Instigator / Con
7
1500
rating
8
debates
56.25%
won
Topic
#4740

English is not the greatest language

Status
Finished

The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

Winner & statistics
Better arguments
3
3
Better sources
2
2
Better legibility
1
1
Better conduct
1
1

After 1 vote and with the same amount of points on both sides...

It's a tie!
Parameters
Publication date
Last updated date
Type
Standard
Number of rounds
3
Time for argument
Two days
Max argument characters
10,000
Voting period
One month
Point system
Multiple criterions
Voting system
Open
Contender / Pro
7
1516
rating
22
debates
88.64%
won
Description

No information

Round 1
Con
#1
English is the greatest language. Currently, English is the most spoken language in the world (https://www.ethnologue.com/insights/ethnologue200/). Since English is itself based on French, Latin, and Old Norse, it contains many words that have similar meanings, which always light differences and nuances to be expressed. For example, "ghost" and "spirit". The most important written works from William Shakespeare's numerous plays to the United States Constitution are written in English. Finally, the greatest movies ever made from It's a Wonderful Life to The Godfather to Casino Royale use English as the main language. For these reasons, English is the greatest language.
Pro
#2
1.Preamble and BOP
I as Pro will prove that English is not the greatest language. Conversely, Con will prove that English is the greatest language.

2.Definitions
Since Con did not provide any, I shall.

“Greatest” is very vague as a word since it can be used in multiple contexts. Therefore, it is not surprising that the word has multiple definitions. [1]
  • Not to be surpassed
  • Largest in size of those under consideration
  • Most of
  • Highest in importance
  • Highest in quality.

“Not to be surpassed”, “largest in size”, “most of” refer to native speakers (the population whose primary method of communication
In terms of languages, there are four categories of “great” I can think of:

  • Fastest
  • Most Efficient
  • Easiest to learn
  • Most native speakers

3.Fastest
Speed of a language is measured in syllables per second, where a syllable is
A unit of spoken language consisting of a single uninterrupted sound formed by a vowel, diphthong, or syllabic consonant alone, or by any of these sounds preceded, followed, or surrounded by one or more consonants. [2]
In this regard, Japanese (7.84 syllables/sec), Spanish (7.82 syllables/sec), French (7.18 syllables/sec), and Italian (6.99 syllables/sec), are all faster spoken than English (6.19 syllables/sec).

Hence, English is actually one of the slower languages.

4.Most Efficient
There are multiple ways to measure language efficiency. One is the number of bits necessary for each character (compactness). This is because a language with a low number of bits per character means a longer time is spent typing and sending messages [3]. Chinese is superior to English in terms of number of bits per character, with about 13.28 bits for Chinese compared to 5.17 bits for English.

Another piece of measure is how well our brain can extract the meaning from the exact same text. In digital form, this is measured through the pixel-to-character ratio, where a low pixel-to-character ratio is most efficient because the characters would take up the least amount of space, and thus most efficient in terms of how well our brain can understand it [4]. Through a simple trial involving the Google Privacy Policy, Gujarati, Hebrew, and Arabic were the most efficient languages. English was eighth on this list, meaning seven languages are “greater” than English in terms of efficiency.

5.Easiest to learn
There are multiple languages easier to learn than English, and for good reason.

French may be easier because [5][6]:
  • French simplifies all past forms (I did, I have done, I did do) into one form of the past.
  • Word stressing/emphasis is consistent and predictable
  • Less vocabulary
  • Accents help with pronunciation—see Spanish below which also has this benefit


Spanish may be easier because [7]:
  • Pronunciation rules are consistent (which is a huge problem with english… comb tomb and bomb have a different “o” sound).
  • Spelling is intuitive given consistent pronunciation rules
  • Exceptions make sense given how basic phonetics work
  • Accents help with pronunciation, making pronunciation even simpler


Of course, let’s address the most famous of them all: Esperanto.

Most languages evolve naturally, through people speaking sounds and eventually forming that into words. However, Esperanto is entirely artificial, generated purely for the purpose of being easy to learn and acquire. It was purposefully constructed with simple grammar, sentence structure, phonetic spelling, and vocabulary derived from European languages. Using a small vocabulary with combinations of affixes increases the number of words which can be formed, while still having a small set of parts to work with to make memorization less difficult.
Also, Esperanto takes only 1/10 of the time of German or Spanish to learn [8]

It takes 8-12 months to learn Spanish [9], meaning it takes 3-5 weeks to learn Esperanto. 

English also takes 8-12 months to learn [10], meaning Esperanto is much easier and quicker to learn.

6.Most native speakers

Both Mandarin Chinese (939 million) and Spanish (485 million) have more native speakers than English (380 million). Referring to native speakers, both Mandarin Chinese and English would be “greater” than English [11].


7.Conclusion

I have proven 4 ways that there are other languages better than English. I look forward to your R2.

11 sources have been linked wherever necessary.


Round 2
Con
#3
Definition of greatest: having the highest rank in ability, quality, and eminence.

There are many factors to determine a language's rank. Both myself and my opponent have mentioned some of them and, yes English is not first in every factor. Although, English can still be the greatest language despite being able to speak more syllables per second in Japanese than in English because English is ranks higher than Japanese on average in the other factors. In fact, I posit that English ranks highest in all the factors on average. Therefore, my opponent in order to win this debate needs to demonstrate that one specific language ranks higher in all of the factors  than English on average. I will now demonstrate that the languages my opponent suggested are greater than English are in fact inferior to English.

Japanese is harder to learn than English (https://www.businessinsider.com/the-hardest-languages-to-learn-2014-5?op=1). Japanese is less commonly spoken than English. Furthermore, there are very few noteworthy books written originally in Japanese.

French is less commonly spoken than English and French has less variety in terms than English, which compiled terms from French and other languages

Spanish is less commonly spoken than English. Virtually no written works of importance are originally written in Spanish.

Esperanto is perhaps the worst language. To quote my opponent, "Esperanto is entirely artificial." The language has no history. Its also has no future, since relatively nobody speaks it compared to English. No books, plays, songs, or any other works of value have been originally written in Esperanto.

Chinese is perhaps the hardest language to learn (https://www.businessinsider.com/the-hardest-languages-to-learn-2014-5?op=1). There are less Chinese speakers than English speakers.

Finally, my opponent mentions that there are more native speakers of some languages other than English, although this is a misdirection since English is the most spoken language (https://www.ethnologue.com/insights/ethnologue200/).
Pro
#4
Thanks for your R2. I’ll begin with refutations.

Definition of greatest: having the highest rank in ability, quality, and eminence.

No source provided? You can’t just come up with your own definition. I can straight up define greatest to be “worst of all time, practically useless”. (also I already provided a cited definition…)


Although, English can still be the greatest language despite being able to speak more syllables per second in Japanese than in English because English is ranks higher than Japanese on average in the other factors. In fact, I posit that English ranks highest in all the factors on average. 

Con mentions that English ranks higher than Japanese on average yet provides no means necessary to evaluate an aggregate function for averaging. Essentially making a claim with neither sources nor explanation.

Therefore, my opponent in order to win this debate needs to demonstrate that one specific language ranks higher in all of the factors  than English on average.

Refer to BOP: I as Pro will prove that English is not the greatest language. I feel like this is moving the goalpost, except for a BOP rather than an argument. BOP does not say that I need to pinpoint a specific language.

You do realize multiple languages can be used for multiple things, right?

When Morse Code was invented, you can’t write the letter “A” and transmit it along the wire. You’d be “speaking” encoded dots-and-dashes, which in its own way can become a language (Definition: [12](https://www.britannica.com/topic/language))

When computers were invented, you can’t write the letter “A” into a computer and use it for processing. You would be “speaking” ASCII, which can also become a language since it is encoded 0s and 1s because members of a social group and participants in its culture, express themselves

Also “all factors” is not defined.

 French has less variety in terms than English, which compiled terms from French and other languages

Isn’t that… a good thing? It makes a language much easier to learn and adaptable to everyone introduced to it, thereby reducing the constraints of vocabulary memorization on the human brainpower to actually understand and learn a language. 

Virtually no written works of importance are originally written in Spanish.

Again… no source to back this up. Meanwhile, I shall provide examples of truly noteworthy books originally written in Spanish. [13](https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/entertainment/g37167460/best-spanish-books/):
  • Don Quijote de la Mancha (perhaps the most famous of them all)
  • Cien Años de Soledad
  • El Día Que Se Perdió la Cordura
  • Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Canción Desesperada

I can list additional books (there are 10 on that source, plus many more with a simple google search), but I believe what I have listed is enough to refute “no works of importance”... 4 is greater than 0.

To quote my opponent, "Esperanto is entirely artificial."

English is technically artificial in this regard, because as you say, “ English, which compiled terms from French and other languages”

The language has no history

Esperanto has quite a rich history. [14](https://www.britannica.com/topic/Esperanto). It was created in 1887 with Fundamento de Esperanto created in 1905. Universala Esperanto-Asocio has members in 83 countries, with 50 Esperanto associations and 22 international professional associations. This is also continually kept alive through an annual World Esperanto Congress. 

 Its also has no future, since relatively nobody speaks it compared to English.

It’s been alive for well more than 130 years. I think it can be kept alive for longer to have a future given how it has survived for more than 130 years. There are also “"several thousand children worldwide are growing up (in over 2000 families) with Esperanto as one of their mother tongues” [15](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_constructed_languages#cite_note-1)


No books, plays, songs, or any other works of value have been originally written in Esperanto.

In terms of literature, more than 100 periodicals have been published and more than 30,000 books have been published in Esperanto. Obviously, 30,100 > 0.

“Chinese is perhaps the hardest language to learn”

Keep in mind you are actually misquoting your source here. Your source only says it is a difficult language to learn, not it is the hardest. 

Also, you are evaluating “difficulty” based on the notion that everybody in the world is an English speaker by default, and is learning a new language other than English.

This is a fallacy under Fallacy of Composition [16](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallacy_of_composition). Because a language is easier to learn than another for a native English speaker, it may not be the case for native speakers of other languages. Due to this uncertainty, your sense of difficulty cannot be reasonably generalized to the rest of the world.

Keep in mind my arguments are based on mechanics and details about the language, which is not dependent on being a native speaker of X language.

 There are less Chinese speakers than English speakers.

Finally, my opponent mentions that there are more native speakers of some languages other than English, although this is a misdirection since English is the most spoken language (https://www.ethnologue.com/insights/ethnologue200/).

I’ll refute my opponent’s two arguments with one argument.

English only overtook Chinese as the most spoken language in 2014, which was quite recent. [17](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ycj4GBM9t-E).

Why? 

  • Rise of British Empire
  • British Colonization
  • Rise of United States
  • Rise of English/West European scientific community
  • British world trading
  • American Music and Film
  • American development of technology and ASCII

Above information is supported by 


Let’s suppose the Earth got invaded by Martians using the language of hard-to-decipher squiggles. 

For reference of what I am talking about: [20](https://i.imgflip.com/2r0ihy.jpg)

Suppose there existed 1 trillion Martians, all fluent in the Martian language.

To your logic, Martian would be the best language, as it is the most spoken language. Of course not. There would be no framework to transmit the information digitally, and communications would not work at all since a typeset would need to be developed given all the information transmitted digitally, thereby stalling communication.

Funny how language is supposed to be used to communicate... yet communication would be stalled.

Conclusion

My arguments on speed, efficiency, learning, and most native speakers have not been refuted yet. 


I look forward to your R3.

Total Source Count: 20

Round 3
Con
#5
I appreciate my opponent's thoughtful response. Hopefully, I will now give an equally thoughtful reply.

The definition of "greatness" I provided in the previous round is based upon the definition of "great" in the New Oxford American Dictionary.

Here is an analogy to explain why proving something is not the greatest necessitates proving something is actually the greatest:
If someone says that Ferrari is not greatest car ever made. Then someone asks which car is better. He responds by saying that the Bentley has better seats and the Lamborghini has a better engine and the Tesla has better doors. I do not think he has proven that any of these cars as a whole are better than than the Ferrari. The Ferrari can be better than the Bentley despite the Bentley having better seats. Furthermore, in another debate I argue that The Dark Knight is the greatest superhero movie. My opponent, Best.Korea, responds by arguing another superhero movie is better than the The Dark Knight (https://www.debateart.com/debates/4739-the-dark-knight-2008-is-the-greatest-superhero-movie-of-all-time). Therefore, I do not believe I have moved the goal post at all. The requirement is logical, reasonable, and fair.

The factors used to rank languages that have been mentioned are:
  • number of speakers
  • ability to communicate nuances
  • noteworthy works originally written in it
  • use in movies
  • how many syllables can be spoken per second
  • bits per character/efficiency
  • Easiest to learn
  • number of native speakers
Of course, there are more factors that have not been mentioned so far and some factors are more important than others; for example, I contest that the number of speakers is more important than the number of native speakers and the ability to communicate nuances is more important than being easier to learn. Some factors are mutually exclusive. There is no precise formula to determine which factors are more important than others, although its has been established that English ranks either number one or within the top five of all of the factors named so far.

I stand by the statement that "Virtually no written works of importance are originally written in Spanish." My opponent countered this claim by listing four books originally written in Spanish; only one in my opinion, Don Quijote, is important. I used the term "virtually" because when compared to the books originally written in English compared to those in Spanish, the Spanish's number is shockingly unimpressive. Out of the 101 best selling fiction authors, 71 of them write in English (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_fiction_authors). These authors include: William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, J. K. Rowling, Tom Clancy, Dr. Seuss, R. L. Stein, Stephen King, J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Lewis Carroll and Ian Fleming. Furthermore, iconic English writers, such as Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, and Ernest Hemingway were omitted from the list, since their book sales could not be confirmed.

Esperanto is artificial in that it is a constructed language, while other languages, such as English, developed naturally over time. Relatively nobody speaks Esperanto compared to English; between one and two million people speak Esperanto, while over one billion four hundred and fifty million (1,450,000,000) speak English (https://www.yayesperanto.com/how-many-people-speak-esperanto/https://www.statista.com/statistics/266808/the-most-spoken-languages-worldwide/).

more than 100 periodicals have been published and more than 30,000 books have been published in Esperanto

First, publishing a book in Esperanto is different than writing a book in Esperanto. Any book can be translated and published in any language. How many books have been written in Esperanto? Are those books comparable to the number of books originally written English? Who is the Shakespeare, or the Rowling, or the King, or the Tolkien of the Esperantists, or of the Spanish, or of the Chinese? I do not believe there are any comparable people to these English writers.

My opponent says:
Keep in mind you are actually misquoting your source here. Your source only says it is a difficult language to learn, not it is the hardest
Respectfully, my opponent is simply wrong. The source says:
The most difficult languages — Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Japanese — require, on average, 1.69 years (88 weeks), or 2,200 class hours, to reach speaking and reading proficiency. (https://www.businessinsider.com/the-hardest-languages-to-learn-2014-5?op=1)
The statement "Chinese is perhaps the hardest language to learn" I believe is supported by the source, since the source says Chinese is one of the top four most difficult languages to learn. "Perhaps" is the key term. Furthermore, the characters in Chinese are special and learning a new alphabet is very difficult. English shares the Latin alphabet with many European languages, which makes learning English vary easy for Europeans. Conversely, learning other European languages is easier for English speakers. Chinese speakers do not have this advantage.

My opponent attempts to refute the relevance of there being more English speakers than speakers of any other language by stating that before 2014 this was not the case and that English become the most spoken language by achievements made by countries that primarily speak English. I do not believe either of these facts discredit the truth that English is the most spoken language.

In response to the Martian hypothetical, I am not saying that the most widely spoken language is necessarily the greatest language, it just one factor, albeit an important one. I am also not saying that English has always been the greatest language or will continue to be, I saying it is currently the greatest language.

In conclusion, my opponent has refused to name one language that is greater than English overall. Maybe because such a language does not exist. Or maybe he is waiting until I publish my final argument and am unable to respond to whichever language he names as greater than English.

My arguments concerned with the number of speakers, ability to communicate nuances, noteworthy works originally written in it, and its use in movies have not been refuted.

Thank you to my opponent for debating me and to all of the spectators: vote Con.

Pro
#6


Thanks for the final R3. 

I’ll again start with rebuttals here.

The definition of "greatness" I provided in the previous round is based upon the definition of "great" in the New Oxford American Dictionary.

Picture it this way: you can’t just take something from a source and expect everyone to know where it is from.

(If you turn in an essay, you can’t just expect everyone to know where the information is from… that’s the entire purpose of citations).

If someone says that Ferrari is not greatest car ever made. Then someone asks which car is better. He responds by saying that the Bentley has better seats and the Lamborghini has a better engine and the Tesla has better doors. 

The Devel Sixteen is the fastest car, with a top speed of 347 mph [21](https://luxe.digital/lifestyle/cars/fastest-cars/).

The Hyundai Ioniq is the most fuel efficient, with a city efficiency of 60 MPG. [22](https://bscholarly.com/most-fuel-efficient-cars/)

Which of these two cars are better then? Good question, because you can’t tell. You’re comparing speed to efficiency, which are not comparable at all.


The question then becomes “Which of these two cars are better for X”. That is determinable. 

You are comparing apples to oranges, essentially, which is a logical fallacy of comparison.

Contradiction/fallacy #1



Therefore, I do not believe I have moved the goal post at all. The requirement is logical, reasonable, and fair.

Notice in your debate BOP was not stated at all (somehow?). This would make a clear difference here, since moving BOP is essentially moving the goalpost.


I contest that the number of speakers is more important than the number of native speakers and the ability to communicate nuances is more important than being easier to learn.

Yes, you did say the number of speakers is higher for English than any other languages. Yes, you did acknowledge that there are other languages easier to learn than English.

But you never put the two head-to-head and compared it, making your argument here not supported at all. 

This also essentially becomes the speed vs efficiency topic again… there’s just a standoff which is irrefutable due to pure statistics. 



There is no precise formula to determine which factors are more important than others

But didn’t you say you could just average them and determine that the English language is superior.

Voters, please note Con did not provide any calculations nor statistics of said “averaging”.

And now he says there’s no formula despite initially claiming averaging form Round 2:

 In fact, I posit that English ranks highest in all the factors on average

Therefore this is a contradiction in your arguments.

Contradiction/fallacy #2

Moving on.

although its has been established that English ranks either number one or within the top five of all of the factors named so far.

**clears throat**

Isn’t the debate topic “English is not the greatest language”? So then why do you say that English being “top five of all factors” is good enough?

Contradiction/fallacy #3.

(Sidenote: English was ranked eighth in efficiency… this is not top five)


My opponent countered this claim by listing four books originally written in Spanish; only one in my opinion, Don Quijote, is important

Proof? No evidence or support?

because when compared to the books originally written in English compared to those in Spanish, the Spanish's number is shockingly unimpressive. Out of the 101 best selling fiction authors, 71 of them write in English (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_fiction_authors). 

Why would original language matter if a book can simply be translated to reach other languages?

 Relatively nobody speaks Esperanto compared to English; between one and two million people speak Esperanto, while over one billion four hundred and fifty million (1,450,000,000) speak English 

Nobody is a strong word. This is still 0.1%.

About 5.8 million people live in Slovakia, and about 8 billion people exist in the world. Therefore, 0.07% of people live in Slovakia. Yet, you can’t say that “relatively nobody lives in Slovakia” because it would not carry the same weight to be a true indication of its population.

 First, publishing a book in Esperanto is different than writing a book in Esperanto. Any book can be translated and published in any language. 

From a language standpoint, what would even be the difference? A book can easily be “dubbed” to a language, but publishing compared to writing is meaningless when comparing the outreach of a singular language.

It still exists, people still understand it, and it is still being kept alive through literature.

In that case, the number of books written in caveman language, Latin, or other extinct languages may be higher than English. According to your argument, then caveman language or Latin would be better than English?


The most difficult languages — Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Japanese — require, on average, 1.69 years (88 weeks), or 2,200 class hours, to reach speaking and reading proficiency. 

The superlative form of difficult (most difficult) is applying to four languages; how would you state a single one is harder to learn than the other?

 Furthermore, the characters in Chinese are special and learning a new alphabet is very difficult. English shares the Latin alphabet with many European languages, which makes learning English vary easy for Europeans. Conversely, learning other European languages is easier for English speakers. Chinese speakers do not have this advantage.

My opponent misses a very clear argument here. The entire world does not know English. Therefore, you cannot evaluate language difficulty from an English standpoint (notice how you say “for Europeans”). Again, this is the fallacy of composition, as previously stated. Also, your source says it is only from an English standpoint, while you are misquoting the source to be a universal standpoint.

You somehow got two fallacies in one argument.

This still has not been refuted I see.

Contradiction/fallacy #4-5.


My opponent attempts to refute the relevance of there being more English speakers than speakers of any other language by stating that before 2014 this was not the case and that English become the most spoken language by achievements made by countries that primarily speak English. I do not believe either of these facts discredit the truth that English is the most spoken language.

Nobody can argue against truism (duh). However, notice why I am stating these in my arguments.

To quote myself from R2:

 English only overtook Chinese as the most spoken language in 2014, which was quite recent. …

Why? 

  • Rise of British Empire
  • British Colonization
  • Rise of United States
  • Rise of English/West European scientific community
  • British world trading
  • American Music and Film
  • American development of technology and ASCII

Essentially, if any other nation instead of Britain or USA completed everything from the list above, in that regard they could be the world's most spoken language due to that outreach.

In response to the Martian hypothetical, I am not saying that the most widely spoken language is necessarily the greatest language, it just one factor, albeit an important one. I am also not saying that English has always been the greatest language or will continue to be, I saying it is currently the greatest language.

Review my provided definition of greatest again (which, by the way, has a citation from R1).
  • Not to be surpassed
“To be surpassed” indicates that it won’t ever be surpassed. Therefore, the argument that “I am … not saying that English … will continue to be [the best language]” is invalid.

 In conclusion, my opponent has refused to name one language that is greater than English overall.
I already argued this in R2 and my opponent doesn’t seem to understand the importance of BOP and how moving BOP is essentially moving the goalpost. 

Look at the BOP, please.

My arguments concerned with the number of speakers, ability to communicate nuances, noteworthy works originally written in it, and its use in movies have not been refuted.

**clears throat**

Yes it has, look at how I described the reasons for the expansion and outreach of the English language, and how that caused many to adapt and use it.


Summary and Conclusion:
  • Con claims that English is the best language in terms of “averaging” but still has not provided any mathematical means of doing so.
  • Con continually compares apples to oranges, by comparing benefits of one language to another to make a decision, which cannot be achieved.
  • I have stated statistical evidence of native speakers, memorization, speech efficiency, and speed in describing multiple ways of how languages are superior to English
  • Con fails to realize that different languages can be used for different purposes (similar to how different cars or different browsers can be used for different purposes)
  • Con fails to realize events of British power, American power, and rise of scientific discovery of America/Britain caused the English language to grow, and any other language could be superior if they did the exact same events Britain and America did.
  • Con continuously evaluates languages from the standpoint that everybody on Earth knows English. (or from a European standpoint, instead of the entire world).
  • Con shifts BOP to ask me to do more than what is demanded (prove that English is not the best vs provide a language superior to English)
  • Con made 5 contradictions/fallacies in just Round 3 args alone.

All in all, I have satisfied my BOP by providing statistical evidence that there are other languages better than English for multiple purposes, while Con continually brings up points that have already been refuted, due to the nature of Britain and America’s power instead of evaluating the actual language.

Voters, please vote PRO (me) for this reason. I thank you for your time and also for reading this debate.