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When you find yourself in a crowd of people, do you ever stop to listen to all of the sounds around you?

We’re not talking about birdsong, music or laughter — though each of these sounds is beautiful in its own way — but rather, the sounds of language.

The cacophony of people greeting and arguing and joking and whispering in languages like your own, yet not (thanks to accents and dialects), or in languages completely unlike your own — each of these sounds is beautiful in its own way.

The next time you find yourself in a situation like this, take a moment to stop what you’re doing and listen. Close your eyes and let the sounds wash over you. And then ask yourself: how is it that the world is home to so many different foreign languages, and that America is home to so many different accents? It’s one of those remarkable things that we at Metafraze love to ponder from time to time. Understanding the evolution of language requires a bit of a trip, into history, that is.

Think back to the early days of human civilization, when the members of a tribe splintered into smaller groups to set off in all directions for points unknown. As each of these smaller groups found a new place to make home, they might also find a new terrain, new weather patterns, new flora and fauna…in short, a lot of new.

And as time went by, these smaller groups would work together not only to survive and thrive, but to communicate with each other about the new things they were seeing. Where a tribe once lived on or near sand, it might now be contemplating wide open grassy plains, and would need a word or words to describe that.

With time, the new words might take on a new sound or dialect understandable only to the people in that particular tribe. In many ways, that last example is not unlike the shorthand that members of one family might develop when speaking to each other.

All of this is our way of explaining — or trying to, anyway — the very beauty and complexity of language.

There is not a human being on the planet who will ever be able to speak all of the world’s languages — not even a lifetime of concentrated study could make that possible. But many of us banded together by a shared love for language can do our part to ensure that languages survive and thrive, and continue to evolve. We can band together, we translators of foreign languages, into a brigade of sort charged with ensuring that languages are preserved and protected, cherished and loved.

And we will do it gladly.