Language is Like Love: Cherish It or You Lose It

Western civilization is seen as the eagle bearer of advancement. It stands for technological development, research development and so much more that serves as a step forward for humanity. To be western in this day and age is to be seen as modern and ahead of the times. However, in order for someone to be ahead of the times, there must be those who fall behind them and are not “modern” as they’d identify it.

At a TEDxBeirut in 2012, Suzanne Talkhouk presents her talk titledĀ Don’t Kill Your Language. She focuses on the dangers of abandoning your language in the pursuit of appearing more modern to the outside world. One of her main points is that “the only way to kill a nation, is to kill the language.” This is probably one of the heaviest ideas to realize as any individual. There are languages that society is aware of as existing, but since there is not a people to normally speak the language, they are dead along with their people. Language is the way in which culture is purveyed. The passing of ideas and traditions are spread through the use of language and without it, these things would wither away and become extinct.

Talhouk also speaks to how Arabic is demeaned in the eyes of western civilizations. It is not used in academic environments, and just the use of it in places such as airports incites aggressive response from outsiders. It truly is a language that the West attempts to covertly stomp out by making it seem ridiculous to use it when other languages are so readily available. However, to say it is not useful is a gross omission of truth. There is a tie between any language and the phrases present in it that invoke a certain feeling for a memory. For instance, in America, if one were to here “the British are coming,” it is not simply an informing that people of British descent are on their way. It is meant to draw a salience of a time in which historical Americans were in a fight for their lives and freedom against those who would keep them down. A language strives to provide its users with the tools necessary to convey these thoughts in a way that anyone can access and understand. To take that away from a people would be to take away the very thing that helps them identify with their past and their culture. It would effectively cut all ties of the nation and destroy it, just as Talhouk warns against.

This TEDx from her is not meant to deter others from using other languages to communicate with others and shutting one’s self off from the world, but rather as a way to remind them to not let the world shut them off from who they are. Talhouk wants people to know that while we should strive to be on an even playing field with people of differing languages, it should be handled in a way that lets the native language shine through with pride and never die.