Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 75.djvu/285

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281
AN INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE

THE NECESSITY FOR AN INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE
By IVY KELLERMAN, Ph.D.

CHICAGO

IT was urged by a certain Greek philosopher that in ignorance alone lay the real reason of wrong-doing, and that none who truly understood the right could thereafter be guilty of wrong. Ignorance in a narrower sense has been offered as the explanation for misunderstanding and consequent trouble of a more or less serious nature between nations and races as well as between individuals. Ignorance of one another's civilization, lack of appreciation of each other's character and ideals, failure to comprehend the motives of essentially simple actions—all these are at fault when great nations disagree. No other interpretation is indeed possible, since longing for power, love of conquest, lust to slay, can hardly be suggested in calm seriousness as motivating the actions of nations who are followers of the gentle Jesus, the kindly Buddha, the wise Confucius, in a supposedly civilized century.

It seems strange at first that there should be room for such lack of mutual understanding and sympathy, in view of the vaunted increase of international intercourse, due to the many opportunities of communication by mail and by wire, to the great interchange of commodities made possible by commercial progress, and to the growing facilities for international travel. It seems strange, also, when we recollect that in the employ of every nation there are numerous persons skilled in the language of every other nation of political or commercial importance, to serve the one as interpreters of the thoughts and words of the other, and to translate the ideas and ideals of these peoples for each other in any emergency that may arise. Such experts are found likewise in all great educational centers. There is not a university without its corps of trained linguists, while its leaders in all of the various departments must possess a fair degree of familiarity with numerous foreign tongues. Even the students are becoming slightly cosmopolitan. A few Americans and Englishmen and Orientals are found at every European university of note, while in America are scattered students from Europe, from the far east and from South America.

Therefore we may claim to have interpreters. They are few indeed, in proportion to the number needed, as has been forcibly pointed out, with the plea that "governments, universities, churches, chambers of commerce, should have some definite plan of raising up a body of sympathetic scholars, who shall be first-hand interpreters of one nation to the other."[1]

But in this very claim lies the explanation of the puzzle. As long

  1. Document 15 of the American Association for International Conciliation: "American Ignorance of Oriental Languages," by J. H. DeForest, D.D., page 12.