Is English a Universal Language?
Language is a spectacle that everyone views with the component that relates to their culture. In the past, it was religious standing, culture and the power of the country, aesthetic values of a language and the clarity of expression that could make some language a global one. That happened to Hebrew, Latin, Greek, French, and Arabic, which once were dominating in the world, or at least in certain parts of it. After the World War I, the turn of English to be international came. At that time, there was a strong need for a common language, and English was the most convenient to become universal language, or a lingua franca.
Today, the world population is about 7.2 billion; more than 350 million people speak English as the first language while 430 million use it as a second language. These figures demonstrate that English managed to achieve universal recognition and became indispensable, especially in communication in the economic and socio-political environment. Thus, the paper focuses on affirming that English is a global language. The work will first consider historical grounds for English popularity and then modern trends of its usage that have made it achieve the universal acceptance.
English, being a West Germanic language, comes from the Anglo-Frisian group brought to Britain in the 15th centuries by German traders and invaders. Consequently, the English language has evolved from multiple Englishes in the world. First, it is a product of Englishes from the Anglophone countries that include Canada, Australia, the United States, South Africa, and the United Kingdom. It also originates from local varieties of English that are spoken in Africa, the Caribbean, and India. In that regard, the concept of Englishes is rooted in the functional and social realities of the language (Momma & Matto, 2008). Only after the World War I, there occurred the need to consolidate different dialects and pronunciations of the English words from different Englishes, and the language achieved its universal recognition. The versatility of the language allows non-native speakers to use their local words and expressions, thus, combining culture and communication within the language. The evolution of English to a lingua franca status is attributed to the usage that it has received globally since its inception till the modern days.
The Allies of World War II were also contributors to the use of English. The effort the US made in lending its military supplies led to the defeat of the Germans, making English be associated with democracy. If Hitler was the winner of the World War II, the world today could be using German as the universal language. Conversely, the United States won, while its economy thrived (Berns, 2009). As a result, the country took a lead in forming institutions to reintegrate as well as reconstruct Europe, Japan and other countries in the world. In brief, through the United States, English-speaking nations exported their goods, culture, and goodwill.
Moreover, education, among other factors, has been at the forefront of the development of English, which is considered to be the language of the academic world. The drive to a world of intellects and the need to improve the financial status of one’s living has led everyone, including Africans, who were once considered savages, to pursue education. Today, learning English is not optional, but essential; to be specific, English is now the most taught language globally (Van Mulken & Hendriks, 2015). Many countries have included English in their curriculum often from elementary schools to other institutions. They understand the fact that English is becoming an international language spoken for diverse purposes; therefore, it must be incorporated in different institutions. Besides, these countries have made the language official distinguishing it as a priority subject in schools.
English literature forms a basis for the recognition of this language as a universal one. Even before the advent of the 17th century, lots of literature describing the war and how kings in England had conquered other kingdoms was in English. In fact, the most interesting fiction literature books such as the Heroic Fantasy by David Gemmell and the Gone series of books were all in English (Gu, Patkin, & Kirkpatrick, 2014). The English literature was easily understood because the diction and the interpretation of the language were easier as opposed to the literature works by other authors who wrote in Russian, French, or Spanish. Further, the works of William Shakespeare, specifically, his renowned short stories like Romeo and Juliet and sonnets, led to the popularity of the language, and later, to the global usage.
Furthermore, English, when became a language of commerce, started to develop intensively and to be globally used. It is an undisputable fact that English today is the language of business and financial transaction, and without knowledge of English, the entrepreneur’s business is bound to fail. The reason for the development of English in the business world is due to the changes in the economic spheres and the interaction of different merchants between the 15th and 18th centuries. The traders most often travelled to England and the United States where English was the first language, so they could not speak their own language freely there (Mauranen et. al, 2009). Thus, for the purpose of easy trading, the merchants who travelled in search of a market and other ideas to improve their business adopted English for easy communication. In today’s global economy that has large corporations, some of which are transnational ones, the foreign direct investment environment has embraced English due to its simplicity. For instance, in evaluating the currency markets and stock exchange in the global listed corporations like the McDonalds, English is chosen to ensure the effortless and easy flow of the information.
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As well as that, science and technology advancement has encouraged the development of the English language into lingua franca. Historically, scientists saw the need to harmonize the research language to one common language for all people to be able to benefit from the research results, inventions, new data that could be used for new discoveries. The war, due to which German and Austrian researches were not popular, was again the reason why exactly English became the language of the scientific world. As a result, today every scientist who wants to reach success in his or her own career is supposed to know English since it gives opportunities to study in the universities abroad, learn about new scientific methods, and take advantage of numerous databases on the internet, the majority of which are in English. Finally, the scholars who know this universally accepted language make personal professional scientific achievements and investments around the world by publishing English articles in international journals.
In conclusion, English is a vehicle for global human communication. It is the usage in various spheres that has provoked the development of English to the global levels. In the past, it was mainly applied for intellectual debate and religious discourse. However, today it incorporates technologies that are present everywhere in the world. The above facts demonstrate how English has achieved a genuinely global status. The language has a special role in the world as it is recognized by every nation. For some, it is their first language, for others, the second or foreign language. However, one cannot deny that English is a global language and will continue to be popular among people. This language has reached the point of popularity where no other language can reach its growth.