English as the universal language

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018, at home

I just realized again that by far the biggest amount of relevant information in my life came in English. If it is something new, I often read it in English. It usually takes weeks and can take years until you will hear something about any new topic in German. In many cases it will never be heart.

And – once you hear it in German it will definitely be a “German version”. Which means, it will be more rational, more critical, less enthusiastic.  I still remember reading about the Google IPO and the definitive conclusions in the relevant German news that the initial share price is heavily overvalued and full of “phantasies” that probably never will come through. Now, 14 years later the share price is 18 times higher.

I can still remember – the first time I took a bus, arriving in the US as a medical student on my way to the hospital in Washington DC were I was going to make an internship in the surgery department. The woman next to me asked me where I was coming from and what I was going to do in the US. A question totally erratic and rare to be asked to a stranger in a bus in Germany. And then there was this true excitement she displayed about my answer: “A medical student from Germany”.

I loved and I will always love this attitude.

English actually was my third language (after Spanish that I learned in primary school in Peru) and I remember I struggled the first years to like this new challenge at school. But then there were this other sources. Listening to the Beatles and so many other Bands there were so many sentences that came to my mind. “Love is all you need”. “Strawberry fields forever!” And with my first journey to a more English speaking country (a school exchange program to a Kibbuz in Israel) I realized a valid reason why I wanted to master English: I could communicate with that beautiful curly hair Israeli girl….

Later then, in the university I loved to look at the new book section in the library. And, of course: most books that where acquired new with topics I never heard of where published in English.

Slowly, slowly my curiosity brought me to understand more and more of the meaning. But it remains and probably will always remain an extra effort. And I have to admit that I almost never managed to finish a more difficult novel or fiction book in another language than my mother tongue German. I tried. And I had some good moments. But the English language has by far the largest vocabulary and it remains an extra effort to try to translate every other word to understand the full meaning of a sentence. It just doesn´t made sense to me.

The most interesting aspect I realized nevertheless is that my inner voice sounds different in English. It might be just because the main critic of everybody is not outside but inside and that this voice normally is trained in your mother tongue. So it just appears to me that what I read, say and write in English does get less criticized by myself.

It might as well have to do with the German culture. I guess many would say that Germans in general are very critical folks indeed. So it might just be that being critical is so German that it makes them perfect at improving and diagnosing a problem, but at the same time less enthusiastic and positive than many other cultures. “Nicht geschimpft ist genug gelobt”, is a famous German phrase, “not being critized is enough appraisal”. Therefore, I feel like an expert in “critizising and self-critizising”, which helps of course enormous to develop an independent lifestyle and to diagnose many of the existing problems out there and inside.

Kopernikus, Luther, Marx, Freud, Einstein: They are all Germans that delivered a great work describing that something was wrong: The earth is not at the center of the universe, the bible is not yet translated into the language of the ordinary people, the 19 century industrialization posed some negative impact on many people. We are not that free as we think; below our inner surface, there might be strong and unknown forces governing us in daily life. And the whole time and space-reality is not as stable as it seems to be.

Yet with the solutions the German mindset was less impressive. The first successful revolution was French, the first declaration of the universal human rights American and the British version of a liberal free market proved to be superior in its capacity to deliver progress to humanity than every German plan. And as America delivered this “Western Values” back to Europe after the Second World War, we adopted to a system in Germany, first in the West, later in the East that was based on the “American Dream”. And all over the world the language the world is dreaming became English.

Dominantly the British and American language, both countries delivered the biggest impact on the World as it is now. What would be Pop Culture, Movies, Consumerism, Science, Economics, if it would not be in English? And what would the world look like without the “counter culture” of the American hippies or e.g. the British punks? But the biggest recent impact of course is the result of the “personal computer”, the internet and the smartphone. These are genuine American inventions. The only significant second in that field is not Europe. It is obviously China.

And if you want to realize the dominance of these two Countries in the digital world, it is impressive to look at a http://atlasofdigitalhegemony.com.

But should we feel depressed or insignificant realizing this development? No. We can learn, as the Chinese learned from Singapore and the US that we can use successfully tools or methods without losing our identity. We can use English as the universal language that unifies the world and makes the “global village” truly possible. With English we will soon be able to communicate with almost everybody on the planet. For most people it will always remain the second or third language. But this does not have to be a disadvantage at all.

Because to use English as a not native speaker means, we have to do it with a diminished vocabulary and have to speak and write with more simplicity. The attraction of the English world is often related to its capacity to speak in “slogans”, in a marketing-oriented easier language.

It is o.k. to reduce complexity in English, it even is an advantage. Everybody does it. It makes it easier to focus on what is important and to leave out the rest. A view in the web as well inspired me: https://www.maryajan.com/non-native-english-bloggers/

And it is easier to be positive. We can use that. It is helpful. And to use a second language is a constant training in flexibility. We use different areas of our brain and have to be in a higher concentrated state of mind.

The most important thing for me is “just do it”. Because you only learn and improve if you try it. The same is true for blogging as well. I know, there are many people out there with interesting thoughts they would like to share. If only they would be better, they would start doing it.

It took me half of my life to realize that it is o.k. to write for others deliberately, even if I will never be as good as I think I should be. I just decided to do it now, as I think it is much better to do it and not being perfect than waiting my whole life until the perfection does arrive that will comfort my inner critical voice.

As always, it was demanding finding the time and space to do what I wanted to do. So many things come in between.

A live in “flow” or “meditative living” is possible. But it means as well to accept that a bigger part of your life is devoted and will be full of duties that have to be done. It is much more about accepting what you primarily don’t like than being able to indulge in what you primarily like.

But: there is a constant and never ending reward that can be growing if you follow the path of doing what has to be done. As the buddhist Zen saying goes:


„Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.“


This is a true “life hack” to me.


And: Tara started to ride the bicycle. She is very proud to be able to ride the kindergarden now.


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