english as a Global LanguageAccording to The New York Times, a full quarter of the world’s population can communicate with some english . Although english wasn’t even dominant on the British Isles a millennium ago, its reach has now spread to the far corners of the Earth. Much of the language’s position can be attributed to the historic role of the British Empire and its expansion during and after the Age of Exploration. Colonizers and seafarers took the language to north america, East Africa, South Asia, and Oceania.
The Economist calls english “the language of globalization – of international business, politics and diplomacy. It is the language of computers and the Internet.” As much as 80% of the world’s electronically stored information is in english, says linguist David Graddol. english is also the language of sports, politics and culture. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) lists english as one of its two permanent official languages. english is also an official language of FIFA, the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Much of the more immediate growth of english can be attributed to the political status of the united states
. As one of the world’s two superpowers after the Second World War, the united states helped define the post-war environment. American influence and coercion dominated the Western World in profound ways. The US almost single-handedly created post-war institutions like the IMF, World Bank and World Trade Organization. Yet, America influence was even more pervasive than just economic and political.
Indeed, America’s ‘exports’ have transformed the world in a similar fashion that her British cousins did centuries ago. Her biggest export is in fact culture. The effect has gone so far that some are calling the usa
’s cultural influence as a new form of colonialism. Seattle grunge, Nashville country, and West Coast rap are played on radio stations from Bangkok to Bogotá. Hollywood’s movies are just as popular in Oslo as they are in tokyo
. Television series set in a fictitious Springfield and another featuring Jerry Seinfield are known the world over. Whether cultural imperialism is taking place is still an open question. Even the British lament the loss of “bullet-proof waistcoast” in lieu of the American ‘bullet-proof vest. One thing is certain: english is becoming the world’s first global language. By the year 2050, The Economist predicts, half the world’s population will be at least somewhat proficient at the language. The New York Times says: “there may be more native speakers of chinese, spanish or Hindi, but it is english they [people] speak when they talk across cultures, and english they teach their children to help them become citizens of an increasingly intertwined world.” english is almost a de facto second language anywhere in the world. The practice of using english to communicate across language divides has been going on for some time in Europe. The Belgians and Swiss do it within their own boarders. As travel restrictions continue to break down and businesses continue to globalize, more and more individuals will utilize english to communicate (if they can).
Trends do certainly change and languages have gone out of fashion before. Latin was once used as a lingua franca and is now all but extinct outside of academia and the Vatican. french was also popular two centuries ago but has since been supplanted by english. Nonetheless, for now and for the foreseeable future, english is foremost and will only continue to expand.