English as a Global Language English has become a dominant language
English has become a dominant language in the world today. More people than ever are studying it and many argue that it has become a global language. David Crystal defines a global language as, 'a special language that is recognized in every country (Witt, 2003).' Traditionally English was spread throughout the world by colonialism, particularly by the British in the 19th century. Recently, however, the spread of English has been caused by the economic and political effects of globalization. The economic and political dominance of the USA and UK has led to the adoption of English as an important language for many countries (Cohen, 2006). For example in politics, English is one of the official languages of the United Nations. Culturally, Hollywood's TV programs and movies have ensured that the English language has spread throughout the world. The spread of the English language has had positive and negative effects which will be explored in this article.
Firstly, English acts as a global lingua franca, a common language that two people without the same native language can use to communicate with (Graddol, 2006). For example, a businessman from Mexico can communicate with a businessman from Korea using English as the common language. This Global English represents a new phase of the English language. There is a growing tolerance of different standards of English in this phase (Graddol, 2006). People know just enough of the language to get their point across, but this is not done in a way that a native speaker would regard as proper. In this instance, English has become very flexible in its use.
Secondly, in specific fields the common language of English can bring efficiency gains (Melitz, 1999). This is most common within the scientific community, where a highly specific vocabulary is already used. If everyone uses English to communicate with, then the field is able to make advances more quickly. The difficulty with this is that there is a pressure for research to be published in English. It is easier for academics to publish research in their native language because the competition is smaller, but in order to receive recognition and advancement within their field publication in English is often a prerequisite.
Thirdly, there are some fields within which the adoption of the English language can be detrimental. The field of literature is one such example. Because English literature dominates the 'classics' field of writing, writers in other languages do not receive as much recognition (Melitz, 1999). English also dominates the field of translation, meaning that original texts lose their richness when translated into the more popular language. This means that over time the field of literature may become stagnant because the only recognized contributions are being made are from English speakers.
There is a worry amongst some academics that the spread of English as a global language has led to a decline of local languages. However, David Crystal argues that whilst this process has destroyed many languages, there are many cultures that have adapted the English language in a way that reflects their local culture (Crystal, 2001). It is important to note that many of these English speakers have another language as their native tongue and that these people are not giving up their native tongue but gaining another language. One quarter of the world's population uses some form of English in their lives (Yanker, 2006). In the future when the two largest developing nations, India and China, increase their economic and political clout it will be interesting to see if English maintains itself as the dominant world language.
In conclusion, it is indisputable that English has come to be a dominant world language. It is not the most widely spoken native language, but has more speakers than any other language. It is often the language of diplomacy and economics. People use it to communicate because it is their only common language. It aids certain academic communities in making advances, whilst hindering others. English has taken its place as a global language like Latin before it. The number of people that speak it will only continue to grow in the next fifty years, however, it remains to be seen the long-term effects resulting from English being used as a global language.
Cohen, N., 'English, now the global language, drifts from its roots,' The New York Times, August 2006.
Crystal, D., 'An interview with David Crystal: English as a Global Language,' February 2001.
Graddol, D., 'Global English,' The Open University, 2006.
Melitz, J., 'English-Languages, Dominance, Literature and Welfare,' The Centre for Economic Policy Research, 1999.
Witt, J., 'English as a Global Language: the case of the European Union,' 2003.
Yanker, J., 'English as a Second Language, English as a Global Language,' February 2006.
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