english as a Global LanguageOver the past two to three thousand years, hundreds of languages have been spoken around the world but in the last 100 years it has been english that has become the global language. There can be many reasons for this evolution: imperialism, emigration, and media perhaps being the most fundamental. Regardless of the causes for this development, it has become increasingly advantageous for people of all cultures to learn the english language to facilitate cross-cultural communication.
There are approximately 375 million native english speakers in the world, compared to over sixbillion non-english natives, according to world language statistics. China alone has in excess of one billion people, but few outside of the country speak chinese, andit is not used commonly in business or in mainstream international entertainment. england
, on the other hand, was responsible for exploration and settlements in all corners of the globe, resulting in their language spreading far beyond the borders of the tiny island nation.This imperialism also spawned international trade which further contributed to the global exposure of the language. Soon traders used forms of english along with fragments of their trading partners’ languages and the spread was initiated.english shared the Roman alphabet with most European languages, like spanish
, french, German, and italian, which gave it an advantage and the perception that it should be easier to learn than chinese or Arabic which used a totally different structure.
Since the turn of the 20th century, english speaking nations, like Canada, America, England, and Australia, have become the chosen home for millions of emigrants annually, 250,000 yearly for Canada alone. They have moved in waves due to famines, political strife, unemployment, economic hardship, and the hope of a better life. Many have settled in pockets within their new homeland but most have integrated into society, living next to english speakers, finding jobs in english speaking companies, and shopping within the english community. As a result, they have learned english, as have their children
and their children’s children, as well as family members who have visited and later joined them in the new land.They have had to learn to read english newspapers and english magazines to stay abreast of community events, hobbies, trades and general interests, and event to obtain a driver’s licence. This second language acquisition was borne out of necessity, but nevertheless enhanced their new lives.
As national economies began to flourish in the early 1900’s, film and theatre began to take hold in english speaking countries, as well as other countries around the globe. However, it was Hollywood that quickly gained the upper hand and produced films and celebrities who became known worldwide. Many were produced with subtitles, but the characters and roles of the Anglophones had been etched in stone. Following the Second World War, the American influence in the Far East resulted in an influx and obsession with all things Western: fashion, media, and, of course, language. english became commonly utilized in international business, media, music, and the developing computerized technology of the 1960’s and 70’s.
Now, it is acknowledged that english has attained the title of the global language, being used in more corners of the world and in more industries than any other. While its roots reach back to an early imperialism, the spread is also attributed to wars, emigration, and media. The final result is a world that needs and wants to learn this global language to compete, to travel, to advance their educational systems, and to communicate with their global neighbours. This has created a niche for those who wish to travel, experience other cultures, and share their language with others. So was born the TEFL/TESL job description and a tremendous opportunity for all english speakers.