English as a Global Language If one believes in the cyclical nature


If one believes in the cyclical nature of history espoused by the ancient Greeks, then one would probably view the hegemony of English across the globe (at least, as the language of trade) to be at or near its high-water mark. Latin was subsumed by the languages of its conquerors, lingered as the voice of philosophy and religion, and slowly ossified in far-flung monasteries. French prevailed at the courts of many of the monarchies of Europe until those monarchies gave way to more democratic governments. English, too, will soon give way, many contend, to Chinese, within a decade or two. The extraordinary potential of the Chinese economy, a workforce of hundreds of millions, the availability of vast amounts of natural resources, and a highly un-restrictive regulatory system, will see to that. Another reason for the inevitable demise of English is the backlash against the 'Americanization' of global culture. Many societies around the world are lamenting the erosion of traditional languages and customs by mass-market consumerism, and the homogenization of the marketplace brought on by ever-expanding corporations. American and English foreign policies have not provided good press for Western culture, and communities around the world are taking steps to restrict the encroachment of McDonalds and Britney Spears. In spite of all this, however, Western culture, rooted in the English language, remains wildly popular. Rap has invaded the low- income suburbs of Paris; young women in Tehran sport blue jeans; the Maharashtra burger is available at any of the McDonalds in Calcutta; Prada accessories are available at the new up-scale boutiques in Kabul. And, of course, English is the language of aerospace, international trade, and the emerging electronic technologies. It will be some time before this influence begins to wane. And so we find ourselves at a crossroads. Globalization is, potentially, either a nightmare or a golden opportunity. To the extent that globalization facilitates the over-consumption of finite resources, strips developed countries of traditionally well-paying jobs that for generations ensured a middle-class existence for millions, and forces workers in developing countries into a dependence on low-paying labor in industries that, ultimately, produce nonessential goods for a shrinking number of wealthy people, it is a problem. On the other hand, the globalization of communication has made the existence of these same problems known throughout the world, and has inspired many people to work for a more ecologically sustainable future. The globalization of information has increased awareness of the interconnectedness of human life, and the intricacies of the human drama. The world has become very small. In the nineteenth century a man named L. L. Zamenhof devised a language he called Esperanto, which was intended to become a lingua franca that would facilitate the establishment of world peace. This was, naturally, a pipe dream. Yet, Dr. Zamenhof probably would have never predicted that such a language would arise on its own, so quickly, in such a politically fractured world, almost, it seems, in spite of us. But here it is. A tool has been presented to us by which we might effect some degree of change in a world that seems to be heading down a dangerous path. It is true that people who live in extraordinary times generally don't realize it ' ages are recognized as extraordinary largely by the students of history. But I am convinced this is one of those ages, and I have spent the first five years of my teaching career trying (and largely failing) to impress on students the uniqueness of this point in history, and the potential consequence of their roles in it. Now I hope to teach overseas and help students learn a language that will benefit them in their professions or in their travels. If history is any guide, the days of the supremacy of English are numbered, but it has already helped to set tremendous forces into motion whose final result is still obscure. By teaching English, I will help them to participate in what should be, before it's all said and done, a fairly interesting ride.