When Mr.Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister, recently visited Russia, and was presented by Mr.Putin with a planned extension of the monument commemorating the Sardinian soldiers who fought in the Crimean War (1853-56), he thanked to his host both in Italian as in Russian: Grazie! Spasiba!
It is natural to use your native language, is also a sign of national pride and dignity. At the same time, using some few words in the language of the country where you are on a trip is an easy, proven way to show and receive sympathy.
Mentioning the Russian language, it is worth to remember that it still has, although challenged by the revival of nationalism, the status of lingua franca for the people from the former Soviet Union, notwithstanding the historical hardships of the tsarist and then communist empire.
Another big country, neighbour to the Russian Federation, China has made the headlines for the last two decades with its economic performance, accompanied by a correspondent rise in the Mandarin study.
These only two examples are strong enough to carry home the argument of pragmatism when it comes to language communication.
We, as a species, need a language to make us understood all over the Earth. In the time of Jesus, Aramaic was the language that served this purpose for the various people in the Fertile Crescent (remember the Mel Gibson’s movie?).
In Modern times, the same role was fulfilled by the French language, and all along with building of the British Empire and then with the dominance of the American economy and pop culture English language did the job. And it is still doing it. You may, depending on your political and cultural views, sympathize or not with Britain or America, English is the verbal medium for saving us from the Babel syndrome (see the unfortunate example set off by the EU), at least to the level of conveying the message. Other largely spoken languages are only of regional acceptance, English is the only one that can claim universality: on the street, on getting a job, in the academic communities. This is a sufficient reason to learn the language. Will English keep this place forever? Nobody knows. But for now this is, paraphrasing Leibniz, the best of all possible languages.
By Cristi V. Andrei