English as a Global Language

Topics: English language, Lingua franca, Linguistics Pages: 5 (1229 words) Published: June 12, 2011

Since the world’s origin, language has evolved to meet specific social and cultural needs. Human beings have developed manifold languages to be able to communicate and identify as a community. Louis Calvet states that language emerged therefore polygenetically, and that humankind is multilingual (23). At present, however, English is considered to be a global language, a lingua franca and a window onto the world, leaving aside other languages of major importance in the past and present. The idea of modernization with the objective of creating social hegemony as regards language may provoke a backlash from some people, given that not everyone has access to learn English. Therefore, there is a great majority that is not competent in English as to adapt to social change and to the consequences that this modernization might cause. As Robert Burchfield affirms:

English has also become a lingua franca to the point that any literate educated person is in a very real sense deprived if he does not know English. Poverty, famine, and disease are instantly recognized as the cruelest and least excusable forms of deprivation. Linguistic deprivation is a less easily noticed condition, but one nevertheless of great significance. (160)

English seems to have acquired an international expansion and it has reached the media, the Internet, workplaces and it also has a major influence in cultural issues. Robert Cooper affirms that language spread may be defined as an increase, over time, in the proportion of a communication network that adopts a given language variety for a given communication function (15). A growing gap between the dominant social groups and the people unable to reach the basic standards of English has stemmed from this English trend. The disparity between members of society also mirrors the number of people who are being socially excluded. This paper purports to examine the reasons and consequences of the social exclusion in different contexts where English has an overwhelming influence.

Firstly, English seems to have gained a strategic role in companies and in the business world. Nowadays, it might be a requirement to be competent in English in order to qualify for a job. Not only is English required in international business but also in local business. Many highly qualified companies and smaller companies invest large amounts of money and effort to hasten technology of modern communication. As David Crystal states:

The need for a global language is particularly appreciated by international academic and business communities, and it is here that the adoption of a single lingua franca is most in evidence, both in lecture-rooms and board-rooms all over the globe. (13)

Although this is an idea which is still in process, not everyone seems to have access to the type of jobs for which people need to be efficient and effective in English, as they have no previous knowledge of the language. As Crystal mentions, it is very common to find cases in which technology is used worldwide, for example, in conversations over the Internet across the globe (56). Under these circumstances, employees will not have access to better job positions if they do not have a proficient level of English.

Secondly, English is present in the media technology, newspapers, magazines and the Internet. As Phillipson and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas have affirmed, English is considered as a language of wider communication (44). It can be claimed that the foremost objective of this trend is to maintain a global hegemony. However, although English is dominating mainly the internet and computers, this does not mean that hegemony is actually achieved.

A common example of this nonacomplishment can be seen through the Internet; however, there is a glimmer of hope if we consider David Graddol’s words:

At present 90% of Internet hosts are based in English-speaking countries. It is not surprising,...
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