english as a Global LanguageWhat factors encourage the emergence of a Global Language? Is it simply when the largest amount of people can speak the language, whether as an official language or a second one? Currently there are 6909 known active languages throughout the world, with 473 on the brink of extinction. The english language is actually third in the number of people who can speak it, behind Mandarin chinese and spanish
. So why hasn’t spanish or Mandarin emerged as the Global Language of choice? The number of people who can speak a language is a factor, but not the most influential one. There are a number of other influences that are far more powerful.
english is quickly becoming embraced as the global language of choice. Many factors have put the english language in a strong position to become the internationally recognized language for global communications. Some people could argue that the english language was simply in the right place at the right time. At no other time in our planet’s history have we had the ability and the convenience of instant communication from any place to another, regardless of the distance between them. As this technological leap forward emerged, english speaking countries were primarily the driving force behind these advancements. It was this technological dominance, as well as its resulting economic advantage, that were the primary factors in establishing english as the emerging global language.
Beginning in the late 1940’s, the development of electronics for use in communications, and the emergence of the first computers for use primarily in applications
of war, have resulted in revolutionizing the way we do things in all areas of social, business, government, and entertainment. The first digital multipurpose computer, ENIAC, developed in the united states
in 1946, was used to calculate artillery firing tables for the US army’s Ballistics Research Lab. It was developed in secret during the Second World War by the University of Pennsylvania. Around the same time england
was also developing a similar device, The Manchester Small-Scale Experimental Machine (Manchester Baby), used to display the very first use of stored memory. These accomplishments were followed by the Modified ENIAC (US) in September 1948, the EDSAC (UK) in May 1949, the Manchester Mark 1 (UK) in November 1949, and CSIRAC (AU) in November 1949. During 1947, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, working for AT&T’s Bell Labs (US), invented the first modern transistor which made it possible to build much smaller computers, replacing the large cumbersome vacuum tubes which were currently used. While other countries, such as Germany and France, also contributed greatly to the science of computers, it was mainly the united states which took the lead in research and development. The field of computers steadily advanced with the emergence of soon to be giant corporations such as IBM (US), Hewlett-Packard (US), and later Apple (US), which made the proliferation of computer devices all over the world possible. In October of 1969, UCLA’s School of Engineering and applied
Science, and SRI International in Menlo Park, California created the first linked network, ARPANET, which would later become what we know today as the Internet. This changed everything. Suddenly people all around the world could communicate instantly and inexpensively (if they could afford a computer), and small and large businesses could aspire to an international presence. Vast amounts of information quickly became available to virtually everyone, including art, literature, music, history, and various forms of data such as climate records, weather forecasts, and world news. Businesses became more competitive which gave rise to an explosion in advertising and marketing. The Internet spread all over the world during the 1990’s; however, the majority of content, at 56 percent, is written using the english language.
The english language is being embraced by many countries due to its convenience. Not only is it embroiled in the majority of technological advancements of our time, it is regarded as a simple language, relatively speaking, and is extremely adaptable, accurate, flexible, and expandable. It contains a vast vocabulary making it possible to describe the most subtle or complex ideas. It lends itself well for music and poetry because of its ability to rhyme or be composed into harmonious configurations. Because it’s made up of combinations of 26 characters and is not bound by preexisting symbols, such as chinese and many other languages, it is very adaptable for use with machine interfaces. New words can be created whenever necessary simply by combining two words, or by arranging a completely new array of letter combinations. With only 26 letters, it is quite easy to learn how to write, and the grammar is much simpler than many other languages. Unlike french, the english language does not need to differentiate between masculine and feminine nouns, or to denote accents on various letters. Also, the english language has an aspect of familiarity with other languages, as it has borrowed words from many other languages over the years. Many words are based on Latin, the mother language of french, italian, spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, and others. Other words such as Thursday (Thor’s Day) and berserk (berr-serkr / bear-shirt), meaning frenzied warriors, have been borrowed from the Vikings during their conquest of England from 865 to 954.
The english language has borrowed words from over 50 languages, including ‘jazz’ from Africa, ‘lager’ from Germany, ‘coach’ from Hungary, ‘cookie’ from the Dutch, and ‘bagel’ from the Yiddish. Unlike many other languages, english is not overly protected to remain in a preserved state. It flows and ebbs with the times, and adapts to suite the needs of the present state of popular culture. This is one of the primary factors which make english acceptable to so many countries throughout the world. english is not just regarded as a British or American language, but is widely seen as a world language.
As the use of the english language spreads throughout the world, many countries see no choice but to also embrace the language, sometimes reluctantly, in order to remain competitive and relevant in world affairs. In countries such as China, where english is not an official language, it is taught to children
at an early age in all schools
. China recognizes the need to remain in a strong position economically and politically. As more and more businesses of english speaking countries invest heavily in foreign countries, it makes economic sense to be able to communicate with them in their language. For example, it is not uncommon for businessmen from Germany and the United Arab Emirates to use english as the common language for communication. It is becoming much more convenient to learn one second language, english, to be able to communicate with people from many different countries. Economic dominance, cultural exchange, and political necessity have unintentionally made english a global language. As the english language proliferates throughout the world, it is becoming harder to ignore. Its vast usage has reached a tipping point, where it is so widely accepted that it can no longer be disregarded.
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11. Mavrides, Gegory, Ph.D., Foreign Teachers Guide to Living and working in china