language and precisely because of that, I hope that it will never be an international language."

Keep in mind this was written when French and German were somhewhat more influential compared to English than they are today; on the other hand, Spanish and Chinese are now much more influential now than they were in the 1930s.

Now, what does English look like when used as an L2? Look no farther than Asia for some of the best examples. Here's a song released in Korea just a few months back, containing a great deal of "English" in the lyrics.



The lyrics are as follows.

Let me see ya LaLaLaLa Love me hey YaYaYaYa
Shubidubi Sha LaLaLaLa 우리 둘이 YaYaYaYa
Let me see ya LaLaLaLa Love me hey YaYaYaYa
Shubidub Su Supa Nova

지글지글 불꽃처럼 뜨거워져 Hot Hot
빙글빙글 어지러워 눈이 부셔 Ah Ah
Yo ma Yo ma Lova Lova
Yo ma Yo ma Supa Nova
You Hee You You Hee

Let me see ya LaLaLaLa Love me hey YaYaYaYa
네 앞에선 (Oh) 너무 작아져서 (Oh) I like You
Shubidubi Sha LaLaLaLa 우리 둘이 YaYaYaYa 난 너만 보여
You Hee U U U U U U U U Hee Hee Hee Hee Hee

Oh Go it Go it Go it Go, Go it Go Go it Go
고이 접어 내 가슴에 꼭 담아 Ah Ah
우리 둘이 Do it Do Do it Do Do it Do
너를 위해 던져줄래 꽃다발 Ah Ah
Ah Ah Ah Go it Go it Ah Ah Ah Do it Do it
Ah Ah Ah Go it Go it, Go it Go Go it Go
Many Many Many 이따만큼 이따만큼 또
두근두근 두근대 또 떨리네 Go it Go it Go


Let me see ya LaLaLaLa Love me hey YaYaYaYa
Shubidubi Sha LaLaLaLa 우리 둘이 YaYaYaYa
Let me see ya LaLaLaLa Love me hey YaYaYaYa
Shubidub Su Supa Nova

이글이글 타오르는 내 눈을 봐 Hot Hot
흔들흔들 흐트러진 내 몸을 봐 Ah Ah
Yo ma Yo ma Lova Lova
Yo ma Yo ma Supa Nova You Hee You You Hee

Let me see ya LaLaLaLa Love me hey YaYaYaYa
빠져들어 (Oh) 정말 미치겠어 (Oh) My good boy
Shubidubi Sha LaLaLaLa 우리 둘이 YaYaYaYa 난 너만 보여
You Hee U U U U U U U U Hee Hee Hee Hee Hee

Oh Go it Go it Go it Go, Go it Go Go it Go
고이 접어 내 가슴에 꼭 담아 Ah Ah
우리 둘이 Do it Do Do it Do Do it Do
너를 위해 던져줄래 꽃다발 Ah Ah
Ah Ah Ah Go it Go it Ah Ah Ah Do it Do it
Ah Ah Ah Go it Go it, Go it Go Go it Go
Many Many Many 이따만큼 이따만큼 또
두근두근 두근대 또 떨리네 Go it Go it Go

Rap]
Let me see ya LaLaLaLa Love me hey YaYaYaYa
You make me go LaLaLaLa Baby boy You So Hot Hot Hot (Ha Ha)
You and Me 단둘 Yes We 우리만의 P.A.R.T.(Y)
두근거리는 심장이 계속 외쳐


Oh Go it Go it Go it Go, Go it Go Go it Go
고이 접어 내 가슴에 꼭 담아 Ah Ah
우리 둘이 Do it Do Do it Do Do it Do
너를 위해 던져줄래 꽃다발 Ah Ah
Ah Ah Ah Go it Go it Ah Ah Ah Do it Do it
Ah Ah Ah Go it Go it, Go it Go Go it Go
Let me see ya LaLaLaLa

We've also got Korea's official tourist logo for about a year (I think they're done with it now):


Then there's a type of luxury apartment complex put out by the Doosan company known as Doosan We've. That's right, Doosan We've.




Doosan itself says the following about their brand:

Doosan “We’ve the Zenith” in Haewoondae, PusanWith over 70 floors reaching into the sky, “We’ve the Zenith” is one of the tallest residential towers in Haewoondae, Pusan. The design is reminiscent of the waves at Haewoondae Beach and the outline of Jang Mountain.
This is not some backwater mom-and-pop operation that can't afford to hire a native speaker to check their English - the Doosan Group has a total of 38,000 employees. Correct or non-horrifying English simply isn't relevant much of the time. It's what happens when the L1 population is vastly outnumbered by the L2 population, and continues to shrink in relative terms. The native speaker then ceases to become the arbiter of the language and becomes more or less an annoyance, a grammar nazi that shows up every once in a while to change the subject and ruin the fun.

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