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