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Friday, September 3, 2010

Pros & Cons of English as a Global Language

English is not the official language of the world, but some insist that it is or should be. What are the arguments for and against English-only on a global scale?

Language is a tool for communication. With the absence of it, the world would be a great Tower of Babel speaking in words that are incoherent and foreign to all. Economics, education, trade and all other aspects that are contributory to the development of a nation would not emerge. Linguistics would teach us how a certain group of people can develop their own unique language that will be used in their dealings with each other. Due to geography, countries have different languages which may be divided into different dialects. The language is an outright clue of the place you are from, your culture and even behavior. Because of the call of globalization, there is a need to establish a standard that is applicable to all. This standard is the language that should be used in economic trade and external communications both in oral and written form. The question then is one that has been disputed time and time again by countries. What should be the global language of the world? What are the criteria for a language to become the standard language of the world?

The English language has been a dominant language form since time memorial. It has originated with the British and has overtaken Latin which was the former international language throughout the Roman Empire (Crystal, 2003, p. 7). The British empire has gained super status due to their conquests in those times and because of colonization, their works have been adopted by the countries they have inhabited. However, English is not restricted to the category of British English alone but there is also American English. It is not a secret that the United States of America is currently the country that is number one in terms of economic growth. It has also its shares of conquests during the two world wars and has taught their language to the many colonies that they have conquered. Australia is also an English speaking continent and a number of Asian countries use English as a second language. Therefore, one can assume that the popularity of English as a language adopted by a number of nations is credited to the supremacy of their political and military power as well as economic dominance.

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It is quite obvious that English is dominantly used on a global scale. It is present in written form through books, magazines, newspapers and has also invaded the media through television and radio. Most movies that are being watched and are awaited worlwide are those films that are in english. With the birth of the internet and it's growing indispensability, the strength of the English language has been fueled because it is the language of the internet. Trade and other economic functions among countries are done in english. Even the food packages that we eat as well as appliances and other gadgets have their instructions in english. However, widely used as it is, english is not the global language of the world.

Because of the integration of English in all factors of globalization such as economic, socio-cultural, political, as well as technological, it is the best candidate for being the gloal language. Spoken worlwide by almost 2 billion people, 400 million of them native speakers, English is definitely the language that has the most number of speakers. It is followed by China who has the most number of native speakers (O'Neil, 2009). Personally speaking, the Chinese language both written and oral are quite complex in structure and form. One needs to have studied it thoroughly before it can be mastered. As compared to the English language, it would take a lot of time to teach Chinese or other languages for that matter. To again stress that English is present in our way of life, the internet among others, it is easier to adapt because almost all who are literate may have an idea of English words and meanings having encountered them in so many ways. In our modernized world, it is safe to say that the number of those who are literate surpasses those who are not. Since it is already well practiced on a global scale, even other native traditional speakers of other languages recognize the need to be well-versed in in english. Some of the professionals and even children are sent to Engish speaking countries to learn the language and develop their skills in using it both in writing and in oral communication. Online tutorials have actually been a trend nowadays wherein students have sessions with their tutors through the internet. In the educational system of other countries, English is now being incorporated in the syllabus of students as a course that is compulsory for all. It is a language that is most preferred to be secondary to the country's native language. Economics is also an area that is highly benefited by the establishment of a global language. When a meeting of business tycoons takes place, the conclusion of a contract cannot be achieved when there are various languages being used. They have to agree in using one language that would be understandable to all and english is the usual choice in business and commerce.

Though the benefits from using English in a global scale are considerable, there are also arguments against it. Of the many concerns about an English-only worldwide community, one of the major concerns is the death of other languages. In literature, those that are written in English are the ones that would be distributed globally and all other works in different languages would then be translated to english pre-distribution. Due to this, only these books would eventually be passed on to generations and would have the opportunity to be tagged as classics. Mother-tongues have their own distinct way of describing things and some works that are in the native tongue of the writer will be written in a way that reflects what the writer wants to express. The concern in having these works translated is that the actual point of the writer may not be communicated across because it may be lost in translation. Another concern is that because of a staple language that would be established which is English, people would lose interest in learning other languages besides english because they may feel that it would be useless to do so. The end product of all these will be a widespread language death. This would be a negative phenomenon to happen because the sense of uniqueness and distinction will be lost for other nations without the mastery and existence of their native tongue. Language is a major element in the culture of people and is instrumental in the development of their way of life because language is used in their art, music, literature and history. Without this, the sense of patriotism and individuality will disintegrate for the native inhabitants of a certain nation. Stripped of their strong affiliation with their country, they would easily be manipulated by major english speaking countries who would use the language as a tool for their advantage.

In summary, the call of globalization has hugely affected worldwide activities. With the intense economic activity, exchange and trade among countries, there is a need to establish a medium of communication that would be a standard for all and would facilitate the ease in transacting with each other . Though not official, English is somewhat the language that is employed in the economic dealings among nations. It may be attributed to the economic supremacy of English speaking countries. It is advantageous in a sense that it is easier to adapt since it has already taken root in a number of nations compared to other languages. It minimizes the cost and expenses of commerce because it reduces the amount of time in completeing business transactions. However, making English as a global language would cause the inexistence of a number of languages. It's effect would be more on socio-cultural aspects and would heavily cause a shift in the world as we know it. Change is the only constant thing in this world and the evolution of language and world affairs are ongoing. Therefore, one cannot conclude on a certainty that English will eventually be the global language of the world. It would perpetuate economic growth but would extinguish socio-cultural distinction. It is an open-ended consequence whether the world would eventually reach a global understanding on which is the better choice, prosperity or cultural diversity.

Crystal, D. (2003). English as a global language. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press

Melitz, J. (1997). English-Language Dominance, Literature and Welfare. Retrieved

May 28, 2010, from http://www.cepr.org/pubs/new-dps/dplist.asp?dpno=2055

O'Neil, D. (2009). The Most Common Languages in the World. Retrieved May 28, 2010,

from http://anthro.palomar.edu/language/language_1.htm

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