Linguists estimate that there are about 5,000 to 6,000 languages spoken in the world today, and this large estimate is due to the fact that some dialects are evolving into what could be considered a separate language (www.anthro.palomar.edu). Of the many world languages, Mandarin Chinese contains the highest number of native speakers with estimates around one billion people, and English comes in at a distant third with about 350,000,000 native speakers (www.anthro.palomar.edu). However, English is far more world wide in its distribution than all other spoken languages, it is the most widely taught foreign language in the world, it is the international language of science and business and therefore English has truly become a global language.
The historical expansion of English can be traced back to the pioneering voyages to the Americas, Asia and the Antipodes, and its expansion continued through the nineteenth-century to Africa and the South Pacific (Crystal, 29). The language then continued to spread during the twentieth-century and English is now represented in every continent as well as in many islands of the three major oceans-the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific. It is because of this growth throughout the centuries, reaching all ends of the earth and affecting billions of people, that makes the application of the label ?Global Language? a reality (Crystal, 29).
English is now the official language of 52 countries, and about 1/4 to 1/3 of the world?s population can understand and speak English to some extent (www.anthro.palomar.edu). That is why it is no surprise that the 192 members that make up the United Nations have adopted English as one of its official languages (the other five being French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian). Since almost every nation is represented in the United Nations, making it a microcosm of the world, it must have a way to overcome language barriers. Indeed, the member countries understood this and thus chose the English language as a way to overcome such barriers (www.un.org). English has become more global due to its role within international organizations, of course, but other factors that have helped it become the global language are things such as the political, military, and economic influences of the United States (www.answers.com/englsih). Furthermore, the influence of American culture such as movies, television, and various genres of music, have all played significant roles in introducing people to the English language. These political, economic and social influences from America will continue to help spread the English language throughout the world and thereby justify its title of being a ?global language?. Finally, what does the future hold in store for the English language? The 20th century has been marked by the role of the US in helping to ensure that the language is not only at the forefront of scientific and technological knowledge, but also leads the consumer culture, and this trend is not likely to fall anytime soon. Also, at present 90% of Internet hosts are based in English speaking countries and it is estimated that the US and other English speaking countries will continue to dominate language in the electronic communications realm (Graddol, 61). With the expansion of the English language worldwide many believe that no single language will occupy the monopolistic position in the 21st century which English has- almost -achieved by the end of the 20th century (Graddol, 59). The indications are that English will enjoy a special position in the international society of the 21st century and it will be the only language to appear in the language mix in every part of the world, thus once again supporting the idea that English truly is a global language (Graddol, 63). Bibliography
Crystal, David. ?English as a Global Language.? 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press, 2006. Graddol, David. ?The Future of English.? The British Council, 1997, 2000.
?English Language.? <http://www.answers.com/topic/english-language>
?Language and Culture: An Introduction to Human Communication.? June, 2006. <http://www.anthro.palomar.edu/languages> ?What are the Official Languages of the U.N.?? December, 2003. <http://www.un.org/Depts>
Author: David Ferrier
Date of post: 2007-04-17