Global English: ‘Vampire or provider’? asks OLIVIA STANYER

Crystal (2000: 19) estimates that one language dies every two weeks, but is this because of the spread of English? Yes, English is becoming a global language and up to a billion people in the world speak some form of it (depending how you define ‘English speaker’) but globalisation and the subsequent impact on language is seen as something that is unavoidable.   Ceramella (2012: 12) states that “[…] though all languages naturally continue to change, English, without taking into account the historic and economic reasons involved, is just seen as a ‘vampire language’, both for the way it feeds on other tongues and contaminates them in turn”. However, he feels that people should just accept that English is becoming the future language of the world.

According to Raine (2012), “[t]he fact that English now belongs to ‘everyone or to no one’ (Wardhaugh 1987) would seem to imply that English will maintain its position as the global dominant language throughout the 21st century and beyond”, thus, showing other languages are potentially threatened by English and because those who have power (e.g. politicians and the educated) are using English, individuals feel that they are having to use English to fit in.

When the question arises of why English has been made an official language, Crystal (2003: 110) claims that “one of the most important reasons is always education”, allowing individuals to further their career aspects. For example, an Egyptian trainee secretary can increase their pay by nearly ten times when they have finished learning English (Crystal 2010: 370).

On the other side of the debate, it is believed that English is not a killer but an influence on other languages. For example, Bryson (2009: 2) shows how English is influencing other languages and assisting in their development: “[…] French motorists going away for a weekend break pause for ‘les refuelling stops’, Poles watch ‘telewizja’ […] and the Japanese go on a ‘pikunikku’ ”. In addition, for the purpose of this debate, I interviewed my Welsh housemate and asked her views on this topic. She stated that she would not give up her mother tongue for the use of English as she is passionate about her own language and feels so strongly about it. She only uses English for the means of communicating with her friends she has in England, to watch TV and listen to music.

I personally feel that English is not killing other languages, it just so happens that it has become “the most global of languages, [and] the lingua franca of business, science, education, politics and pop music” (Bryson 2009: 2). It allows people to further their careers without forcing countries to stop using their mother tongue. However, I have only ever learnt English and have never needed nor been forced to learn another language fluently in order to communicate, so I suppose that this is one of those debates where most people sit on the fence.

If people really wanted to save their own languages and not let English become this ‘killer’ language it is portrayed to be, then surely they should do something about it? Alternatively, people choose to shift the blame onto the English language and use words such as ‘killer’ and ‘vampire language’, which I feel are a little too strong. We do not know in hundreds of years’ time what the language of the future will be, the possibilities are endless! As Crystal states, English is just “a language which has repeatedly found itself at the right place at the right time” (2003: 110). Perhaps instead of seeing the worst of this situation, we should surely be encouraging it?

OLIVIA STANYER, English Language undergraduate, University of Chester, UK


Bryson, B. (2009). Mother Tongue. United Kingdom: Penguin Books.

Ceramella, N. (2012) Is English a Killer Language or an International Auxiliary? Its Use and Function in a  Globalised World. International Journal of Language, Translation and Intercultural Communication. [online], 1 (1) [Accessed 19th January 2015] pp. 9-23. 

Crystal, D. (2000) Language Death. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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

Crystal, D. (2010) The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Language. 3rd edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.    

Raine, P. (2012) ‘Why is English the Dominant World Language?’ [Accessed 20 January 2015]. 

Wardhaugh, R. (1987) Languages in Competition: Dominance, Diversity and Decline.  Oxford: Blackwell.






One thought on “Global English: ‘Vampire or provider’? asks OLIVIA STANYER

  1. Rich Kelbrick says:

    Hi Olivia,

    You have made some very good point throughout your blog entry, and I agree with your view that English has been harshly described by those who refer to it as a ‘killer’ or ‘vampire’ language.
    Whilst I can understand your Welsh friend’s pride in her native language, especially such a historically rich one which should be preserved as it is, I also admire her acceptance of the English language as a tool for communication with her English friends. However, as you have stated, it is difficult for English speakers such as ourselves to truly understand the experience of being a native speaker of a lesser-dominant language, as I, like you, have never HAD to learn another language for any reason.

    Furthermore, I agree with Bryson’s sentiments regarding English as a lingua franca for entertainment, music, politics, business and education, and I feel that the status of English of a lingua franca is perhaps the main reason why the language may be considered as ‘killer’ or a ‘vampire’ language by some, for instance those who may feel that the dominance of English in these fields has led to a saturation or ‘dumbing down’ of said fields and areas.

    Overall, I believe that more non-English speakers should be like your Welsh friend, and continue to proudly and frequently use their lesser-known language whilst also accepting and embracing the English language. After all, if it wasn’t for the English language then you probably would not be such good friends, as communication would more than likely be a painstaking, fruitless experience for you both. Simply put, the English language has allowed you to build a friendship with a native Welsh speaker, something which would not be possible otherwise. Not bad for a ‘vampire language’!

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