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Chapter 1: why a global language?

“english is the global language”. A headline of this kind must have appeared in a thousand newspapers. “english rules” is an actual example and represents the universality of the language's spread. The language is rapidly becoming the first global lingua franca. Several newspapers and magazines find in the subject of the English language an apt symbol for the themes of globalization, diversification and progress. You can hear english on television spoken by politicians from al over the world , wherever you travel, you see English signs and advertisements and when you enter in a restaurant or in a hotel they will understand English. If English is your mother tongue you may fel pride of it but you also feel disappointed when you realise that foreign people are not using it in the same way and they abuse of it. If English is not your mother tongue you are motivated to learn it because it can put you in contact with more people.

What is a global language?

A language achieves a global status when it develops a special role that is recognised in every countries. There are two main ways in which this can be done:

  • a language can be made the official language of a country, to be used as a medium of communication in such domains;
  • a language can be made a priority in a country's foreign-language teaching. It becomes the language which children are mostly likely to be taught when they arrive in school.

There are several ways in which a language an be official. It may be the only official language of a country, or it may share this status with other languages. And it may have a “semi-official”status, being used only in certain domains.

Government or foreign-aid agency must give adequate financial support to a language-teaching policy, resources will be devoted to helping people have access to the language and learn it, through the media, libraries and schools.

What makes a global language?

The importance of global language doesn't have to do only with the number of speakers but with who the speakers are. For example Latin became an international language because of his power. It is often suggested that there must be something beautiful or logical about the structure of English, in order to explain why it is now so widely use. “it has less grammar than other languages, English doesn't have a lot of endings on its words, nor do we have to remember the difference between masculine, feminine and neuter gender.

A language has traditionally become an international language for one chief reason: the political and military power of its people.

Why do we need a global language?

The more a community is linguistically mixed, the less it can rely on individuals to ensure communication between different groups. In communities where only two or three languages are in contact, bilingualism is a possible solution. But in communities where there are many languages in contact such a natural solution does not readily apply. The problem has been solved by finding a language to act as a lingua franca, or “common language”. Sometimes, when communities begin to trade with each other, they communicate by adopting a simplified language, known as a pidgin, which combines elements of their different languages.

The prospect that a lingua franca might be needed for the whole world is something which has emerged strongly only in twentieth century.

What are the dangers of a global language?

The benefits are considerable but sever:

  • those who have the language at their disposal will be more able to think and work quickly in it;
  • the presence of a global language will hasten the disappearance of minority languages make all other unnecessary;
  • a global language will make people lazy about learning other languages, or reduce their opportunities to do so.

The use of a single language by a community is a guarantee of a social harmony or understanding because whe have several examples of peaceful multilingual coexistence (ex.: Switzerland, Singapore or Finland).

  1. Linguistic power: there is the real risk that mother tongue speakers will have a position of power compared to people who have to learn a foreign language: for example in working places people could be ignored by the international community or difficulties in carrying out their creativity or having problem in informal communication. The solution could be the language learning system from the childhood, until their full time education and maintaining it well. In this way we have a powerful bilingualism;
  2. linguistic complacency: due to their position of superiority, British shows a widespread lack of motivation to learn other languages, lack of interest because of the increasing presence of English as a global language. It is a matter of attitude or state of mind not of ability. Eurpean business survey in 1996 shows that 90% of business in Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Greece were able to negotiate in another language instead only 38% British could do so. In 2002 this percentage has fallen to 29%;
  3. the processes of languages domination and loss exist independently of the emergence of a global language. The death could be caused by the assimilation of ethnic group by a dominant society. At least 50% of the living languages in the world will die in the next century. Language is the history and the identity of a people and once lost it, in can never be recaptured. The strong identity in support of linguistic minorities is commonly associated with nationalism that protects even the need for intelligibility. Language is the chief means of distinguishing every social group showing many diversification; the perfect situation includes bilingualism: the global language is useful to access to the world community, instead regional language provides access to the local community.

Could anything stop a global language?

An alternative method of communication could emerge which would eliminate the need for a global language. The chief candidate is automatic translation (machine translation). If progress continues to be as rapid as it has been in the past decade, there is a distinct possibility that it will be routine for people to communicate with each other directly.

A critical era

within little more than a generation, we have moved from a situation where a world language was a theoretical possibility to one where it is an evident reality. Access to the emerging global language needs to be guaranteed. Fundamental decisions about priorities have to be made. It is possible that a global language will emerge only once. Governments who wish to play their part in influencing the world's linguistic future should ponder carefully, as they make political decisions and allocate resources for language planning.


Chapter 2: why english? The historical context

“why english is the global language?” the geo-historical answer shows how English reached a position of pre-eminence. The socio-cultural answer explains why it remains so. The historical account traces the movement of english around the world. The socio-cultural explanation looks at the way people all over the world have come to depend on english for their economic and social weel- being.


the language has always been on the move. As soon as it arrived in England from northern Europe, in the fifth century, it began to spread around the British Isles. It entered parts of Wales, Cornwall, Cumbria and southern Scotland. The first significant step in the progress of English take place at the end of the sixteen century. Between the end of the reign of Elizabeth I and the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth II English speakers increased to 250 million.


the first permanent English settlement dates from 1607, when an expedition arrived in Chesapeake Bay. The colonist called their settlement Jamestown and the area Virginia. In november 1620 the first group of Puritans arrived on the Mayflower landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts. The group was extremely mixed. What the “Pilgrims Fathers” had in common was their search for a land where they could found a new religious kingdom, free from persecution and purified from the church practices they had experienced in England. The two settlements had different linguistic backgrounds. “tidewater” accents in western areas is opposite to the eastern accents in which the tendency is not to pronounce “R”. it was not only England which influenced the directions that the English language was to take in America, and later the USA. The Spanish had occupied large parts of the west and south-west. The French were present in the northern territories, the Dutch were in New York, large number of Germans began to arrive at the end of the seventeenth century and there were also an increasing number of Africans.


he first english-language contact with Canada was as early as 1497, when John Cabot is thought to have reached New-foundland. Canadian English has a great deal in common with the rest of the English spoken in North America and those who live outside Canada often find it difficult to hear the difference.

The Caribbean

during the early years of American settlement, the english language was also spreading in the south. A distinctive kind of speech was emerging in the islands of the West Indies spoken by the incoming black population. This was a consequence of the importation of African slaves. The policy of the slave-traders was to bring people of different language backgrounds together in the ships, to make it difficult for groups to plot rebellion. The result was the growth of several pidgin forms of communication, and in particular a pidgin between the slaves and the sailors, many of whom spoke English. The pidgin gradually began to be used as a mother tongue.

Australia and New Zealand

in Sydney, British conquerors established the first penal colony because the prisons in England were too overcrowded. Australian english is a mixture of accent of irish English, but even many expressions originated by Aboriginal languages, there are also influence of American English. In New Zealand the story was different and we can notice it thanks to 3 reasons:

  • stronger sense of the historical relationship with Britain and a great sympathy for British values and institutions;
  • sense of national identity, they emphasise the differences between New Zealand and Australia;
  • consider the needs of Maori people who represent the 10% of the total population.

Former colonial Africa

the english began to visit West Africa from the end of the fifteenth century, and soon after we find sporadic references to the use of the language as a lingua franca in some coastal settlements. By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the increase in commerce and anti-slave-trade activities had brought English to the whole West African coast.

  • Sierra Leone: in the 1780s philanthropists bought land to establish a settlement for freed slaves, arriving from England, Nova Scotia and Jamaica. The chief form of communication was an English-based creole, Krio;
  • Ghana: was declared a Crown Colony in 1874 and its population use English as a second language;
  • Gambia: English trading along the Gambia River dates from the early seventeenth century. The capital became a Crown Colony in 1843, the country an independent member of the Commonwealth. Krio is used as a lingua franca;
  • Nigeria: a British colony was founded at Lagos in 1861. it is one of the most multilingual countries. About half of its population use pidgin or creole English as a second language;
  • Cameroon: this region became a German protectorate in 1884, and was divided between France and Britain in 1919. it is a multilingual region, a country in which contact languages have flourished, notably Cameroon pidgin, spoken by about half the population;
  • Liberia: Africa's oldest republic was founded in 1822. most of its population use pidgin English as a second language;
  • Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbawe: english is the official language;
  • Kenya: English was made the official language, with Swahili, the national language;
  • Malawi: the area became a British colony in 1907, and English is an official language along with Chewa;
  • Tanzania: Zanzibar became a British protectorate in 1890. english was joint official language with Swahili until 1967, then lost its status as a national language; but it remains an important medium of communication;
  • Uganda: The Uganda Kingdoms were united as a British protectorate between 1893 and 1903. english is the sole official language, but Swahili is also used as a lingua franca;

South-east Asia and the South Pacific

the territories in and to the west of the South Pacific display an interesting mixture of American and British English. The main American presence emerged after the Spanish-American War of 1898. British began through the voyages of English sailors at the end of the eighteen century. English had come to be established throughout the region as the medium of law and administration, and was being increasingly used in other contexts. It became the language of power in the British territories of South-east Asia.

The introduction of a British educational system exposed learners to a standard British english model very early on.

  • Singapore: a bilingual educational system was introduced with English used a unifying medium alongside Chinese, Malay and Tamil. English remained the language of government and the legal system;
  • Malaysia: Bahasa Malaysia was adopted as the national language, and the role of English became more restricted: it's an obligatory subject but more a foreign language than a second language;
  • Hong Kong: English has always had a limited use in the territory, associated with government or military administration, law, business and the media. Chinese is the mother-tongue;
  • Papua New Guinea: about half the people speak Tok Pisin, an English-based pidgin, as a second language. Many major works have been translated to Tok Pisin, including Shakespeare and the Bible.

A world view

the present-day world status of English is primarily the result of two factors: the expansion of British colonial power and the emergence of the United States as the leading economic power of the twentieth century. The US linguistic Braj Kachru has suggested that we think of the spread of English around the world as three concentric circles:

  • The inner circle: English is the mother-tongue;
  • the outer or extended circle: involves the countries in which English is spread as a second language. It includes Singapore, India, Malawi;
  • The expanding or extending circle: involves those nations, which recognise the importance of english as an international language. It includes China, Japan, Greece, Poland and a huge number of other states. English is taught as a foreign language.


Chapter 3: why english? The cultural foundation

Wallis wrote his book in Latin, which was still being widely used as a scholarly lingua franca during the eighteenth century. A few generation earlier, Mulcaster had been one of the strongest supporters of the English language. He felt he had to defend the language against those who believed that English should not usurp the long-established place of Latin. Mulcaster could still see that there was a problem: English was no real match for Latin at an international level. Chesterfield recognised the rapid progress of English all over Europe, Hume said despite the language of diplomacy was French, he predicted the future success of English thanks to the solid and increasing establishments in America. Adam agreed with this idea and finally Grimm commented that only English was destined to reign in future.

Political developments

most of the pre-twentieth-century commentators would have had no difficulty giving an answer to the question “Why World English?” they would have pointed to the growth of the British Empire. It was considered self-evident that the civilizing influence of Britain was a desirable goal, anywhere in the world, and that the English language was an essential means of achieving this end. The register of the progress of that unity is the vision which encountered as we trace the path of English around the British Empire: the language as a symbol of political unity. Many independent countries chose English as their official language to enable speakers of their indigenous communities to continue communicating with each other at a national level.

Access to knowledge

most of the innovations of the Industrial Revolution were of British origin. The linguistic consequences were far-reaching. The new terminology of technological and scientific advance had an immediate impact on the language, adding tens of thousand of words to the English lexicon. Access to the new knowledge was much helped by progress in transportation. During the first half of the nineteenth century, the growth of new transport systems began the process of bringing people closer together. During the second half, the growth of new communication systems, especially the telegraph and telephone, made contact between people virtually instantaneous. New methods of mass production demanded new means of mass transportation. In particular the distribution of daily newspaper on a large scale would not have been possible without a railway system. Another major step was the arrival of new sources of energy.

Taken for granted

the story of English throughout this period is one of rapid expansion and diversification, with innovation after innovation coming to use the language as a primary or sole means of expression. Speakers of a language felt their language needed protection because its existence was being threatened by a more dominant language. In such cases, the dominant power would sometimes take measures to preserve it by giving it a special status.


Chapter 4: “ Why English? The cultural legacy”

the first steps in the political consolidation of English were taken during the decision-making which followed the First World War, in 1919. english language influence grew immensely in the areas which came to be mediated directly by Britain. English was now emerging as a medium of communication in growth areas.

International relations

the League of Nations was the first of many modern international alliances to allocate a special place to English in its proceedings. The language plays an official or working role in the proceedings of most other major international political gatherings, in all parts of the world. Many scientific organizations are also English-only. By contrast, only a small number of international bodies make no official use of English at all: most of these are French organizations.

The reliance on English is by no means restricted to science, however. Several international sporting organizations work only in English, and when these organizations hold international competitions, the language automatically becomes the lingua franca of the gathering.

A different kind of role for English is encountered at meetings where a large number of nations each has the right to participate using its own language. The European Union is the most complex example. It is impossible to find expert translators and interpreters for all language pairs, so efforts have been made to find alternative procedures. For example if there isn't Finnish/ Greek translator, English might be used as an intermediary language- or “interlingua”.

The media

they are the centre of everyday life and it had a special role in the spread of English. The press: the English language has been an important medium of the press for nearly 400 years. The nineteenth century was the period of greatest progress, thanks to the introduction of new printing technology and new methods of mass production and transportation. Newspapers has an important role in local communities both in international relationship: the most sold newspapers are

written in English; periodicals or publication about academics subject are often published in English. The first

advertising was in English and you can found them all over the world nowadays; English is used also by

international advertising bodies. English was also the first language to be transmitted by radio and the first

radio station were in US. Also television born in US, so broadcasting started its history with English

predominance. Nowadays, formats ad television programs are developed in English and then adapted for the

other countries. English has dominated also the cinema, it is unusual to find a movie in a language different

from English. The most important production are American and also the most famous film festival. Films are

not translated in some countries, so people have contacts with English. The major media towards English

has connected the world is popular music: the first recording industry were in US and the most famous

singers sing in English. Pop music were an important medium especially during the 60s, when it was used as

way to spread the voice of protest. In recent years, music can be listened everywhere and it is sometimes

the first contact with English.

International travel

The number of international travel has grown: each journey has immediate linguistic consequences and a

travelling trend and develop into a major influence. The leading tourism earner and spender in the USA and

tourist spots are commonly in English. English is used also as auxiliary language: most indications are in

English. The role of the military is difficult to evaluate, but the presence of British and US forces have brought

the inhabitants in contact with English speaking-culture.

International Safety

a special aspect of safety is the way that the language has come to be used as a means of controlling international transport operations, especially on water and in the air. As world travel has grown, more people and goods are being transported more quickly and simultaneously to more places than ever before. Radio and satellite systems have extended a communicative range. In such circumstances, mariners need to make their speech clear and unambiguous, to reduce the possibility of confusion in the sending and receiving of messages. The official use of English as the language of the International Aircraft control did not emerge until after the Second World War. The arguents in favour of a single language of air traffic control are obvious. It is safer if all pilots understand all conversations, they can learn about weather and traffic conditions from other pilots, without having to keep referring to air traffic control. Some authorities think that it may be more satisfactory to work towards improving the quality of English used by air personnel.


English is the medium of a great deal of the world's knowledge, especially in such areas as science and technology. A person is more likely to be in touch with the latest thinking and research in a subject by learning English than by learning any other language. Since 1960s, English has become the normal medium of instruction in higher education for many countries. The English language teaching (ELT) business has become one of the major growth industries around the world, in fact English is the chief foreign language taught in schools.


if a language is a truly international medium, it is going to be most apparent in those services which deal directly with the task of communication. But it's difficult to come by. Only on the Internet is it possible to develop an idea of how much of the world's everyday communications is actually in English. English has a dominant position in the use of Internet, and that because the first website was in English, and the first data on the net was developed in English alphabet.

The right place at the right time

in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries English was the language of the leading colonial nation (Britain). In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it was the language of the leader of the industrial revolution (Britain). In the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth it was the language of the leading economic power (USA). When new technologies brought new linguistic opportunities, English emerged as a first- rank language in industries which affected all aspects of society, such the press, advertising, broadcasting, motion pictures, sound recording, transport and communications. Two events have ensured English's global status:

  • the movement toward political independence, out of which English emerged as a language with special status in several new countries;
  • the other event was the electronic revolution, where here too English was in the right place (USA) at the right time.

Chapter 5: the future of global english

Speculating about the future of English as a world languages provides several possibilities. Its role could be

threatened only by a significant change in the balance of power or by the rejection of English by many

countries for political or economical reasons.

The future status of English must be connected to the future of the USA, because it was the country that has

permitted to English to achieve its role.

The rejection of English

people of a country feel so antagonistic or ambivalent about English that they reject the option to give English a privileged status, either as an official language or as a foreign language. If several countries were to begin thinking in this way, there could be a pendulum swing which would render the claim of global status less credible. In a post- colonial era, there should be a strong reaction against continuing to use the language of the former colonial power. A language is the most immediate and universal symbol of identity. People have a natural wish to use their own mother- tongue and they don't take kindly when the language of another culture is imposed on them. Many writers in the countries of the outer circle see themselves as facing a dilemma: if they write in English, their work will have the chance of reaching a worldwide audience; but to write in English may mean sacrificing their cultural identity.

Contrasting attitudes: the US situation

much of the power which has fuelled the growth of English during the twentieth century has stemmed from America. The country contains nearly four times as many mother- tongue speakers of English as any other nation. Concerning the political argument, the pro-official supporters consider English as an adhesive and the basis of American stability. The anti official promoters say that a English bill is unnecessary and they think that the use of a common language does not guarantee ethnic harmony. Concerning the socio-economic argument, the pro-official supporters are convinced that provisions for alternative languages are only a waste of resources; the antiofficial supporters says that a new bill is a waste of money. About educational issues, the pro-official

position says that there are too many teacher who have not a good level in English and pupils can not learn.

The anti-official position stress on the value of bilingualism as a part of child's learning experience, the

inadequate teacher are due to failure of government to provide financial support for learning resources;

moreover the official position of English could be a reason for elitism or discrimination.

New Englishes

English can be no more considered only British or American, because the spread of English has produced

the growth of the so called New Englishes. This situation has started when many English colonies gained

their independence: they continue to use English, but they distinguish their English from British English to

underline their new independence. New Englishes are a sort of dialects but in a larger scale.

When a community adopts a new language, there will be lexical creation to express the cultural background

of the region: this is the most different peculiarity of these new languages. We have differences in grammar

and phonology, but they are very little. For instances there are some differences in the order of the words in

a sentence.


Thanks to contact with other languages, we have a code switching: the process in which people depends on

two or more languages to communicate with each other. It has created mixed varieties of English, such as Spanglish or

Japlish. This phenomenon shows that New Englishes are not homogeneous, but mixed and complex.

The future of English as a world language

language is democratising institution. To have learned a language is immediately to have rights in it. Words become used less self-consciously in the national press (no longer being put in inverted commas). They come to be adopted, often at first with some effort, then more naturally. The contemporary view is to maintain the importance of Standard English Curriculum, is to maintain the importance of Standard English while at the same time maintaining the value of local accents and dialects. The intellectual basis for this policy is the recognition of the fact that language has many functions, and that the reason for the existence of Standard English is different from the reason for the existence of local dialects.


Date: 2015-02-03; view: 1169

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