Anthropological research carried out over decades in many different cultures has shown that for the most part, people across the world are about equal in their intellectual potential. Some cultures invest the bulk of their brainpower into industrial and technological innovation, while others place more weight on developing strong family and interpersonal bonds. Why cultures develop differently isn't a matter of intellectual ability but prioritizing – how can we make best use of our resources, both natural and human? What is the ideal place of mankind on the planet, and what does it mean to be human?
If we put together all the answers that civilizations over time have developed to address these issues, we'll have an interesting toolbox to draw from to meet the challenges of today. However, in the past century we have been faced with a new challenge – the erosion of cultural variety. Global communication and travel have opened up many doors in understanding other cultures, but at the same time they have pushed human society towards ever-greater homogeneity. One symbol of this trend is the loss of many spoken languages. Linguists claim that 50% of the 7000+ languages in use today are in danger of extinction. Every two weeks the world loses the last native speaker of another language.
Language is not just a set of grammatical rules. It is a system which reflects the spirit of a unique culture. In a generation or two, argue linguists, we are expected to lose about half of the social, cultural and ideological heritage of mankind – lifestyles, beliefs and rituals, dress and cuisine, unique patterns of thought and knowledge.
Is this a tragedy, a waste of human culture and experience? Yes and no. It is no more tragic than watching construction workers remove a scaffolding to reveal a completed building. The various cultures and languages that have come and gone were all like scaffolding bringing humankind to a greater awareness, a greater insight. Over the generations many spiritual forces were at work. Some strengthened and accelerated our progress; some we fought against and became stronger thereby, bringing out our hidden spiritual potential.
Very soon the sum total of human knowledge and progress will converge onto one point, the awareness of the truth of our One and only Creator. Naturally all other wisdoms will be subsumed under this one or will fall away completely, like the light of a candle before the sun.
Our sages teach us that at one point there will indeed be only one world language -- Hebrew, the language of the Torah, and the language of G-d Himself, with which He created the world. In the time of Redemption the essence of G-d will be revealed in the world, and He will express Himself in the Hebrew tongue. In the words of the prophet Zephaniah (3:9), "Then I will transform all nations to be pure of tongue, to call together in the name of G-d."