There are about 5,000 languages in the world today. Some have gained international status; some are developing; others are used in isolation in their region, community, or village; a few have gone extinct or have died (like Latin and Sanskrit).
The number of users of the English language has grown by leaps and bounds. Second language and foreign language users are seen to exceed the number of native speakers. · Worldwide more or less two billion people live in countries where English has official status.
· One out of five of the world’s population, speaks English with some degree of fluency. · Over one billion had been seen in the year 2000 to continue their studies in English. · As language of science and technology, English, the universal language, claims more or less 90% of all information in the world’s electronic retrieval systems being stored in English.
English is used regularly by more than 350 million people scattered over the globe. It is the native or official language of one-fifth of the world. Of the languages of colonization it has been the one most important in Africa, Asia and the islands of the central and southern Pacific. The use of English is widespread in international trade, international scholarship, and scientific research. More than half of the world’s scientific and technical journals, as well as newspapers, are printed in English. Three-fourths of the world’s mail is in English. The Soviet Union and China use English in their propaganda broadcasts to the developing countries of Africa and Asia. English is the most widely-studied language in areas where it is not native. In Japan English is widely used in the upper grade level. In India, English is the alternate official language to Hindi. In the Philippines it is the common language or medium of communication of people speaking different languages. More or less 80% of Filipinos speak/understand English. Doing Business Worldwide
English is a global language for doing business. In some industries, English is the official standard language. Therefore, an excellent command of English is required for key jobs. In addition, English has emerged as a major language for finance and the stock markets around the world. People wishing to do businesses globally need to have a good command of spoken English. The ability to clearly write in English is also of key importance, as many forms of business communication, from emails to presentations and marketing to important business contracts, are written in English.
A CNN Report
(CNN) Hiroshi Mikitani sees nothing wrong with the word, incorporating it easily into our discussion about Japan's future. The internet entrepreneur and CEO of Rakuten Inc, Japan's largest e-commerce site, intends to change his country from the inside out. "And Englishization is a part of it," he says bluntly.
With 6,000 employees and sales topping $3 billion a year, Mikitani intends Rakuten to keep growing into a global player. The goal: be as common a household name as Google in 10 years.
The path to that goal, believes Mikitani, is to speak the global language of business, English. "English is the only global language. We're doing a global business. I think this is the only way a Japanese service organization can become a global organization."
By 2012, Mikitani's pledge is to make Rakuten an English-only corporation. All communication, verbal and email, would be sent not in Japanese, but in English. It's a daunting task for a Japanese company headquartered in Tokyo. Last year's Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) rankings showed Japanese test takers scored second worst in the East Asia region, below North Korea and Myanmar. Only Laos ranked lower than Japan. Honda's CEO, Takanobu Ito, said publicly, “It’s stupid for a Japanese company to only use English in Japan when the workforce is mainly Japanese."
Mikitani doesn't flinch at the criticism. In fact, he seems to relish it. "The nature of our business is totally different," he says, pointing out Honda manufactures a hardware item and Rakuten deals with users on the internet.
"If you want to become successful in other countries, you need to internationalize the headquarters." Rakuten is expanding despite Japan's macro-economic struggles. They are starting a Chinese version of Rakuten and purchasing ecommerce sites in the U.S. and France.
"One thing I know, the definition of 'country' is going to change. Definition of 'currency' is going to change," says Mikitani. "There is going to be less importance which country you're operating from. And there's going to be global competition, not local to local." Mikitani is everything "Corporate Japan" is not: young, a risk-taker, outspoken and fluent in English. He started his company with a friend in 1997, using their own money. The two friends grew the business into the public corporation and powerhouse it is today. The 45 year old, energetic CEO says he is, at the core, utterly Japanese. But he disagrees with how corporate Japan and the policy makers have run the economy and country.
Look at the aging demographics and the economy of Japan, says Mikitani, and the writing is on the wall for corporate Japan. Growth, he says, can only happen if Japanese companies go outside of the country for expansion and look for opportunities outside of Japan's famously produced cars and electronics.
"I felt (sic) those kind of ages is over. Now we need to really dramatically change the structure of economy of Japan and IT is going to be an extremely important part of it," says Mikitani.
"But none of the Japanese... for example, politicians, truly understands from the bottom of the heart, how important that is." Mikitani feels the two decades-long economic stagnation for Japan has fundamentally affected the country's young, which spells trouble for the country's future.
"Japanese society, especially younger people, are so inward looking. They don't even want to go to other countries. They want to stay here. They want to have a good life; they don't want to be rich. They want to have a good day to day life. That's it. And I think we need to be more sort of dynamic, outward looking," he says.
The solution, hopes Mikitani, will be found in concrete economic policy from Tokyo's lawmakers and strong leadership from Japan's companies. Japan can produce innovative, high quality ideas and products, says Mikitani, but the talent needs a direction. He remains positive about his country's future, despite its problems. Rakuten means optimistic, he points out. "I think that in absolute terms, we [Japanese] are lagging. We are slowing down. I don't think we need to be pessimistic, but our window is not so long."
An Indian Perspective
English even after 36 years of independence occupies an important place in the social educational, administrative, scientific industrial and commercial life of the country.
1. Demand for the abolition of English after independence: After independence, a loud demand was made to abolish English from the country. The following arguments were given : (a) English was a symbol of foreign dominance ;
(b) it was spoken by a small minority of people ;
(c) it was desirable to impart instruction in Hindi and other regional languages. 1965 was fixed as the deadline for the abolition of English, but this date could not be adhered to. In fact, it was not easy to do away with English.
2. The peculiar language problem in India: India has a large number of regional languages, some developed some undeveloped. Communication is very difficult in the absence of any national language. 3. The importance of English at the official level: At the official level. English plays a very important role for inter-state communication.
4. The importance of English in the sphere of education: There is a general lack of standard text books in regional languages, particularly at the post-graduate level. It is very difficult to dispense with English till these books have been prepared.
5. Its importance in scientific and technological fields: Advanced study in science, technology, law, medicine, etc., is very difficult without English.
6. English as an international language: English has come to play the role of an international language and its being widely learnt in other countries as well.
7. The present position: It is extremely important to learn English. So we should do it voluntarily. But the knowledge of English should not turn us into snobs.
Ever since India became independent, the fortunes of English have seen many ups and downs. In accordance with the prevalent mood of hostility against everything foreign, English, considered only a foreign language, could not also escape the wrath of many people. It was decided to do away with it as early as possible. It was given a lease of fifteen years, and after that it was to be replaced by Hindi as the national and official language of the country. English was spoken and used by a micro-scopic minority of the people and they could not dominate the majority which spoke Hindi. Educationally also it was desirable to impart instruction in Hindi. Educationally also it was desirable to impart instruction in Hindi and other regional languages. Moreover, the continuance of English as the official language of the country was regarded as some sort of an affront to national honor. Did not every country have its own national and official, language, it was asked. There was much weight in all these arguments. But when the deadline, 1965, for the switch-over to Hindi came, there were unseemly controversies and riots in the country. The main opposition to Hindi came from the South. After long and tedious deliberations it was decided to continue English as an associate official language. The States were free to adopt their own languages and were to correspond with one another and the centre either in Hindi or English. Later the the three language formula was also devised. The general feeling is that Hindi as it develops and as people while learning it show, and are shown patience, will continue to gain in importance and will increasingly take over as many functions of English as possible. But along with the spread of Hindi, English will continue to be used in one way or another and it will play its due role in the nation.
India is a land of many languages, cultures and religions. It is rich in variety and diversity, but there is a real danger that in the absence of a link language, its unity may just fall to bits. Considering the situation as it is today, English is the only language to discharge this important obligation. At the official level, the importance of English is obvious. It is the associate language of the Centre and most of its employees use it in official work. Since the States have adopted their regional languages for official business and many of them are averse to the use of Hindi, a virtual linguistic chaos would result if English were not used for inter-State communication. So in this sphere also, the importance of English is obvious. Interestingly, the state of Nagaland has English as its official language. In education too, the use of English cannot be dispensed with. Hindi and the regional languages, though they are developing and enjoy official patronage, are still inadequately equipped for imparting education, particularly at the university level. There is a general lack of standard text books and it may well take several decades before there is sufficient development of these languages. Again, English still enjoys a commanding position in science, technology, engineering, law, medicine, commerce, industry and the diplomatic services. It is virtually impossible to replace English in these disciplines by Hindi or any other Indian language.
Considering then for a moment the absence of English from India, exchange of professors, doctors administrators, and students will cease. Research will slacken and there will be a steep decline in the quality of education. The efforts of the country to industrialize itself rapidly and to raise the standard of the masses will be seriously undermined. There will widespread disunity and this will jeopardize our freedom. So the role of English today for us is twofold. It knits the country and maintains equality and standard at all levels.
Considering this important place of English, we Indians are today learning it in larger numbers than they ever did before. It is a world language and even in Russia, China etc., it is being learnt eagerly. In India those who oppose it seem to be a little prejudiced either for political reasons or because of some absurd sentimentality. Don’t they accept foreign goods, clothes and technical know-how? They do, because it is good and useful. Why then oppose English, simply because it is a foreign language? They should not forget that it was the knowledge of English that helped India gain freedom. The overall situation then appears to be this. English even after 36 years of independence occupies an important place in the social educational, administrative, scientific industrial and commercial life of the country. Those who know and support it need not despair. English will continue though it may occupy a secondary place to Hindi.