The spread of English in a Global World

Topics: English language, Lingua franca, United Kingdom Pages: 8 (2149 words) Published: November 13, 2007

English, as a means of communication has become the world's "global" language. English is all over the world. Everywhere you go nowadays people seem to be speaking certain level of English. It can be seen wherever you travel - on the airports and train stations, on the road signs and advertisement, in hotels and restaurant menus, and even in the small shops. It comes with the British or American music and films, it comes with the news, which in many countries are produced in English.

Undoubtedly in the modern life the Internet and the media are the driving forces of this process. However the globalization of English language initially started at the end of the 19th Century with the invention of the telegraph, the device which first connected the world. Another very important factor is that 'language goes where power goes. There has been some suspicion around the world of the English speaking powers and their motives for the globalization of English' (Bragg, n.d.). The reason why English has been associated with world powers is that for the past two centuries the British Empire followed by the American Empire had been colonising the world, imposing their language on to the collonised population. Also, the industrial revolution and the advancement of the economics at that time are of great significance for the spread of the language.

In this essay I will focus on one of the burning questions on ' Whose English is it, anyway?' and will also review the role of the English language as a Lingua Franca.

(Rossi, 2007). Since English has become a global language, one of the main disputes is on whether it belongs to the native speakers of English any more. Naturally, such statements are very likely to provoke mixed feelings and concerns in many of the native English speakers.

Experts argue that now that English is widely used among speakers of other countries, it has become an International language and no body owns it anymore. 'Or rather, everyone who has learned it now owns it - has a share in it might be more accurate - and has the right to use it in the way they want' (Crystal, p.2).

A letter to the Editor of New York Times states 'English, of all languages, does not belong to any specific group or nationality. Surely in a city as multilingual as New York, he cannot be harboring the fantasy that English is the exclusive possession of

it native speakers.'(Boletta, 1999)

At the present time there are far more non-native speakers of English in the world then native ones as around 350 million people speak English as their mother tongue, whereas it is thought that around 1.5 billion (Hurst, n.d) use it as a second or foreign language.

An important issue in this process is that many people use English over the Internet, where it is believed that around 80% of the data on the world's computers are stored in English.(Hurst, n.d) Although it is impossible to know exactly how many people use the Internet, according to Global Reach research agency there were more then 840 million Internet users in 2004-2005 and only 34 million of them were from Britain. As we can imagine this figures should be much higher by now. The statistics above clearly illustrate the vast amount of foreigners forced to learn and use English because of the Internet.

The outcome of the globalization of the language is that the majority of people who speak English around the world are non-native speakers. They have learned it as a second or subsequent language and use it to speak to each other. Therefore they are not really learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL), English to speak to native speakers, they are learning it more for international communication.

Consequently, 'a new pattern of usage is developing that doesn't look to native English speakers' (Bragg, n.d.). Linguists from around the world believe that this is leading to evolution of spoken English, whose structure, grammar and...

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Block, D. and Cameron, D. (2002) _Globalization_ _and_ _Language_ _Teaching_ _._ Oxon: Routledge
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Cunningham, S. and Moor, P. (2003). _Interview_ _with_ _Jennifer_ _Jenkins_ _,_ Cutting Edge Advanced, Harlow: Longman
Hobson, N (accessed on 20/12/2006)
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AltText (2000), web blog, (accessed on 21/12/2006)
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Rossi, M. (2007) _Whose_ _English_ _is_ _it_ _,_ _anyway_ _?_ Prospect Magazine (accessed 20/01/07)
Hurst, R. (n.d.) _How Many People Use Internet and What Do They Use it For_,, (accessed on 20/12/2006)
Kanoi, J
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