Now, let's think about it rationally. If we were designing a global language, what would be our criteria? Obviously, we would want to start with linguistic structures that would be easy to describe to all new learners. So, a grammar and spelling that makes consistent sense would be important. Perhaps we would want to insist on an alphabet that made pronunciation painlessly easy. That would be, all the characters would always be written the same and pronounced the same in every situation.
Wait a minute! This does not sound like my english
language. So, what is this talk about english
being “universal” or “global?” But, we do have do acknowledge that english
, in spite of all its quirks and illogical structures, is being recognized as just that. For better or worse, people with all backgrounds are looking to add english
to their repertoire.
I think we can best look at this phenomena as a matter of practicality. No matter where you live, or how you hope to make your living in the future, you are beginning to see the more rapid crossover of cultures in all areas. There has long been entertainment, in english
, be it music, film, television, or print. The spread of this english
-based popular culture can't be denied, even among peoples and in areas where you might think that it could never penetrate. In the year 2000, my daughter spent two months in Sri Lanka doing research for a thesis in sociology. Yes, she had many interesting stories about living among the Tamils on the East coast of the island. Most interesting among her observations was how the 12-15 year old Muslim girls didn't really speak much english
as a way of communication, but they did know all the lyrics to all of Britney Spears' songs.
So, is this how a culture and language spreads? In a word, yes! Western Europe's and America's forays into all areas of the world, whether it is for the purpose of marketing Coca Cola, or Ford cars, as put our language on display and promoted it as the one to use for the future of international travel, commerce, and understanding.
In times past, when there were other commercial and political leaders in the forefront of the expansion of civilization, there were other languages that made those inroads. Portuguese, spanish
, Dutch, among the Western languages, have all been in this position. english
, however, has gained a momentum that those others never had. The shrinking of global communications has pushed english
as the primary language of science, flight, computers, and travel out into the world.
Don't get me wrong. There is nothing jingoistic in my promotion, right now, of english
as the Global language. Yes, I can believe that these things will and can change. Honestly, I think we should all be studying chinese
. Although this sounds like heresy, and maybe not realistic for those of my generation, I wonder if we shouldn't be encouraging our kids
, and their kids
, to take a look at where the next “global” language phenomenon will come from.