Business Notes: International Awareness & Ethics – History of English

Why English? English is a cultural foundation, we don’t realise how lucky we are to have guardianship of the English language. It is argued that the English language is so dominant as a result of the English empire during which we owned 3/4 of the earth.

As a result of so many people speaking English, it helps and hinders our international relations. For instance over 80% of the Dutch speak fluent English however the majority of English people are rubbish at speaking other languages sometimes to the extent of being ignorant and just simply expecting to go to other countries and for those people to speak English instead of their own language. This also extends into the media as in the case of ‘if it isn’t in English we aren’t interested’. This could be why international safety instructions default language is English.

It is thought that everyone learns English and this stems back to the 1980’s before the EU single market the Japanese wanted to learn English as they thought ‘If we’re going to sell to these people we meed to be able to speak to them’.

The whole thinking of the English language probably comes down to ‘the right place at the right time’. We decided to invade and build our empire at the right time. It was especially fortunate that the British Empire was the one that was most powerful when the world started to mechanise.

English is a global language as a result of the speakers; however not to do with the number of speakers but who those speakers are such as politicians from all over the world speaking English. Power also influences the global language and what it is for example Latin was a global language during the Roman Empire (when the Roman military power declines, Latin remain as the international language due to a different sort of power: the ecclesiastical power of Roman Catholicism. Other influences on the global language includes political and military, economic, technological, and cultural power. Therefore English has become a global language as a result of the British Empire and it’s past influences on the world alongside current politicians using it who are from all over the world among many other reasons. There are several problems associated to having a global language one of these being that those who have such a language as a mother tongue will be more able to think and work quickly in the language and to manipulate to their advantage. Also a global language will hasten the disappearance of minority languages; the danger that some people will celebrate one language’s success at the expense of others.

Why do we need a global language? It is important to have a global language particularly when people  are using different languages as they need a ‘lingua franca’ to communicate: e.g. a pidgin, a simplified language adopted by several ethnic groups along the West African coast to do trade. Mandarin Chinese (an indigenous lang.) emerged as a ‘lingua franca’ among the Chinese because it is the language of the most powerful ethnic group. International academic and business communities need a ‘lingua franca’ to communicate: e.g. to converse over the Internet between academic physicists in Germany, Italy, and India, or to discuss a multinational deal involving the Japanese, German, and the Saudi Arabian businessmen.

So what is the future of global English? It is possible that the English language is rejected because it isn’t the easiest language to learn. It could also be bad for us due to contrasting issues particularly with the US. This is as a result of the Americans not being very popular and we also see them as being dangerous. This reflect badly on us as they are seen as being unpopular and speaking English (Not a good mix for promoting the use of the language!).

We are now in a critical era because 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.Therefore if the English language is to survive it is important that it is protected therefore governments should allocate resources for language planning, whether to promote English or to develop the use of other languages in their community (or, of course, both).

– Esjae


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