While I was out walking this week – I’m currently staying with my sister in Haifa, Israel – I befriended Alexander and Tamara, a delightful couple from Moscow who were looking for the Baha’i Gardens. As I’m a Baha’i, I knew where they wanted to go, so I could walk with them to the Gardens and Terraces.
These extremely beautiful terraces that stretch from the top to the bottom of Mount Carmel are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are the most-visited site in Israel. A paradise of colour, fragrance, birdsong, sparkling fountains, symmetry and beauty, these gardens provide an oasis of calm and peace for all who spend time there.
As I accompanied these lovely souls to the Gardens, I wished that I could get to know them a little better,but they spoke almost no English and I know even less Russian. I’d have been interested to know more about what their lives were like, what they think about things and why they were visiting Israel – but this was not to be because we don’t have a common language. We ended up smiling and gesturing to one another as a very basic form of communication.
We can never develop meaningful communication if we can’t understand one another
In South Africa, where I live, there are eleven official languages so there are many people that I encounter where a meaningful conversation is impossible because of a lack of a common language. As a result, there are countless people all around me that I will never get to know and understand because we can’t speak to one another.
Communication remains superficial
If we’re not able to share who we are and what we feel, our conversation remains on the level of names and where we’re from, possibly a few simple facts such as how many children we have – but nothing of any real significance or meaning.
No matter how many languages you learn, the practical reality is that there will always be people who speak languages that you don’t know. It’s also impossible to speak enough languages at a level that allows meaningful concepts to be discussed.
A practical and financial problem
As the world is now a global community, every year enormous amounts of money are spent on translation, printing and distribution for the United Nations and other global organisations to try to manage the unwieldy international problem of multiple languages.
Across the world, there are endless misunderstandings created amongst groups, cultures and nations as a result of a lack of a common language.
We will never have oneness or peace in the world until we’re able to share a language that we all understand.
So what do we do?
The most practical and far-reaching solution is for human beings to choose or create an auxiliary language that everyone learns as well as their own mother tongue.
For each of us, the language that we grow up speaking is precious because it carries the richness of our heritage and cultural identity, so we need to know and study our particular mother tongue.
The world is made more beautiful by the vast multiplicity of the languages in which we express ourselves, so these need to be used and rejoiced in – but we also need to have an added international language that we can all use to facilitate the reality of living in a global community.
“The function of language is to portray the mysteries and secrets of human hearts. The heart is like a box, and language is the key. Only by using the key can we open the box and observe the gems it contains. Therefore, the question of an auxiliary international tongue has the utmost importance.”
I look forward to the day when I’ll be able to talk to the interesting and lovely people that I encounter each day.
A simple greeting from one soul to another is a good way to start and from there we can use our common language to develop understanding, friendship and oneness.
“The day is approaching when all the peoples of the world will have adopted one universal language and one common script. When this is achieved, to whatsoever city a man may journey, it shall be as if he were entering his own home.”
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