Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Emergence of English as an Unrivalled Global Lingua Franca

English is a global language and as a language its prominence in our day to day life has been unquestionably proven. Occupying the third world by number of native speakers and first place as a second language, English reigns in business, culture, communication and the Internet. Political power and the successive waves of colonization of the British Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, replaced by political influence, military and economic U.S. since the late nineteenth to the present day are some of the leading factors that have caused the quick dissemination of English language all over the world.English is spoken by over 400 million users worldwide. 200 million of them live in North America and 60 million in the British Isles. Mother tongue of 15 million people in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, English is the second language of millions of people in India, Pakistan, Srilanka, Bangladesh, Philippines and many other countries.

Influence of Empire

The first factor that caused the dissemination of English language is the expansion of the British Empire. The British Empire expanded dramatically, and during the 1700s British English established footholds in parts of Africa, in India, Australia and New Zealand. The colonisation process in these countries varied. In Australia and New Zealand, European settlers quickly outnumbered the indigenous population and so English was established as the dominant language. In India and Africa, however, centuries of colonial rule saw English imposed as an administrative language, spoken as a mother tongue by colonial settlers from the UK, but in most cases as a second language by the local population.

English as administrative language

English has been accepted as administrative language in some countries where English is not the first language. Elsewhere in Africa and on the Indian subcontinent, English is still used as an official language, even though these countries are independent of British rule. However, English remains very much a second language for most people, used in administration, education and government and as a means of communicating between speakers of diverse languages. As with most of the Commonwealth, British English is the model on which, for instance, Indian English or Nigerian English is based. In the Caribbean and especially in Canada, however, historical links with the UK compete with geographical, cultural and economic ties with the USA, so that some aspects of the local varieties of English follow British norms and others reflect US usage.

An international language

English is also hugely important as an international language and plays an important part even in countries where the UK has historically had little influence. It is learnt as the principal foreign language in most schools in Western Europe. It is also an essential part of the curriculum in far-flung places like Japan and South Korea, and is increasingly seen as desirable by millions of speakers in China. Prior to WWII, most teaching of English as a foreign language used British English as its model, and textbooks and other educational resources were produced here in the UK for use overseas. This reflected the UK's cultural dominance and its perceived ‘ownership’ of the English Language. Since 1945, however, the increasing economic power of the USA and its unrivaled influence in popular culture has meant that American English has become the reference point for learners of English in places like Japan and even to a certain extent in some European countries. British English remains the model in most Commonwealth countries where English is learnt as a second language.

Moreover, as the world's leading powers mainly speak English, other countries that want to do business with those countries must learn English. Many people hope to immigrate or go to school in English speaking countries so it is important that they learn the language.

Undoubtedly in the modern life the Internet and the media are the driving forces of this process. As most of the technologies are operated by English language, so it also helps the dispersal of English language.

However, as the history of English has shown, this situation may not last indefinitely. The increasing commercial and economic power of countries like India, for instance, might mean that Indian English will one day begin to have an impact beyond its own borders.