New York City, as an international metropolis, is saved from a chaotic language scene due to the fact that English is so universal now that most people learn some English in school. In many parts of the world, for example in a large part of Asia, this is not enough and extra training in language is needed since English skills are required for study abroad, and careers in government and big companies.
However there’s a time and place where language created chaos and people didn’t know what to do with it. I am talking about the problem Mongolians faced in the early part of the 13th century. People spoke different languages and communication became troublesome, just to say the least. Also people in different regions demanded to learn the Mongolian language in order to converse with government figures. The Mongolians quickly came up with a solution–banning the learning of Mongolian language. Isn’t it ridiculous? The reason they gave was equally ridiculous–Mongolian language is secret and sacred, and nobody other than Mongolians should learn it.
With such an absurd policy, all the administrative communications were relied on people who grew up with different languages. Fortunately the Mongolian language is similar to many languages spoken in Central Asia. People from this region started to serve in the government. One of such figures was Urtu Saqal, who spoke several languages growing up. Another figure was Ahmad Fanākatī who’s a Persian living in Central Asia–his story was elaborated in Marco Polo’s travel book.
Empress Ki came into the scene at the end of the Mongolian era in the middle of the 14th century. She’s a Korean girl of a bureaucrat family. I need to point out that the Korean language is similar to the Mongolian language so much so that nowadays a South Korean businessman can go to Mongolia to do business without learning the language–he just needs to stay there for several months and he can understand the language almost perfectly. Growing up, Lady Ki could speak Korean and Chinese. When she was sent to the Mongolian court to be a servant, she was able to aid the administrative tasks with her language skills.
Rebels were common in those days. The first empress’ brother raised an army to attack the Mongol court. He was ruthlessly put down and the first empress was executed too–the moral of the story: Don’t read human history if you have a heart condition. The second empress was also purged due to tribal conflicts among the Mongols. Finally, Lady Ki, the administrative assistant, was promoted to be the third Empress Ki. The emperor was very lazy and hated the boring governmental affairs. He’s very happy to give all the power to his wife while he could live a life of hunting and theater–two entertainment choices of the day.
And you will think Empress Ki would take a rest after witnessing such political intrigue and bloodshed, but no. As soon as she rose to power, her brothers in Korea started to make plans to depose the Korean king, who’s running a client Korean state but who’s dreaming of independence. When her brothers’ plan was thwarted, all four of her brothers were slaughtered. Hearing the news, Empress Ki gathered a Mongolian army to attack the Korean king and the army was squashed in the battle–Koreans regained their independence.
By then, after more than a century of constant fighting, the Mongol court was very weak indeed. Their invasion of Japan (twice) and Southeast Asia (from Burma to Vietnam) weakened them considerably. Finally in 1368, Empress Ki, her husband, and her son quit the crumpling empire and fled to Mongolia, being chased by several rebellious forces.
Empire is much ado about nothing. Well, worse than much ado about nothing since a lot of people get hurt in the process.