English as a global language As I was scanning the list of research


As I was scanning the list of research options this topic caught my eye and made me stop and contemplate the status of the English language in the world today. As past units in this course have mentioned, many students of English take up the language in an effort to improve their salaries or their chances at a decent job in their home countries. If English is not even the official language in these countries, why then does a certain percentage of financial, economic, and industrial success depend on the knowledge of English' Is a world that speaks only one language really as simplistic and good as it seems'

English is the most widely spoken of the Germanic languages and was initially spread to other parts of the globe with the expansion of the British Empire. By the end of the 20th century English had acquired the status of lingua franca around the world due to its great cultural and economic influence after the Second World War. Today there is no other language that is more widely taught or understood by as many world citizens as the English language. According to Wikipedia, between 400-450 million people speak English as their first language, and 1.9 billion people at least have a basic proficiency of the language. English dominates as the international language of choice in the fields of business, science, communication, diplomacy, aviation, and entertainment. It's no wonder that learning this powerhouse tongue gives speakers an automatic edge on the competition.

Underneath the surface of what seems to be a very neat and tidy arrangement'if we all speak one language, namely English, everyone will understand one another and get along better and the world will run more smoothly'is a darker, hegemonic side that is not as pleasant. With the rise to power of the English language in particular comes the fall of language as a cultural definer in general. A major characteristic that distinguishes one culture from another is the language that they speak. If this defining element is removed, is their identity as a people somewhat compromised' Some will respond with a definitive 'yes,' while others such as the author of the book English as a Global Language, David Crystal, will say 'not necessarily.' Professor Crystal claims that the desire for a global language and the desire to preserve local languages and cultural identities are not mutually exclusive wishes. In an online chat in which Crystal participated in February of 2001, he suggests that, '' as we see English spreading, we see it beginning to reflect local cultural practices. When people adopt English they immediately adapt it. So there is a case for saying that cultural variation is being maintained, but in new ways.'

As a former Anthropology major in college, I tend to side with the preservation of unique cultural identities, but I am not so narrow-minded as to ignore the validity of Professor Crystal's statement. With the rapidly growing rate of globalization the world is experiencing today, sharing a common global language is only inevitable. It is only a matter of time before English is spoken by cultures worldwide, but the English spoken by the Latin American tribe in Brazil will not be the same English used by inhabitants of South East Asia. Each culture and each group of people will undoubtedly leave their special fingerprint on the English language. In the end, I do not believe that the negative factors involved in this debate are enough to deny that English is well on its way to becoming the common global language, or to try to stop it from doing so.

Works Cited

'A Chat With David Crystal.' A.Word.A.Day. 2001. http://wordsmith.org/chat/dc.html (5 October 2006).

'English Language.' Wikipedia. 2006. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Englishlanguage (5 October 2006).