RE: H. W. BRANDS HUMAN BABEL
There can be no question that commerce and political union tend to favor the Big Languages and marginalize other “little” languages such as Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic, Navajo , Quechua, etc. I think mankind has a tendency towards monolingualism. Certainly nationalists, almost invariably, favor one official national language. So I do not believe a little Babel is built into the human soul.
Quite the contrary. One has to invest in and work at maintaining a bilingual household or to encourage polyglotism. I know this from personal experience. There are varying levels of bilingualism or multilingualism in our family. I think it highly likely that all our grandchildren will be bilingual at the very least.
However, a healthy bilingualism is possible over a long term: Switzerland is a good example. Canada (English and French) is another. The United States seems to be permanently bilingual Spanish/English in some regions. Another example would be Israel (Hebrew and English).
But I would say that Israel did not have to reach into the past to revive Hebrew. Hebrew has always been a language that has been studied and spoken aloud. In modern times it merely replaced Yiddish or Ladino. But we recall Yiddish and Ladino were often written with Hebrew characters.
Some say “Official bilingualism”, as it is called in Anglophone Canada, detracts from multiculturalism because it unfairly prioritizes French over other minority languages. Scottish Gaelic is still spoken in Nova Scotia but has diminished greatly since 1900 and has had little government support. The same is true for Canada’s indigenous languages.
But French like English is a Big Language or culture language not unlike Latin or Greek in their time.
St. Patrick could (probably )speak at least two Celtic dialects -Old Irish and British) but he wrote almost exclusively in Latin.
Because Latin was a “Big Language” or culture language in a way Irish Gaelic was not. Latin, Greek and Hebrew were Big Languages because they were languages of the Bible, a vast literature, laws etc.
So historically Big Languages (languages that are commercially or culturally important) are more likely to be a Koine or lingua franca) and so therefore much more likely to survive over a long period of time.
Italian is a lesser Big Language and so is German BUT both these languages are such powerful cultural languages (with a vast literature and musical culture) that their songs will be sung for centuries all over the world. Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese all seem to have a guaranteed future for religious, political and demographic reasons.
I have been a student of languages all of my life and now in retirement I am studying Modern Greek and Ancient Greek as well as reading Latin every day.
Most of the languages I study have strong associations with literature, poetry, and song. I have read most international literature in translation, of course, but when I have read poetry or songs in their original, I know that translations are not sufficient, so I try whenever possible to study bilingual texts and the original versions.
Each language is indeed God’s work of art. Official bilingualism may not be possible everywhere, but language studies are very important for everyone and that we should respect the cultures and languages of others. Personally, my own life and education have been greatly enriched by the study of languages. My understanding of English grammar and vocabulary has been heightened by my studies of Latin, Spanish and Portuguese grammar.