This iConji thing looks interesting

Slashdot recently – well, in the past few days, haven’t been checking RSS too often as I’ve had to work – had a post about something called iConji. The best way I can think of to explain it is call it a mediator between different languages. Symbols represent words, but unlike those words are not connected to any language. iConji is attempting to be as language-independent as it can get – the app has suggested meanings for symbols in your own language, but it’s obvious that a clock is related to time, isn’t it?

Didn’t Final Fantasy XI have something like this? Menus of words for which the equivalent words in other languages were known, and could always be shown in the local language to other users. Rather than attempting to take input in one language and translate it properly to another, like Google does.
Commentors at Slashdot are going on about things like ‘why don’t you just learn their language?’, but I’m not sure all of them understand how difficult it can be to learn a new language. They’re also going on about how this is ‘a step backwards’ for language, again. My main issue with these statements is that they’re treating iConji like it was designed to be a language; as  I mentioned earlier, to me it’s not – it’s a language-independent means of getting your meaning across, like drawing pictures. Something like iConji is readable at a glance; a picture of a spider signifies a spider, a picture of a flag signifies whatever country it belongs to, a wrench means a ‘tool’.
Why don’t I learn their language? Maybe I’m trying to talk to someone in Brazil and someone in Russia at the same time, and we don’t share a mutual language. iConji could work in that situation (…if it had Russian translations for the symbols, too.)
This is a step backwards? It’s not supposed to be a language, and at any rate languages, like species, gradually change as the environment does. I thought we’d gotten over the idea of ‘devolution’ by now. Granted, I do not like overt laziness in typing, myself, but it’s not the same thing.
I think iConji has promise. Some. Their symbol-set doesn’t appear to be overly-reliant on culture for meaning, which is one of the problems I’d be worried about encountering.
…but Google’s language tools are easy enough to use nowadays that you can conduct conversations by translating whatever you want to say into the target’s language and relying on the other person to do the same in return for you.