English in the role of a Global Language: as Elucidated by Homer Simpson ?English? Who needs that? I?m never
'English' Who needs that' I'm never going to England.'
-Homer Simpson from The Simpsons
Homer Simpson's brief yet brilliant delve into an analysis of the English language might go unrecognized by some, but I feel it succinctly introduces some of the language's most current, hot- debated questions. The first question sounds like a simple one but has in fact recently proven itself a slippery monster. What is English' The dawn of ultra-globalization begs for the answer to this question as more and more people all around the world attempt to understand each other better using the new lingua franca. As mega conglomerates deal and governments negotiate (this just being the most obvious end of the spectrum) we must also ask can there be any room for misunderstanding' But English is English, right' Wrong. English does not have an official body governing its usage, as let's say the French, the Spanish, or the Dutch have, giving ample room for many an enjoyable debate, usually between an Englishman and an American, as to whose English dialect is the best. As anyone with even the most basic knowledge of history could predict, neither super-power is willing to give in to the other. So eventually somebody brilliant came up with an idea for a compromise. Enter International English. International English is the latest effort to offer an alternative to American English, British English, and Commonwealth English, the three top contenders in the battle of the dialects. However, there are many others adding to the diversity of the language. As English is adopted all over the world it is also adapted, and new forms are constantly being created, some forms more extreme than others. So wouldn't it make sense to reach some sort of consensus and finally standardize the language' 'Who needs that'' some might ask. Anybody that works internationally. American English and British English differ considerably and not just in pronunciation. Vocabulary, spelling, and punctuation show disparity enough to be a significant liability especially in the fields of science and law where accuracy is crucial and are now more than ever before tied to global contexts. This is a real cause to worry since half of the world's countries such as South Africa, Egypt, most of the Indian subcontinent, and Southeast Asia use British English and much of the other half such as Japan, Israel, Korea, Taiwan, and Russians use American English. This division has reached world organization levels where the demarcations are almost random: the United Nations system and the World Trade Organization employ British English while the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group utilize American English. Most of the countries that are in favor of a standardized, international English not affiliated with American or British Englishes are countries that have suffered under British colonial imperialism as well as peoples that are indignant at the cultural imperialism they feel has been imposed upon them by the United States. They feel a 'neutral' kind of English might help separate them more from these events even though they know they could never separate themselves completely. As an English as a Second Language teacher, I feel I am directly affected by these unresolved issues. It is my job to create capable English speakers and help them gain the words that are going to be their instruments to effectively navigate a globalized world, but if these tools are sometimes unpredictably off, even slightly the bolt won't turn. As native English speakers we're used to having the way paved for us, but it's possible that one day our key might not turn like we expected it to. 'I'm never going to England.' Maybe this is Homer's way of telling us that English might have come from England but it isn't its sole owner anymore. One doesn't have to go to England to speak English, one can go almost anywhere and use it. I believe that native speakers should be pleased at this great power, but should also remember with great power comes great responsibility.
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