home page links quotes statistics mission statement success stories resources Lighter Side Authors! Search Page
Posted February 25, 2013

One Tongue, Many Languages

Eugene Hemrick

The more I hear the variety of languages spoken around me today the more I am convinced that the English language as we know it will be greatly different with our next generation. We will actively be using a number of new and colorful words which once were foreign but have found a place in our individual vocabularies.

Whether I am in Washington, Chicago or New York, I hear at least 10 different languages spoken as I walk down the streets. At the Catholic University of America in Washington, we have student research assistants who speak Polish, Chinese, Portuguese and Croatian.

On a walk across the campus, during an evening at the Kennedy Center or strolling on the mall, I am likely to hear anything from French to Russian spoken. Foreign languages and customs are becoming second nature in the United States.

An article in the Washington Post reported how large a role Koreans are playing in the local street-vending business and how much common Korean customs and language are becoming in the nation's capital.

What will happen over a period of time [and is already happening greatly now] is the English language as we know it will change. A look at the history of it, or any language for that matter, shows that it readily adopts words from other cultures.

The English language has incorporated many words that are Latin, French, Italian and German, for example, we say "de facto" and "Gesundheit," and are accustomed to "semper fidelis" as the Marines' motto (always faithful) and "e pluribus unum" (from many, one) on our coins.

There is always the "fait accompli. " "la dolce vita" and the "macho" fellow.

How do foreign words creep into English? It begins with children when they are thrown together spontaneously. This could be in kindergarten, playing street ball or on the school playground. A child learns to speak by mimicking, and children love to game with each other by mimicking.

It also happens with adults who feel it is the cultured way to talk or that it is suave to swing in and out of foreign speech, or who, on the other hand, want newcomers in the country to feel at home.

We hear a larger mix of foreign words with English words in big cities than in the suburbs because cities are more cosmopolitan.

Mark my words! Within our times all of us will have enlarged our vocabularies with a number of foreign words. It won't result from a "coup d'etat." My "credo" is, however, that it will be "wunderbar"!