Tuesday, May 8, 2007

The Globalization of English

On the weekend, I read a long but interesting article about the adavance of English and the effects it has on the language itself. I summed it up to hand it in, and I thought to myself: Why not put it in the blog? Why do the work twice? ;)
So here you are :)

At the moment, a global revolution is taking place in which more people than ever are learning English. This is because it has become the planet’s language for commerce, technology and also empowerment.

According to a recent report from the British Council, two billion people will be studying English and three billion people will speak it in ten years. Linguistically speaking, it is a totally new world. At the moment, there are more non-native speakers of English than there are native speakers; the ratio is 3:1. For the first time, there is a language that is being spoken by more people as a second language than as a first. In Asia, there are 350 million English-users, and this number equals the added-up populations of the USA, Great Britain and Canada. There are more Chinese children studying English than there are Britons. All these new English-speakers are not only using the language, they are also shaping it. The terms Japlish (mixture of Japanese and English) and Hinglish (mixture of Hindi and English) refer to new varieties of English that came into being all over the world. In South-Africa, many blacks have adopted their own version of English including many indigenous words.
Of course, all languages are work in progress but the globalization of English is a process the world has never seen before, a change whose effects we can only imagine. Experts talk about a future tri-English world in which speakers of English will speak a local dialect at home, a national variety at work, school or university and some kind of international Standard English to talk to foreigners. Since among the millions of English-speakers around the world there are relatively few native speakers, it is likely that students won’t learn Standard English but will be encouraged to embrace their own local versions. This can already be seen now: International pilots pronounce the number three as tree in radio dispatches, since tree is more widely comprehensible. It is very likely that in future, teachers will not only not correct pronunciation mistakes, but also mistakes like she look and a book who.

As a consequence of English’s advance, governments all over the world are pushing the language. Although many countries are not very fond of the it (i.e. France), they have realised that English, along with computers and mass migration, is the turbine engine of globalization. It is the language of business. If you want to have a good, well-paid job, you have to have a good command of the English language. That’s why English language schools are packed with men and women in their mid-twenties eager to learn English. Additionally, learners of English are getting younger and younger. Last year, schools in big Chinese cities began offering English in the third grade rather than middle school, and many parents send their preschoolers to English courses. Because of the English boom, schools are becoming more and more creative. Last year, South Korea built an English village on a small island with a fake bank and airport. There, students must conduct all transactions in English. The aim of this camp is to train capable global citizens who can promote South Korea all over the world.

Since English has become so important, it is no longer only a language. English is a business, and the traditional custodians earn a lot of money with “their” language. There is an amazing demand for English native speakers, and because demand exceeds offer, China and the Middle East turn to India for English teachers. English is being advertised like a product. Just like with every other product, there are more and less serious suppliers, and price and quality can vary.

But no matter where you learn it, and how much you pay for it: You have to learn it if you want to keep up.

And we do, since we knew all that before ;)


Lolossa said...

Hi Birgit.
I think you got something wrong. Did you rewrite the article, or did you copy-paste it?
I found an article on the subject, http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2005/03/07/the-globalization-of-english. It says "In a generation's time, teachers might no longer be correcting students for saying "a book who" or "a person which." " And you say it's the opposite, which would be contradictory.
Just FYI :)

Ms.M said...

hey, what's the source of this article? thanks