A brief sociological study on languages and immigration
Being myself a product of this environment, I’m proud of my multiethnic background, since I am a direct descendant of Portuguese, Italian and German peoples. But the country had in the past dictatorial governments that tried to suppress all other languages spoken in Brazil, other than the Portuguese language, trying to convey Brazil as a national homogeneous country – something which Brazil never was and will never be – with the condition of speaking Portuguese seen as a requirement for a citizen to be considered a Brazilian national. This was done during a period of hard nationalistic feelings imposed by the government.
Today, in the American continent, the four main languages – French, English, Spanish and Portuguese – are widely spoken because, in the past, the four European global empires – the Spanish, the Portuguese, the British and the French – competed with each other vehemently, looking for territorial possessions all over the world. In the 15th century, all four invaded the American continent, exterminating most of its indigenous populations, and imposing dramatic changes for once and for all, in an irreversible way. The British and the French fought against each other in the North, while the Spanish and the Portuguese fought against each other in central and southern America. Several times, the church tried to intervene, and reconcile the parts – the famous Treaty of Tordesillas was an example – between the Portuguese and Spanish, that frequently entered in agreements, that were always disrupted, sooner or later. The final result of this European hunger for conquest was the following: Spanish America broke apart into several small countries, Portuguese America remained intact, being only one giant country, Brazil, as well as British America, being the United States born out of the English dominance. And what about the French? Well, French is a language spoken in Canada today, as well as in some US states bordering Canada, but sincerely, Canada doesn’t count, since it is just a strip of land of people living north of the United States border. 88% of Canada is uninhabited territory. Just an enormous piece of frozen ground and endless snow! In this way, it is very easy to be the second country in the world in terms of size, with only 35 million inhabitants.
France is another great example of a multilingual country. More than one hundred languages (and dialects) are spoken in France today, and, like Brazil, it endured a period in the past of language suppression, with the French being overwhelmingly highlighted and all other languages being marginalized, forbidden or ostracized. Between all those languages, Breton is probably one of the most widely known, being reminiscent of a language spoken by Celtic tribes that emigrated from Great Britain to France. By virtue of the Roman Empire, France – like Spain, Portugal and Italy – went to be a natural birthplace for Romance languages, that spread throughout the world by the Spanish, French and Portuguese empires, all of them European Superpowers. Spain, Italy and France – as well as parts of Switzerland, and some other neighboring areas – would also be a major place of development for the much more complex and intricate ramifications of Rhaeto-Romance, Gallo-Romance and Occitano-Romance languages. Awkwardly, but comprehensively, because of some similarities, people erroneously think that English is also a Romance language, which is not the case at all. English is a Proto-Germanic language, that, indeed, received influences to some extent from Classical Latin during Anglo-Saxon times.
Well, now that you have learned all this stuff, what about learning another language? But you have to learn Mandarin, Greek, Arab or Japanese. If you learn another language that uses the same alphabet that your natural language, the process will be so easy that you will not improve cognitive skills. Although it is another language, your brain is able to recognize the symbols and signs that you already know as letters. But if you learn an entirely different language – a language that uses a different alphabet – this will create and activate other sections of your brain, your reasoning capabilities will greatly improve, and your cognitive abilities will expand. But remember, it doesn’t matter how good a student you can be, you will never be able to speak, understand or express yourself fluently or as good as someone who is native to the language.
Well, do you think 7.000 languages are that much? Take into consideration that I haven’t entered into the field of extinct languages! This would greatly increase those numbers. The Andaqui, Barawana, Catuquinaru, Charrúa, Cocoliche, Gayon, Hamuoé, Koeruna, Munichi, Natú, Omurano, Payagua, Purí, Puquina, Saraveca, Taparita, Tequiraca, Tupí Austral and Yabaâna are only a few examples of some indigenous languages of South America that become extinct. It is possible to make a list with a thousand names or more! Well, what can I say? Sometimes we do forget the fact that the American continent already had a lot of history, before the arrival of Europeans.