There are good reasons for the belief that the Great War was in fact only a little one -- a sort of one-act play before the curtain was lifted on more serious military operations. But long before we get back to normal, something will have to be done for the development of international feelings. What is chiefly needed at the present time is some new Idea, by which the mind of man may be lifted out of its narrow prison house, where food, sex and money, or the political troubles of the nation, are its only interests outside sport.
What makes a nation is a common language. What makes men international will be a common language. That is one part of the great Idea.
Basic is the only chance. The earth is getting smaller through the discoveries of Science, and radio is now putting Babel into the houses of those who have no knowledge even of the names of the languages they are hearing. One great step forward would be news ever hour of the day and night, in a common language, from one or other of 24 stations working with a common purpose through Basic.
Five minutes would be enough -- five minutes every hour, on the hour -- to give everyone the feeling that this little earth, was pulling itself together. And with that feeling would come a new hope for all the forces moving for peace. It is 4 p.m. and we are turning on Copenhagen; 5 p.m., New York; 6 p.m., Geneva; 7 p.m. possibly Peking. We have been hearing for five minutes a Basic account of those events which, in the opinion of the experts responsible for the news given out by the country or station in question, were of international interest. Not much organization would be needed, and there are a number of businessmen who are in a position to get the idea started in less than six months.
Any school in any country would then have the chance of hearing Basic, the second language of all (no longer looked on as the language of England and America), and that language would quickly become as much a part of its everyday experience as the knowledge of the names of the countries from which the voices were talking. That would make it possible for books to be produced in any country for every country, and the second step would be a Basic Library of General Knowledge covering the sciences in 1,000 divisions -- all so cheap that no workingman would be without them.
A third step on the same scale would be a Basic Parallel Library of 1,000 books giving the Basic form of the works of great writers of the present and past and on the opposite page the words of the writer himself, so that everyone would at last have a chance of learning any language in which he might be interested. The private learner has generally gone forward more quickly because he has been given, or has been able to get, the answers with the questions. The schoolboy who was a jump in front of the others, because he had seen the Key in secret, went in fear of punishment; but in his heart he said to himself: "The quickest way of learning languages is clearly to have the answers on the opposite page; so when I get away from school, I will have no more of their tricks." And if, later on, he was interested in a new language, as a private learner, he got as much as possible from a comparison of stories in two forms, with the words in his natural language as a guide. Sometimes he went wrong, but getting the sense without the structure; but this was because his comparisons were made without any system, and the stories were not put before him in parallel form, step by step, with the necessary notes.
The Basic Parallel Library will be designed for three purposes: --
- To give the sense as quickly as possible; so that after getting a bird's eye view of the 850 words at work the learner may go back over the details.
- To give the reader a clear idea of the rules on all points in which two languages are different in use or structure, in special notes.
- To make the teacher a guide and a helper where the going is rough, so that the full value may be got out of the printed word, and no time may be wasted on unnecessary tests to which only the teacher has the key.
At first, only the better teachers will be ready to make use of such material; the others will go on with the old tests without seeming that the makers of such tests were laughing at them, and saying that the only safe way with foolish is to keep them to fixed forms of questions and answer. "Let the teacher keep to the book and he will make no errors; let him be given new forms and new uses as new words, because he has not enough knowledge to make the connections clear." Basic is on the side of the learner all the time, and it is better for the foolish teacher to make a small number of error than to give orders from his book to an army of badly trained little monkeys -- who will make the right answers only as long as they are kept to the forms of question locked up in the expert's secret Key.
Books of 100,000 words are now printed for sixpence, ten cents, or 50 sen; so books of 20,000 words at one penny, two cents, or ten sen would be quite possible -- even without the help of a moving picture star to get things started.
At any rate, it is safe to say that international talking pictures in Basic will come automatically, but the quicker the better now that the stars are getting tired of learning new languages. In March 1937, Mary Pickford said as much, but had no suggestion to make about the language which would take her through every country.
More than ten years back Henry Ford gave the answer to this and other questions of the same sort when, in agreement with President Masaryk and H. G. Wells, he made English for Everyman his new peace-cry to take the place of war-cries of the past; but the different language groups got at one another's throats again, before the idea had time to take root. Now with the growth of that Everyman's English which is named Basic, the old arguments become ten times stronger. So, though the light have gone out one by one in Europe, there are hundreds of millions looking out from the dark into a future which is still bright with hope.