Magazine article New Internationalist

Speaking in (Many) Tongues

Magazine article New Internationalist

Speaking in (Many) Tongues

Article excerpt

'I think they might be backward.'

This was the damning verdict of the health visitor on discovering that my twin sister and I, aged two, were resolutely refusing to speak a proper language (ie English), and were instead babbling away in some incomprehensible mumbo-jumbo. My mother knew better. Like endless sets of twins around the world, we had simply come up with our own language, in which we were perfectly fluent and happy, thank you very much. The rest of the family managed to decipher enough to know what we wanted - and given that that was the extent of our two-year-old world, why bother with anything else? When we went to school, we were put into separate classes and inevitably picked up the far inferior language our peers were speaking. And our own twin-speak soon died out.

This, in a microcosm, is what is happening to the vast majority of the 7,000 languages currently spoken around the world, which struggle against political and cultural assimilation, fall out of favour or are beaten into obscurity. …

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