english as International LanguageSince World War II, the english language has emerged as the the new international lingua-franca “auxiliary language,” taking the previous place of languages such as french, Latin and greek before it.
Although english is not the most widely spoken language in the world (It is fourth behind chinese, Hindi, and spanish
), it has definitely cemented its importance as the common, international second language for many. International languages are adopted for several reasons: for international commerce, through conquest, or because of its cultural and artistic connection. Today, the forces of globalization have meant even greater diffusion of the english language.
Historically, the most geographically widespread languages have been mostly of European origin , while Asian language usage is mostly confined to international borders, suggesting that imperialism and colonialism have played a major role in the diffusion of language (Paredes, 2002) and the creation of international languages. Latin is one such example, where the spread of the Roman empire also facilitated the use of Latin as a language. However, other languages, like french, were popularized more because of its perceived artistic and cultural value, rather than through force (its worldwide prevalence is the source of the term lingua-franca). A combination of such factors has made english the international language of today.
Some of the most powerful forces promoting the spread of the english language have been political and economic. 19th century British colonialism brought english to populations in nearly every continent of the World. This only intensified with the advent of the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th and early 20th century. However, english had not yet supplanted french as the international language. It was not until the second World War, from which the united states
would emerge a military and economic superpower, that english became a global language. Now, aided by the forces of globalization, US corporations, brands, textbooks, movies, and music ensure that english retains a firm footing in cultures around the world.
Despite the aforementioned factors aiding its growth, the relative ease of adopting english has also made it a convenient language to learn and use. english is a language derived from German, and greatly influenced by European romance languages, and thus uses many similar words and structures that would be familiar to someone who speaks those languages. Further, english uses the Roman alphabet, which is the most common in the world, and does not require most users to learn a new script or pronunciations.
Still, english may not maintain its dominance as a global language for much longer. Many expect that spanish, which is the third most Spoken language in the world, is already the official or primary language in at least 20 countries, and several others as a second language. The two languages with more speakers in the world, chinese and Hindi, are mostly confined to their respective countries. Its expansion is further supported by global migration trends, mostly to the united states and Europe, and spanish competency is quickly becoming an important skill to have in those countries. Although the use of spanish is growing, for near future it appears that it may only attain the status of a secondary global language, and english will remain the leader.
Due to decades of economic, political, and cultural influence, english has cemented itself as a truly global language that serves to connect people from diverse cultures and societies.