17 May 2010

The English Language, Uniting The World

The Guardian: How English erased its roots to become the global tongue of the 21st century
Already multinational in expression, English was becoming a global phenomenon with a fierce, inner multinational dynamic, an emerging lingua franca described by the historian Benedict Anderson as "a kind of global-hegemonic post-clerical Latin".

In The Last Word, his dispatches from the frontline of language change, journalist Ben Macintyre writes: "I was recently waiting for a flight in Delhi, when I overheard a conversation between a Spanish UN peacekeeper and an Indian soldier. The Indian spoke no Spanish; the Spaniard spoke no Punjabi. Yet they understood one another easily. The language they spoke was a highly simplified form of English, without grammar or structure, but perfectly comprehensible, to them and to me. Only now do I realise that they were speaking "Globish", the newest and most widely spoken language in the world."

This is the interactive, ever-changing world of global English. At the beginning of the 21st century, rarely has a language and its culture enjoyed such an opportunity to represent the world. In crude numbers alone, English is used, in some form, by approximately 4 billion people, one-third of the planet, and outnumbered only by the speakers of Chinese, approximately 350 million of whom also speak some kind of English.

Stories like this cause me to believe that efforts to promote multilingualism in the U.S. will fail, and why I am bewildered by those who fight making English our official language.

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