Thanks to Bill for commenting on the Notes on language post and reminding me about Esperanto, which merits a mention in any discussion of languages. Most people (including yours truly) seem to think of Esperanto mostly as a punchline, a signal of misguided, hopeless optimism and utter dorkiness. But it's really pretty frickin' cool, the more you think about it. Check out the Esperanto web site.
That said, I have to agree with Marjane Satrapi, Iranian/French graphic novelist and director (of "Persepolis" fame). In an interview with the now-defunct Rake magazine, she said:
In Iran if we speak a second language it’s English, not French anymore. English is the new Esperanto, which I really like. Some people complain “Oh, this is English culture,” but this is Esperanto. Everyone can speak this language, what does it matter. It’s a good thing whether it’s English or German or Japanese, if we all speak the same language it’s a good thing.
I'm all for Esperanto in theory: easy to learn, logical, etc. Sounds good. But the thing about English is, way more people already speak it. The groundwork is already set--it's easier to find other people who speak it, which makes it easier to learn. It's, well, useful. In many places even necessary. As discussed in that previous post, it's the world's relay language.
That's not to say we should expect or even encourage everyone to speak it. I worry about the culture-flattening effects of the rise of English, especially since it likely comes at the expense of other languages (and therefore cultures). But as Ms. Satrapi says, having some way for people around the world to communicate is a good thing. If that happens to be English, well, okay.
I'd also like to note that Ms. Satrapi--a worldly, cosmopolitan individual if ever there was one--is a big fan of Minneapolis's contribution to world cuisine, the Jucy Lucy (yes, that's how it's spelled). If you don't know, it's a cheeseburger with the cheese inside. Simple in concept, complex in execution, delicious in every way.
From this article in MinnPost:
"The first time I came here, the [cab driver] told me, 'Oh, I will bring you to a French restaurant.' And I was like, 'No, I'm here to eat what you eat. So what do you eat?' And he was like, 'Well, there's something here, it's kind of greasy, but [it's] the Jucy Lucy burger.' I was here three days. For three days, lunch and dinner, I had the Jucy Lucy burger. I tried to make one in France. All my friends in France know the Jucy Lucy burger of Minneapolis.
I'm so proud of my city.