What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

Knowledge is a Polyglot: The Future of Global Language

October 23, 2013, 12:00 AM
Marten_van_valckenborch_tower_of_babel-large

Capitalism compels us to compete for natural resources, for market share, and for human capital. We also compete on the level of language, points out Thorsten Pattberg, a German writer, linguist, and cultural critic who writes for Big Think

What's the Big Idea?

"Whoever owns the language, owns knowledge," Pattberg says. "If you think back in history, when St. Jerome translated the Hebrew bible into Latin, he basically ended the Hebrew world order." Similarly, Pattberg argues, Martin Luther's translation of the Latin bible into German opened the way for the German Empire. 

Today, think of the global power that is evinced by words such as ‘Coca-Cola’ or ‘Microsoft,’ which Pattberg says "enjoy greater legal protection that the entire output of, say, the Indian and Chinese civilizations."

Sure, European languages have incorporated some Hindu words like dharma, karma, yoga and guru, Japanese words like tsunami, sushi and sashimi, and even a few Chinese words such as kung fu and yin and yang. And yet, Pattberg points out that Chinese words are largely underrepresented in the English language. There are a number of reasons for this, which Pattberg explores in the video below.  

What Pattberg has us consider, first and foremost, is "how much more beautiful and authentic and sophisticated and accurate" our world would become if we could appreciate the key terminologies of all cultures.

So what does that mean?

Pattberg advocates for a global language, and by that he has something very specific in mind. We need to continue to translate, of course, in order to communicate. But when it comes to the key terminologies of a culture, "we should not translate them but rather we should adopt them," Pattberg says. "The only way, as I see it, to create the global language is really to find a scientific way to adopt as many key terminologies as possible and to unite all the languages’ vocabularies into one." 

Watch the video here:

Directed/Produced by

Peking University, Modern Educational Technology Center

Commissioned by Big Think; © Big Think

Thorsten Pattberg (D.Litt) is a German writer, linguist, and cultural critic. He is currently a Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies at Peking University, and has been Visiting Fellow at Harvard University and Foreign Research Fellow at Tokyo University. He is the author of four monographs 'The East-West dichotomy,' 'Shengren,' 'Holy Confucius,' and 'Inside Peking University,' and some of his representative articles are 'Language hegemony – It’s shengren, stupid!,' 'Long into the West’s dragon business,' 'China: Lost in Translation,' ‘Lingualism – A New Frontier in Culture Studies’ and 'The end of translation.'

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

More from the Big Idea for Sunday, November 24 2013

Global Language

World history, or better: the writings thereof, is still administered by the West. However, if Asia truly wanted to escape the suzerainty of European words over her thoughts and originality there ... Read More…

 

Knowledge is a Polyglot: Th...

Newsletter: Share: