English Language Center
The texts in this booklet can be used to help you answer your group essay question.
Why do so many people learn English and
what are the effects of this trend?
Global English Texts
Colls, 2009 – The Death of language?
IBJ, 2014 – China Makes Unprecedented English
British Council, 2013 – The English Effect
Mufwene 2010 – Globalization and the Spread of English
Pike, 2013 - 5 Reasons Why You Should Learn English
Shumann, E. (n.d.) – Effects of English Hegemony on
Reference List & Further Reading
Colls, T. (2009, October 19) The Death of Language? Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8311000/8311069.stm
The Death of Language?
An estimated 7,000 languages are being spoken around the world. However, that number is expected to shrink rapidly in the coming decades. What is lost when a language dies? In 1992 a prominent US linguist stunned the academic world by predicting that by the year 2100, 90% of the world's languages would have ceased to exist.
Far from inspiring the world to act, the issue is still on the margins, according to prominent French linguist Claude Hagege. "Most people are not at all interested in the death of languages," he says. "If we are not cautious about the way English is progressing it may eventually kill most other languages." According to Ethnologue, a US organisation owned by SIL International that compiles a global database of languages, 473 languages are currently classified as endangered. Among the ranks are the two known speakers of Lipan Apache alive in the US, four speakers of Totoro in Colombia and the single Bikya speaker in Cameroon. "It is difficult to provide an accurate count," says Ethnologue editor Paul Lewis. "But we are at a tipping point. From here on we are going to increasingly see the number of languages going down."
What is lost?
As globalisation sweeps around the world, it is perhaps natural that small communities come out of their isolation and seek interaction with the wider world. The number of languages may be an unhappy casualty, but why fight the tide?
6% of the world's languages are spoken by 94% of the world's population The remaining 94% of languages are spoken by only 6% of the population The largest single language by population is Mandarin (845 million speakers) followed by Spanish (329 million speakers) and English (328 million speakers).
133 languages are spoken by fewer than 10 people
"What we lose is essentially an enormous cultural heritage, the way of expressing the relationship with nature, with the world, between themselves in the framework of their families, their kin people," says Mr Hagege. "It's also the way they express their humour, their love, their life. It is a testimony of human communities which is extremely precious, because it expresses what other communities than ours in the modern industrialized world are able to express." For linguists like Claude Hagege, languages are not simply a collection of words. They are living, breathing organisms holding the connections and associations that define a culture. When a language becomes extinct, the culture in which it lived is lost too.
The value of language as a cultural artefact is difficult to dispute, but is it actually realistic to ask small communities to retain their culture? One linguist, Professor Salikoko Mufwene, of the University of Chicago, has argued that the social and economic conditions among some groups of speakers "have changed to points of no return". As cultures evolve, he argues, groups often naturally shift their language use. Asking them to hold onto languages they no longer want is more for the linguists' sake than for the communities themselves....
References: Blommaert, J. 2010. A Sociolinguistics of Globalization. Cambridge: University Press.
Crystal, D. 2000. Language Death. Cambridge: University Press.
Crystal, D. 2004. The Language Revolution. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Mufwene, S. S. 2008. Language Evolution: Contact, Competition and Change. London: Continuum
Pike, C. (2013, April 8). 5 Reasons Why You Should Learn English. Retrieved from
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