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Global English refers to the use of English language as the main means of communication, irrespective of its dialects. It also implies the process of using the English language as the standard mode of communication among global communities. Alternatively referred to as common English, general English, or universal English, global English implies the collective varieties of English language that people speak across the word. While studying how global English has spread across the word, differentiation of its dialects such as the American English, Australian English, and Britain English among others is important.
The need to facilitate trade has led to the deliberate universal spread of the English language. Although global English may suggest the standardisation of the language as a means of communication across the globe, there lacks consensus towards such a possibility. Although there have been proposals on how to internationalise English to ensure its higher accessibility among people from different nations, some steps such as the development of Basic English have incredibly failed. Major challenges emerge in the process of harmonising spellings and pronunciation of words. As the paper reveals, irrespective of the dialect, the number of people who speak the English language across the world continues to rise.
People who Speak English across the World
English constitutes one of the major languages that are spoken around the world. Yoshikawa (2005, p.354) states that it is spoken in nations such as ‘the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and various Caribbean, and Pacific island nations.’ Indeed, English has been declared the national language in countries such as Singapore, Pakistan, Philippines, and some sub–Saharan African nations that include Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda among other nations. However, in these nations, it does not imply that 100% of the population can fluently communicate in it.
Thus, determining the exact number of its speakers across the globe is problematic. While the census figures in nations where it is widely spoken may provide a more accurate approach to determining the precise number of its speakers, such figures approximate the population size. Nevertheless, not all people in the above-mentioned nations speak in it.
From the above expositions, all attempts to determine the number of English speakers across the word involves making approximations. Ethnologue (2015) informs that by 2014, English language had about 400 million speakers in 8 nations among them the US, South Africa, New Zealand, and the UK. Saville-Troike (2006) approximates that about 1.4 billion people speak English. Approximately 950 million individuals speak it as a second language while about 427 million are its native speakers. Why do people converse using the language?
People speak English to exchange ideas, opinions, feelings, and any other aspect of expression. The idea that people use English because of higher probabilities of getting the audience to understand it encounters immense criticism. For example, Saville-Troike (2006) claims that no statistical findings have been established to indicate precisely that the English language is the most spoken language across the globe. However, globalisation has led to the transfer of different cultures across societal and national boundaries. Language is one element of culture. Therefore, through the consumption of foreign products and services that come with globalisation, people often learn new languages, including English.
Causes of the Global Spread of English
English has now spread across the globe so that the number of individuals who use it as a second or foreign language overshadows its native speakers (Jenkins 2006; McKay 2003). As Widdowson (1997) admits, English has developed into an intercontinental language. What has caused this spread? Is the global spread of English deliberate? These questions are important in the analysis of how English has spread to become an international language.
Jenkins (2006) and Bolton (2005) reveal how Braj B. Kachru’s model of three concentric circles of the English language can be deployed to explain well how the language has spread. Caine (2008, p.2) says that the model summarises the elements that define the stretch of English, including chronological, sociolinguistic, attainment, and fictitious aspects. Kachru’s model demonstrates how English spreads in a number of phases.
The first phase entails its spread that was witnessed in nations such as the British Isles, Ireland, and Scotland during the 16th and 17th centuries. The second phase followed thereafter through the spreading of the language in Australia, New Zealand, and North America. In the third phase, namely that Raj phase, the language spread in regions where its speaking communities had not existed before such as Asia and East Africa. This extension gave it a cross-cultural attribute so that it became a pluralistic language.
Although English language now spreads deliberately through advent of globalisation, it was not deliberate in the 18 and 19th century. For example, people from English-speaking communities colonised non-English speaking communities. In the process, the colonised individuals learned the language of their master. Apart from making it possible to communicate with their masters, learning the coloniser’s language was an indication of civilisation in some communities. This observation was the case in Asia and East Africa (Saville-Troike 2006). Even in the US, people deliberately learn the language for them to fit in different systems, including the US education system. In the global age, products that are accessible via the global platforms are availed to one common market, namely the global market.
Beneficiaries of the Global English
The global spread of English has benefited many international societies. Business people build their businesses’ competitive advantage around selling to people from multicultural backgrounds. In the trade relationships, they require a medium of communication. The wide prevalence of English in global societies means that these businesses have ease of access to international consumers. However, if success in the global markets depends on the ability to communicate in an international language, the degree of success in the markets depends on the level of accessibility of its learning. Thus, consistent with Master’s (1998) view, the main beneficiaries of the global spread of English are people who have the quickest accessibility to its learning. These are mainly its native speakers.
Upon considering that English receives its reputation from forces such as globalisation of power, its spreading benefits people who support only the same school of thought. For example, anti-globalisation groups are against the erosion of indigenous culture through the globalisation of the English language and its native cultures. Bolton (2005, p.74) supports this assertion by adding, ‘fearing a Disneyfication of the world with a corresponding loss of local cultures, languages, and lifestyles, the spread of English is frequently regarded with scepticism’.
Although it is true that English has colonised other languages and that it is not deployed to achieve only communication functions, it denies its native speakers the power to regulate its spreading. Many people modify it while introducing it in their cultures. They want prestige that is associated with its internationality. In this process, its native speakers can export their cultures and cultural products. Ultimately, English native speakers are the major beneficiaries of the global spreading of English language.
How English got to where it is Today
The spread of English started with the imperialistic process of empire building that was being explored by Britain. Political, economic, and cultural progression of the US followed to define neo-imperialism. By 1922, Britain had the biggest empire in the world. It occupied about 25% of the total surface of the earth where it covered a population of more than 450 million (Saville-Troike 2006). In the colonies, the primary the objective of education system was to acquire the English language. Therefore, the economic and academic success of the colonised people depended mainly on the capacity of mastering the language (Phillipson 1992).
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When World War II ended, the colonised nations retained their dependence on the English language. They selected it as one of their national languages. Indeed, people who selected it were the products of the outgoing colonial regime education (Phillipson 1992).
This situation led to the dominance of English in more than 75 British colonies. After the attainment of sovereignty by the US and the disbanding of the Soviet Union, the United States became the only superpower across the world. In the 20th and 21st centuries, economic, political, and cultural influence of the US had been a major driver of prominence of the English language across the world. In the information-based global economy, more than 45 percent of websites had appeared in the English language by September 2012 where many of them were based in the US.
Today, China presents the only major threat to the proliferation of English as a global language through cultural, political, and economic influence of the US. However, distinct political, monetary, intellectual, or martial powers cannot foster the international spread of a language. For example, amid the enormous economic growth of Japan between 1960s and 1990s, Japanese never became a global language. Promulgation of a language into a global tongue requires the combination of cultural, economic, and political influence of its promulgators. It is on this account that Latin preceded English in its global spreading.
Advantages and Disadvantage of the Global Spread of English
The spread of the English language promises improvements in terms of communication across the globe. However, it limits the opportunity for running global businesses for people who get chances to learn English (Caine 2008). This capitalism has led to the viral spreading of the English language, especially as people from all linguistic backgrounds now compete in the global market. For them to reach global mass consumers, a common medium of communication is needed.
Consequently, such people look for ways of learning the most commonly used language in global communication. Therefore, the spread of global English has had positive effects in global trade through the reduction of language barrier problems. Nevertheless, not all people have had an opportunity to learn it. Hence, linguistic capitalism remains an enormous negative implication of the spread of global English. The global spread of English has the advantage of easing communication between its learners. It helps in business negotiations across the globe in the effort to drive economies. It also gives people who study languages an opportunity to make translations. However, it also presents disadvantages. Its massive spread has made many businesses adopt it in their operations. As such, the spread has led to the loss of value of some indigenous languages and hence cultural fragmentation.
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