Seven years ago, when I was living in the Netherlands, studying abroad for a semester of college, I remember seeing an old magazine in my school’s library. The main article for that particular issue was about how english
was quickly becoming the global language; the international standard with which the vast majority of 21st century industries would conduct their business
around the world. I skimmed through the lengthy article and the information I could glean from it confirmed my suspicions: that I was incredibly, incredibly lucky to be a native english
By that point of my life, I had taken three levels of spanish
, a semester of french
, and I was living in the Netherlands. Even so, english
was (and still is) the only language in which I felt comfortable speaking and writing…but from what I could understand, that was just fine: my course instructors in the Netherland didn’t even attempt to teach us Dutch. “You don’t need to know it,” they explained, “it’s not spoken anywhere else.” And they were right.
Everywhere I have visited, my linguistic-ignorance has never really been much of a problem; anyone I encounter is capable of speaking english
or can easily direct me to someone who is able to. When I spent a month volunteering in australia
, I stayed in several different places. I met young people from all over the world. It was fascinating to see them all, from very different countries, each communicating in their secondary language; using english
as a medium. The fact that they were able to speak so fluently and casually astounded me. I let them know how impressed--and how envious and embarrassed I was--that I myself was limited to just one language and could not even come close to imitating their native tongues.
This humiliating fact was a revelation for me at the time, but the trend has been noted and reported by professional linguists for some time. In the not-so-distant-past, The British Council remarked “by the twenty-first century, the number of non-native english
speakers has come to significantly outnumber the number of native speakers by a factor of three.”
This is due largely in part because of the British Empire’s imperialist regime during the last few hundred years. Where the english
, African territories—they brought their language with them. Under British rule, these territories were rapidly industrialized and became successful, profitable enterprises, when compared to other countries. To the victor go the spoils. So for this reason, english
is an official language of the United Nations, and other international organizations, as well as the official language of aerial and maritime communications.
With important social and political decisions being made in english
, it makes perfect sense that there would be such a high demand for english
to be taught as second language so extensively all over the globe. Everyone is looking to learn so they can compete in a global market, adding to english
’s pervasive nature and making it to most widely spoken language on Earth.
Graddol, David. 2006. english
Next. British Council. http://www.britishcouncil.org/learning-research-english
Seth Mydans (14 May 2007) "Across cultures, english
is the word" New York
Times. Retrieved 21 September 2011
^ "IMO Standard Marine Communication Phrases". International Maritime Organization. Archived from the original on December 27, 2003.
^ "ICAO Promotes Aviation Safety by Endorsing english
Language Testing". International Civil Aviation Organization. 13 October