The Fantasy of the Universal

While English has become the language of global trade, English as a universal language is unlikely to occur. There have been many experiments in the past to create and disseminate a universal language. None have succeeded.

The closest was the Esperanto movement created at the end of the 19th century by a Polish eye doctor. In Esperanto, “esperanto” means “hopeful person”. The idea was to create an easy, flexible international auxiliary language that could unite all countries. Esperanto is a combination of Slavic, Romance, Germanic and Greek languages and grew in popularity in the 20th century but failed to become a staple second language worldwide.

There are many nuanced theories as to why the creation and adoption of a universal language have not succeeded. From our point of view, this is because a simple universal language lacks what all language is built upon – a culture. As a living, breathing phenomenon, language constantly changes and adapts not just to ensure smooth communication, but to express changes in culture.

Which is why a global language never works in advertising. Language is not a one-size-fits-all beast. To be global, language must get local.

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