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Popular Languages, Their Dominance and Threats Essay



The world has a composition of individuals who have diverse languages based on factors like heritage, interactions with others, as well as religious inclinations. Notably, these factors have contributed to the dominance of some languages and the passiveness or redundancy of others. Some of the languages, which have dominated the globe, include English, German, French, Arabic, Spanish, and Mandarin. The languages have gradually gained popularity, and they are widespread across several countries of the world. The debate revolving around the popularity and demand for the languages concern the threat of extinction suffered by native dialects not envisioned among the popular languages. Various scholars have advanced debates regarding the need to look into the issue so that the native and diverse languages used in several countries do not disappear or become unimportant in the near future. It is within this backdrop that the essay discusses the popular and widespread languages, presents the arguments concerning their dominance, and concludes with a possible solution that can be useful in addressing the argument.

Widespread and Demanded Languages

English and German

Remarkably, English is top in the list of languages that are dominant and widespread across continents of the world. Jones notes that the total number of native English speakers in the world is 355 million (para 5). These native speakers of the English language comprise people who live in places like Canada, the United States, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Besides the native English speakers, there are millions of people across the world using English as their official language. The majority of the countries are on the African continent, parts of the United Arab Emirates, and parts of Europe. Khan et al. allude that in countries like Africa, English speakers are mainly former British colonies and, as such, chose to use the language in order to communicate successfully with them (225). A total estimate of the diverse and widespread English speakers can reach a billion making it one of the dominant and popular languages in the world.

Another widespread language spoken by millions of people around the world is German. Research by Pereltsvaig indicates that while 95 million people are native German speakers, the number of people who have learned the language triple the natives (68). Furthermore, the research indicates that about 144 countries train their students the German language in schools with the intent that by doing so, they enable them to access better opportunities in Europe and other parts of the world. In the United States, German is the fifth most popular language after English, French, Spanish, and sign language. Some of the countries, which have people who speak German as their second language include Argentina, South Africa, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Chile, Namibia, and Israel. Moreover, a sizeable number of German speakers, which exceed a million individuals, live in Brazil and the United States. Besides its dominance in the continent, German is also among the languages adopted and used by the United Nations during conferences (Ginsburgh et al. 334). Although German dialects demonstrate some scale of variation across countries, individuals can still overcome diversity and communicate.

French and Arabic

Although French remains the language that has reasonable popularity in the modern world, its demand is slowly declining. During historical times, French was one of the languages used by high-class individuals in society. Diplomats, scientists, and the educated used the language in several parts of Europe. However, after the Second World War, the French language came under a serious challenge from the English language. In as much as its demand is declining, French is still one of the major languages used in a number of countries globally. The main speakers of French who use the language as their native and first language comprise individuals living in France. Besides the native speakers, there are millions of people in the Ivory Coast, Congo, Central African Republic, and Senegal formerly colonies of France who use French as their second and official language. According to Pereltsvaig, the current number of people who speak French as the first language and those who use it as their second language is 220 billion (91). The speakers spread across Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Europe.

Another language that ranks among the top in the list of widespread languages is Arabic. With its foundations in the Middle East and the Arabian regions, the language has gradually spread to other parts of the world. Currently, Arabic is the leading and widely spoken language in several parts of Africa. Moreover, the use of the language spans across Europe, with its users, mainly being individuals who profess the Islamic religion. Studies from scholars like Ginsburgh et al. reveal that the Arabic language stands at the fourth position in terms of its geographical coverage and use (347). In effect, the popularity of the language is simultaneous with the rise of the Islamic religion. Due to the need to understand the Arabic language in order to be a Muslim, the rise of the Islamic religion across the world translated into an increase in the number of people who use the language. A look at the countries, which speak Arabic, evidences the fact that it has a close relationship with the Islamic religion.

Spanish and Mandarin (Chinese)

Fundamentally, Spanish is also one of the highly demanded languages across the globe. With 400 million native speakers, Spanish is the second popular among the widely spoken languages of the world (Paris 37). Its penetration into more than 20 countries in South America and Europe makes it the third in the ranking of popularity and geographical distribution just after English and Mandarin. Although the language originated in Spain, many speakers in South America speak the language fluently and use it as their first language. In the United States, people who speak Spanish exceed 40 million making the country one that has the highest number of Spanish speakers alongside Mexico (Ginsburgh et al. 352).

The dominance of the Spanish language in the United States took effect after the entry of the Spanish into the country in the early stages of its establishment. As such, Hispanic populations in the United States and in South America are mainly Spanish speakers. Pereltsvaig asserts that the popularity of Spanish is evident even on the internet, where a leading number of people use the language to share their posts and exchange ideas (83). Moreover, language is one of those chosen as official and useful in the United Nation’s conferences (Ginsburgh et al. 334).

Mandarin is a popular language that has over 1 billion speakers closely followed by the English language. Notably, a majority of Mandarin speakers are people who live in China, where the language has its foundations. However, with the rising economy of China and the spread of Chinese communities across the world, Mandarin is slowly gaining popularity and geographic distribution. Su explains that presently, Chinese populations constitute about 100,000 individuals in Africa, 6 million in the American continent, and 2 million in Europe (part 4). Therefore, it is likely to find Mandarin speakers in almost all parts of the world. Moreover, due to the growing economy of China, many people are learning Mandarin dialect so that they enjoy untapped opportunities in the region. In the United States, Chinatowns have populations that speak the language, hence making the country one of the places where Mandarin has thrived significantly.

The Argument

Over the recent past, a debate emerged concerning whether the threat posed by popular and widespread languages that comprise English, German, French, Arabic, Spanish, and Mandarin should replace the smaller dialects. A research conducted by Khan et al. indicates that the popular languages are slowly replacing smaller dialects (118). The threat posed by the dominant languages is complex and has led to a diminishing relevance of the dialects used by societies. Gradually, these societies have started believing that the popular and widespread languages are more important than their dialects. It is out of the increasing popularity of some languages that scholars engage in a complex debate on whether the dominance should continue or whether native dialects should be prioritized over foreign languages. Those promoting continued dominance and popularity of widespread languages over the native dialects argue that dominance improves communication and helps in the development of diplomatic relationships. On the other hand, the class of scholars who believe that the native dialects should be retained claim that retention of native languages boosts the cognitive development of individuals and sparks innovation.

Embrace the Widespread Languages and Compromise Native Languages

Embracing popular languages and using them in day-to-day activities is one of the standpoints held by proponents of the argument. The proponents state that by encouraging the use of languages such as English, German, Arabic, French, Spanish, and Mandarin, societies increase their opportunities in employment, trade, tourism, and other sectors of human life. Some of the benefits presented by scholars who advocate for the respective school of thought include improved communication and enhanced diplomatic relationship among states.

Improved Communication and Enhanced Diplomatic Relationship

When societies adopt and use the widespread language universally accepted by several countries, the level of communication improves. It is important to note that communication only takes place if the other party understands the message conveyed. Therefore, in the absence of a unifying language, which several individuals across the globe understand, communication fails to materialize. As such, proponents argue that it is in order for societies to lay lots of emphasis on the popular languages and use them so that the quality of communication between them and their counterparts in foreign countries improve.

Enhanced diplomatic relationships comprise another benefit enjoyed by societies when they adopt and use popular languages. When two or more nations communicate using one language such as English, their interaction becomes easy. Therefore, they can relate well and create diplomatic relations, which foster their wellbeing. Ginsburgh et al. assert that associations like the United Nations, the African Union, and the Commonwealth of Nations have only become successful due to the presence of popular and unifying languages (334). These languages enable individuals from various nations to communicate and enact treaties that enhance diplomatic relationships. Proponents affirm that in the absence of these languages, diplomats and professionals from Australia, Africa, Europe, Asia, North, and South America will not communicate effectively. Due to the absence of communication, the diplomats and professionals will not enact policies that promote peaceful coexistence of individuals in their respective countries.

Compromise the Popular Languages in Favour of Native Languages

Another school of thought concerning the debate on the threat of popular languages is the promotion of native dialects. Remarkably, researchers who advocate for the notion explain that when people learn and get insights in a culture that uses native dialect, the quality of education acquired is original in all contexts. According to Pharies, several children in the United States begin their education by first learning the English language, a factor that hampers the quality of learning among the students (51). It is in the same vein that scholars promote the essence of using native dialects to train individuals in societies on various aspects of life and education. To coin their argument, those who promote the issue claim that use of native dialect to train individuals has the ability to improve the cognitive wellbeing of individuals and spark innovation.

Improve the Cognitive Well-Being and Spark Innovation

Scholars who champion for the use of native dialect as opposed to popular languages elucidate that native dialects help people to adapt quickly to the society and orient themselves with the environment. Notably, the challenges faced by individuals when they adopt foreign languages comprise loss of authenticity and the absence of resonance with the environment. Principally, each continent has a unique set of flora and fauna as well as lifestyles complete with a dialect that envisions all the components. However, when a popular language from a foreign land takes the place of native dialects, some terms disappear. Consequently, proponents of the argument state that the use of native dialect sparks innovation. The argument regarding innovation and its relationship with the use of native language is compounded by the economic progress witnessed in Asia soon after they embraced their native dialects (Su para 4). Fundamentally, those who oppose the use of popular languages claim that when people learn in their native dialects, they get the actual message and try to convert the information into a physical product.


The debate concerning the dominance of widespread languages and the threat that they pose on native and smaller dialects has been ongoing for a number of decades. Proponents who support the promotion of popular languages hinge their arguments on the benefits accrued from the language. Subsequently, those against the notion claim that native dialects promote the cognitive development of a person and spark innovation. From a close assessment, both sides of the argument have well-founded evidence supporting their claims. As such, it is important to look for a solution that incorporates the benefits of both sides and harmonizes the argument. Promotion of a training system that combines native and foreign dialects is one of the possible solutions that can address the challenge. Countries can create an educational system, which combines the two dialects so that the individuals are in a position of using foreign languages as well as their native dialects. A well-instituted education system that combines the two languages is useful in minimizing the threat posed by popular languages and equally increasing the gains earned from the native dialects.

Works Cited

Ginsburgh, Victor, et al. “Foreign Language Learning and Trade.” Review of International Economics, vol. 25, no. 2, 2017, pp. 320-361.

Jones, Paul. Mental Floss, 2015, Web.

Khan, Muhammad Tariq, et al. “Languages in Danger of Death-And their Relation with Globalization, Business and Economy.” International Journal of Information, Business and Management, vol. 7, no. 2, 2015, pp. 107-239.

Pereltsvaig, Asya. Languages of the World: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Pharies, David A. A Brief History of the Spanish Language. University of Chicago Press, 2015.

Su, Qui. Thought Co, Web.

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