How can language be a barrier to achieve sustainability?

Imagínate que empiece el artículo así, en español. Oder vielleicht auch so, auf Deutsch. Mi pensa ke devus esti kiel. Non, c’est mieux comme ça, en français. Ma ho bisogno in italiano! Don’t worry, it will be in English. Probably you have understood two or three lines. Maybe all. But that’s not the same case with all people in the world. It’s ironic that I’m writing this in English (I have to because the blog is in English), but if I could write it in a language that everyone could understand, I would definitely do it.

The same thing happens when we get into the world of international negotiations, conferences, summits and so on. Usually, the language used for ‘international understanding’ is English. Sometimes French, Spanish, and even Russian, Arabia and Chinese (all of them being the official languages in the UN). But we often forget that these languages are the languages of majorities. We often leave behind the minorities. What if I can’t speak any of them, and my urgencies are the same (or worse) as the ones that can? How do I communicate with the leaders of the world if I can’t understand them and they can’t understand me?

When walking through Village of Alternatives this weekend in Montreuil, I approached to one stand that had a very interesting banner: ESPERANTO. I knew something about the language before, but never really got into the topic. I started talking to the lady in the stand and after telling her that my French was not really good, with evident difficulties she started telling me about Esperanto. Esperanto is a constructed language, created around 150 years ago by L. L. Zamenhof, mainly based on Indo-European languages and it has now around 300,000 fluent speakers in the world. Basically what they explained to me is that the most spoken languages in the world are languages of oppression, of majorities, of power they are the languages spoken in the most powerful countries.

But those languages sometimes are not that easy to learn for different people in the world. Things such as grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation can be very hard to get depending on one’s mother tongue. This is why they present Esperanto as an alternative language of communication, which is supposed to be easy to learn for everyone around the globe (…) and that could achieve more equality between minorities and majorities. And when I started reflecting upon their position, I found it very accurate and I felt a call of desperation for equality and respect of our rights. And even though I don’t really think that Esperanto would be the best solution for international communication (I believed is biased somehow, as it uses Latin alphabet and as I said, is mainly based on Indo-European language, which could mean an advantage for the people speaking these languages), what I do believe is that we need indeed to reach a level where everyone is the world is able to communicate their needs to the whole world, say it a language, rhythm, art, signs, or whatever it could be to reach equality. And how does this relate to the whole issue of climate change?

Well, it happens that the majority of these people that are not being heard, are the ones most affected by the actions and decisions of the ones that communicate their interests, but don’t take into account the urgencies of the small ones. Let’s try to listen, to read, communicate with each other, to understand their needs, to make this world more equal, to make this world greener, to make this world a safe place to live.


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