The Value of a Unique Language for a People or Nation

Utopian thinkers dream of the time when all humanity will share a common language and thereby put aside cultural differences to join together in the full realisation of being members of the same human family.  Sri Aurobindo takes the opportunity to point out specific advantages and positive aspects of the diversity of languages.  He sees language diversity as a way for the various cultural and national groups to unify around a common identity, and to express themselves in a unique way that adds to the overall richness of the human evolution.  While it has been used in the past as a way of dividing peoples or nations from one another, diversity of languages need not be a force of fragmentation in the future, particularly as we gain more appreciation for the uniqueness and value of the variety of cultures and languages around the world.

Sri Aurobindo notes:  “Diversity of language serves two important ends of the human spirit, a use of unification and a use of variation.  A language helps to bring those who speak it into a certain large unity of growing thought, formed temperament, ripening spirit.  It is an intellectual, aesthetic and expressive bond which tempers division where division exists and strengthens unity where unity has been achieved.  Especially it gives self-consciousness to national or racial unity and creates the bond of a common self-expression and a common record of achievement.  On the other hand, it is a means of national differentiation and perhaps the most powerful of all, not a barren principle of division merely, but a fruitful and helpful differentiation.  For each language is the sign and power of the soul of the people which naturally speaks it.  Each develops therefore its own peculiar spirit, thought-temperament, way of dealing with life and knowledge and experience.  If it receives and welcomes the thought, the life-experience, the spiritual impact of other nations, still it transforms them into something new of its own and by that power of transmutation it enriches the life of humanity with its fruitful borrowings and does not merely repeat what had been gained elsewhere.  Therefore it is of the utmost value to a nation, a human group-soul, to preserve its language and to make of it a strong and living cultural intrument.  A nation, race or people which loses its language cannot live its whole life or its real life.  And this advantage to the national life is at the same time an advantage to the general life of the human race.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Ideal of Human Unity, Part Two, Chapter 28, Diversity in Oneness, pp. 245-246