Language vital for nations’ dialogue

The conflict-ridden state of the world today belies any aims of the UN to promote understanding and tolerance when it declared 2001 the start of a dialogue among civilisations.

'Learn language of your friend, not enemy', said delegates
'Learn language of your friend, not enemy', said delegates

That is the consensus reached at a conference recently at the University of Isfahan in Iran on the role of language in dialogue among civilisations.

“When we see what is happening in the world, we cannot believe that there is supposed to be dialogue among nations,” Thuraya Nafee, representative of the World Association of Arab Translators, who attended the conference, told

The aim of the United Nations General Assembly with the Year of Dialogue among Civilisations, was to “emphasise the importance of tolerance and recognise the diverse civilisational achievements of mankind, crystallising cultural pluralism and creative human diversity.”

“There is a saying that should learn the language of your enemy,” said Nafee. Well, at the conference it was decided, that “no, you should learn the language of your friend,” she emphasised. 

See it as learning the language of your friend, she added, “because that is when you begin to understand”.

That is what was understood as a prerogative at the conference, attended by academics and several mainly non-governmental organisations representing 30 countries such as Spain, Malaysia, Czech Republic, Turkey, Germany, Morocco, Yemen, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

It was also agreed at the conference, said Nafee, that dialogue among civilizations is the only way to remove tensions and establish global peace and stability in the world.

Governments and people

Language, as a prerequisite for dialogue, should be given special attention, since “we have witnessed many linguistic conflicts in the course of history,” conference delegates had stressed, said Nafee, the deputy secretary general of the organisation.  

Bush was criticised for using the word ‘crusade’ 

Bush was criticised for using
the word ‘crusade’ 

“In particular”, she added, it was agreed that governments should be careful about the language they use in addressing nations. “Because language can incite.”

US President George Bush received wide criticism for his use of the word “crusade” in relation to the “war on terror”, for example.

The idea of “a language for the powerful” and “a language for the weak” should be changed, said Nafee.

Sole language?

Delegates discussed the effects of language on the strengths and weaknesses of civilisations and governments, the status of the world’s living languages and the results of their competition in international arenas.

“Dialogue has led to war,
so does it today; but
can call to peace, this
is what we say…”

Dr Muhammad Haqqani,
conference chairperson

They looked at the role of languages in written discourse of scriptures as the principal manifestation of human civilisation as well as the pros and cons for selecting one of the world’s living languages as the formal language for dialogue among civilisations.

The latter was rejected by delegates, said Nafee.

“Can you imagine if there was only a sole language to speak in the world?”

Dr Muhammad Haqqani, conference chairperson, left delegates with a poem:

“Dialogue misused is a cause of demise,
but when fit, it’s a path to paradise.
Dialogue has led to war, so does it today,
but can call to peace, this is what we say…”  

Source : Al Jazeera

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