english as a global languageIn April 2000 when Pope John Paul II visited the Middle East large crowds gathered to listen to his address. The crowd comprised amongst others Muslims, Jews and Christians. Yet when The Pope spoke they heard none of the regional languages, there was no Arabic, no Hebrew, no Persian, no Latin and not even His native Polish. The pontiff addressed them in english.
Is english already our global language? Neither Britain nor the usa
seem to be actively pushing this agenda, it is simply the inescapable process of globalisation. Spurred by the digital age this process hurries on and the world is calling out, ever louder, for a global language. Strangely enough despite the growth of economic powerhouses in the East (India and China) gaining momentum, it seems only english can answer this desperate call. Perhaps the key to the ease with which english is being adopted as a global language is due to three major eras which english has undergone in the past, quite frankly it is a language that was in the right places at the right times. According to the article: english. One Tongue, Many Voices by Svartvik and Leech (2006): english benefited from three overlapping eras of world history. The first era was the imperial expansion of the European powers which spread the use of english... The second is the era of technological revolution, beginning with the industrial revolution in which the english-speaking nations of Britain and united states
took a leading part, and the later electronic revolution, led above all by the USA. The third is the era of globalization.
The reach of this globalisation with regards to the english language is well demonstrated in The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language. Here David Crystal draws attention to some startling figures. He notes that english is present on every continent. It is prominent in over 60 countries and it is used officially or without the sanction of government in 20 more. More than 150 million people receive english language radio shows. Finally, he notes that over two thirds of the world's scientists write in english. Perhaps what is most startling is that Crystal’s figures are taken from 1987 – before the fall of the Berlin Wall, before the widespread advent of CNN and Reuters and before The Internet.
Today english is by far the most dominant language of international business, computing, diplomacy, science and medical research. This is reflected in its status as an official language of numerous international organizations - including the United Nations, the European Union, the World Health Organisation and the International Olympic Committee, as well as being the primary medium for all aerial and maritime communications. In an age where the internet is swiftly becoming a ‘portal to everything’ 56.7% of all web content on the internet is in english but to fully understand the implications of this one should consider that the next most represented language is German with only 7.7%. Furthermore in the second half of the 20th century english replaced German as the dominant language of science Nobel Prize laureates as it is currently the de facto working language of 98 percent of German research physicists and 83 percent of German research chemists. These changes have resulted in the ability to communicate in english becoming a requirement to excel and succeed in a number of fields, occupations and professions. It is the working language of the large Asian trade group ASEAN. It is the language in which parents in Africa, India, China and South America overwhelmingly wish their children to be educated in. Because even in a world more equal than ever before, education offered by english-medium universities and schools are arguably the best to be had.
Undeniably we live in a ‘global village’ and humans need to be able to communicate with each other. This thirst and need to communicate requires a lingua franca whilst simultaneously politics, economics, academia, science, media, advertising, broadcasting, film and travel have significantly accelerated the spread of english across the planet.
In the present day it is clear that english has cemented its role as lingua franca and as it continues to service the global community, the dream of a world with no barriers starts becoming a reality. One World. One Language. english.