RUSSELL INNS discusses whether global English is good for the world

Whether English is a ‘killer’ language or good for the world  is a debate that has been studied by linguists following its spread across the world. Crystal (2003) suggested some time back that there are roughly 750 million speakers of some form of the English language with official status in a number of foreign countries. There is no doubt that English is a global language due to its recognition in almost, if not every, country in the world. It is however causing the ‘death’ of many other languages due to its importance in politics, the fact that the majority of the world has accepted the language and through the British Empire’s colonisation of the world. Is this a good thing however? Personally I believe it is a totally irrelevant question. Whether it is good for the world or not, there is nothing anyone can do to stop the fact it is a global language. Graddol (2007) explores the claim that it is ‘economically beneficial’ for people to learn the language. It is also vital in international safety such as air traffic control along with other international communication in politics and it’s the language used in the United Nations. It is also important to note that pop culture including music and film are predominantly in English, again spreading the use of the language. I’m not saying it is good that other languages are dying, but I believe that English as a global language is now a necessity. Crystal (2002) suggests that “50% of the 6000 languages used today will be gone in 100 years” a point which is supported by other linguists, but is this a bad thing? Obviously it is a shame that people are losing their language and with it a part of their culture and history. However the suggestion that people lose their “identity” after losing their language is not a view I share. I would like to think that there is more than just the language I speak that makes up my “identity” and I believe it is a quite extremist view to suggest that.

I must admit though that my views are from someone that already speaks the English language and global English is all I have ever known. I personally cannot imagine any different and certainly cannot imagine having to learn another language to simply be offered equal chances. The views are also of somebody that has had the joy of listening to and being able to understand some of the best music in the history of mankind in the form of the Arctic Monkeys, The Beatles and Johnny Cash. The language has also allowed me to understand the witty humour of comedians Lee Mack, Frankie Boyle and Michael McIntyre, so perhaps I may be being a little biased? I could also never imagine speaking in any other language with a lovely broad West Midlands ‘yam yam’ accent. The Spanish ‘Cómo estás?’ for ‘how are you?’ could never replace my ‘how am ya?’ could it?!

RUSSELL INNS,  English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK

References

Crystal, D. (2002) Language Death. 2nd Edition. Cambridge: University Press.

Crystal, D. (2003) English as Global Language. 2nd Edition. Cambridge: University Press.

Graddol,  D. (2007) Global English, Global Culture? In: S, Goodman, D, Graddol & T, Lillis  (eds.) Redesigning English. London: Routledge, pp 243-279.

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2 thoughts on “RUSSELL INNS discusses whether global English is good for the world

  1. Claire Gilder says:

    Ha Russ! You do make me laugh! I’m sure that people in other countries share you view regarding cultural identity in terms music & comedy.. It would be pretty hard to imagine for example hearing ‘opera’ in any language other than Italian. Equally it would be bizarre to hear Alex Turner talking about fighting & drinking in Mandarin Chinese! I think we all need a global language to communicate on a world stage (as you say, luckily for us that is English). But there is no reason that within their own countries, languages can’t thrive & be an important culturally in terms of identity & the arts. it would be a pretty boring world if we all looked &sounded the same!

  2. Ethan Newton says:

    Hi Russ, there are some good points you have made in your blog and i find it hard to disagree with them, particularly the point about the ‘necessity’ of English as a global language. Indeed it is hard to watch as many languages die along with the subsequent cultures that came with them. However i will make a point that may seem controversial, is this not how we evolve as human beings by discarding with the ‘deadwood’, and thus transcend to a higher state? So why should we scrutinise this flourishing langauge? Would making any attempt to halt the advancement of English do any good to the world? I think it would send us back decades, subsequently another language (Mandarin for instance) may take over as the ‘new’ global langauge.
    So why bother disrupting the status quo and let’s allow English to flourish, in time the stigma of English as an elitist privilege will disappear and thus we will have a world united under one language, this may seem like a very utopian perspective but it is just my opinion (however Arctic Monkeys would not be classed with the greatest musicians in my utopia).

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