I am a speaker of English. This was not by choice; it was simply native. In high school my choice was Russian. The teacher was dynamic, lively and spoke the languages of the cold war; after six months a new teacher came in, rigid and uninspiring and I needed a tutor to survive the three required years. Since then it is more of a novelty to tell people that I was going to save "us" during the cold war and a Russian tutor had to save me instead. What I remember of the language is minimal; what I learned from the language is a great deal of respect.
My recent experience with Spanish was more painful. Maybe the high school pain of sitting with a tutor has faded over the years, but since then I have developed a fiercely competitive spirit to do my best at everything and in Spanish I had found an insurmountable challenge. Two semesters later I finished with eight credits and a B average. I’d never worked harder at anything in my life and I couldn’t speak Spanish now, five months later, to save my life. I survived by memorizing, deleting and memorizing again. It didn’t stick; I wasn’t truly committed to the language to save my life. I wonder if I needed Spanish for my livelihood if I would have learned more, but then it’s not an experience I can fathom for I have English. I have what many think may someday be the “common language”.
I take a great deal for granted; English being one. Many native English speakers do. I understand English is the second most popular language (behind Mandarin) if we are looking at populations of native speakers, but many countries encourage their children to learn English as a secondary language which I imagine distorts the statistics, putting English near the top of the list of spoken languages. How many international English conversations truly involve an English native I wonder? Yet, with Spanish on the rise, will English survive as the common language? I don’t know the ever-changing statistics.
Why does the world consider being an English speaker so powerful? Are great thoughts not thought in other languages? Are we trying to separate cultures and language with the growth of English as a common language? Are "we", the native English speaker trying to take some sort of control? A person’s language is an integral part of who they are as a human. Who gets to decide what common language gets used? If we create a mainstream sort of society have we not lost many great thoughts across the language barriers? Don’t we always lose something in a translation?
Perhaps a common language is necessary to share knowledge, but with it so much is also lost. I am jealous of those that can think/speak successfully in multiple languages. They have the abilities which allow them to translate ideas to more people. They also have the abilities to learn more from others. I remain just a speaker of English.