UNO Languages

Ornella   Sun Jul 29, 2007 2:58 pm GMT
UNO languages are English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian and Chinese. My question is the next:

Do you think that United Nations should add another important languages? Or perhaps to remove some of them? Thanks.
Guest   Sun Jul 29, 2007 5:09 pm GMT
In my opinion I would add Hindi, German, Japanese and Portuguese.
die Wahrheit   Sun Jul 29, 2007 9:39 pm GMT
This is an interesting question...

I have thought about this also, but I see grounds for debate on both sides.

Those who are for it can take the nature of the institution defense. That in theory, every country who is a member of the UN has the right to request that their language be allowed for official usage.

Those who are against it can take the lack of standardization defense. That in theory, if too many languages are being used, confusion and miscommunication will emerge.

As a person who loves the diversity of language, I am more likely to be for the addition of more languages. However, I also believe that in order to facilitate the mission of the UN, there should be more standardization because they can not allow themselves to be caught up on little details like language.

I think maybe the languages used by the UN should reflect the countries involvement with its mission. Maybe even make it a competition? Allow ten languages to be allowed for usage but be determined by the top ten countries that support the UN and its, troops for peacekeeping, criminal enforcement, environmental support...things like this?

What do people here think?
Guest   Sun Jul 29, 2007 9:43 pm GMT
They should only leave English, Spanish and French and get rid of all the others.
Rodrigo (COL)   Sun Jul 29, 2007 11:36 pm GMT
While the UN has six official languages, only French and English are working languages. English is the official language of most members followed by French and Spanish. Since most Arabic countries were either British or French Colonies and Chinese is spoken in only one member nation I agree with Guest.

Russian is tough, though... Most ex-USSR countries use it, and some of their native languages have unique alphabets.
Xie Z.A.   Mon Jul 30, 2007 5:06 am GMT
This is actually more political than linguistic, practical or demographic.

But if we talk about language choices, definitely these 6 are good for "covering" the world, even though a few important ones are not included. Indeed, if one learns, maybe, at least half of them and reach native-like fluency, that's already very great.
die Wahrheit   Mon Jul 30, 2007 9:53 pm GMT
Xie Z.A...

In this case, I do not think you can separate the politics from the linguistics.

But as I said before, there are some people in this would who might be willing to debate that the whole purpose was to create an institution where all member nations would be treated as equals. However, they are not being treated as equals in terms of language which is a major cultural and political factor for that nation.

There are 192 nations currently with the UN. A number of them can be found in Africa. Most of these African nations conduct their affairs in French. But is it really fair to ask them to do this? Tanzania's official language is Swahili, but their UN representatives must conduct their affairs through French...and they are not happy with this.

It's like saying, "Come here and be an equal as long as you don't be yourself."

I know this can be said for many countries and many languages; I just used them as an example.

I think, the UN is one place where a language like Esperanto might work because the introduction of a language that is relatively neutral is at the very heart of why the United Nations was created. I am a little surprised they haven't tried something like this yet?

Even with only six languages, there is a lot of confusion. In fact, when I toured the UN, I met a couple of the translators and they told me that there are serious misunderstandings because of communication problems every single day.

The only way to eliminate this is to create a single medium. And since humans will never choose a naturally occurring language to be the medium because of politics, they may be willing to accept an artificial medium like Esperanto or something like it.

I have read in magazines how miners have created an artificial language to overcome their language barriers...if it can work for them, maybe it can work for the UN also???
Xie Z.A.   Tue Jul 31, 2007 6:08 am GMT
Well, you may say I entered the wrong topic because the UN may necessarily be a political thing. :P

True, Esperanto is neutral and most ideal, but also idealistic. Esperanto is neutral because it is not associated with any country (political entity), but it's very European - well, absolute neutrality is, then, impossible (followed by trash talks about how to form a language encompassing features of every language).

I suspect that the misunderstandings are why only two of the UNO languages are working languages.
Babel   Tue Jul 31, 2007 7:24 am GMT
No. Official and working languages are all of them: English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, and Chinese.

In one of the organs, the Secretariat, only English and French are working languages, but only in this organ. English, French and Spanish are the working languages of the General Assembly, other organ, It depends on the organs of the United Nations.
Guest   Tue Jul 31, 2007 11:41 am GMT
Esperanto is not neutral. It's a Romance language.
Xie Z.A.   Tue Jul 31, 2007 12:30 pm GMT
Well, I've oversimplified the facts. But anyway, not all languages are used for all occasions.

I think it's more for representing the 5 countries than for communication purposes.
furrykef   Tue Jul 31, 2007 12:57 pm GMT
<< Esperanto is not neutral. It's a Romance language. >>

I don't see how it can be called a Romance language. It isn't a direct descendant of any language or language group. I agree that it isn't truly neutral, since it does resemble European languages much more than other language types, but it's far more neutral than natural languages are.

- Kef
Guest   Tue Jul 31, 2007 6:53 pm GMT

To me this language seems like some mix of Spanish / Italian with some vocabulary from other languages, but the basic structure is 99% Romance, and I guess it's a lot easier for speakers of Spanish/Italian to learn Esperanto. I even guess that a native speaker of Spanish/Italian is able to understand a lot of a text in Esperanto, whereas a native speaker of a non-Romance language who never learned any Romance language will understand only some words, but no content.

So how can you call it neutral?
die Wahrheit   Tue Jul 31, 2007 7:33 pm GMT
I do not know very much about Esperanto to comment on it...

When I say "neutral" I mean that it is a language that is not representing any specific nation. Yes it was created by Europeans, and yes it does seem to be heavily Romance in nature, but it does not represent any single Romance language, or any other language, so it is therefore neutral in my opinion.

A Spanish, French, or Italian speaker would have to learn it just as any English, Russian, and Arabic speaker would have to learn it. I feel this is why the United Nations was overcome our naturally occurring barriers, such as language, and create a better world.

While it might be a little easier for Romance languages to learn Esperanto because they are more familiar with the phonetics and grammar is still a foreign language to them. It would be like saying that because you can speak can understand Italian. While there are many similarities they are completely separate languages.

And as furrykef pointed out, Esperanto was created artificially look similar to other languages, but is completely different from them.
No Esperanto   Tue Jul 31, 2007 9:17 pm GMT
Today Esperanto is only a useless linguistic gimmick without any practical value. Learning it is nothing but a waste of time:

- There already is a well-established international auxiliary language: English. There is no need for another one.
- It has a laughable low number of speakers, only about 1000 native speakers and 10000 fluent speakers - all over the world!
- As a constructed language, it will never have the linguistic richness of a natural grown language
- Some people here say it's a neutral language, but that's not true. Esperanto is mostly based on Romance languages. So it's not a bit easier for a Chinese, Russian or whatever to learn Esperanto than learning English, Spanish or French.
And why learning an artifical Romance language, when there are already 1 international "Half-Romance" (English) and 2 Romance languages (French and Spanish) with far more speakers?