English is slowly yet steadily becoming number one contender for international language. But what are the reasons behind this phenomenon and what historical and economical events boost this process even nowadays?
To begin with, let’s start this article in a way fitting for a nice bed-time story. Once upon a time there was The British Empire, which spread its lands over almost a quarter of the world’s surface. A famous saying “the sun never set on The British Empire” is referring to this exact situation, which is considered to be the main historical condition, that contributed to the popularity of English language all across the globe. Naturally, mercantile traders and industrious travelers, brave soldiers and religious pilgrims played the crucial part in this process, spreading the English language far and wide. In addition, several states of America banned the teaching of foreign languages in private schools and homes to preserve their cultural identity and political unity. It may come as a shock, but the ban was lifted by The Supreme Court as late as 1923.
Secondly, let’s skip quite a chunk of history and fast-forward to post-world-war-II era. The USA is gaining financial domination over slowly rebuilding Europe and actively radiates its media masterpieces all over the world. Rock and roll, jazz, disco and so on are undeniable trademarks of American culture, which comes hand in hand with English. I say “a movie” and you see The Hollywood Sign smiling at you with its white capital letters. The cherry on top were British bands like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones that popularized the English language even more.
Next stop — modern days. Western world in general, and Silicon Valley in particular, is an undeniable technological and scientific center of international society. For example, take any of your favourite devices, flip it and simply read what it says in small or not-so-small letters: it may have been assembled in China, but this statement is nonetheless is still written in English. Less palpable, but still a solid example is the Internet — while it may look like virtual Babylon, when it comes to international communications every single user will prefer to speak English, rather than to study several different languages to understand others, and that is completely reasonable.
Another reason is that English language is a perfect case of Bushnell’s law — it is easy to learn, but hard to master. If you want to know some basic structures just to get by while traveling — English is your best bet. If you strive for more and wish to dive deeper into convoluted grammar and ambiguous vocabulary — English still got your back. Everyone can find an appropriate level of English to satiate their appetite, from international salesman to housewife. This feature of English gave birth to the concept of English as a lingua franca, which represents the perspective of the English language as international communication tool,that is constantly shaped by non-native speakers. In layman’s terms, ELF is a combinations of traditional English grammar and vocabulary with any other language, that participants of a conversation both fluent in. ELF emphasizes on communicative efficiency, the main goal is to get the message across, not to follow strict rules and limitations, which are established in, for example, British English.
The last reason, despite sounding somewhat immature, is that the English language is cool. It’s popular and widely used in advertisements or to describe modern trends. Your favourite company’s motto is most likely in English, that awesome skateboard trick’s name, you saw someone doing recently, can not be translated without losing some certain charm, those trending Twitter hashtags will be remembered in their original state, untranslated.
To sum up, I’d like to finish this article with a joke, which illustrates the downsides of increasing popularity and globalization in an exaggerated manner. It’s a short fictional story about hardships of The European Commission which tried to harness the English language.
The European Commission has announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU, rather than German, which was the other contender. Her Majesty’s Government conceded that English spelling had room for improvement and has therefore accepted a five-year phasing in of «Euro-English».
In the first year, «s» will replace the soft «c». Sertainly, this will make sivil servants jump for joy. The hard «c» will be dropped in favour of the «k», Which should klear up some konfusion and allow one key less on keyboards.
There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome «ph» will be replaced with «f», making words like «fotograf» 20% shorter.
In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent «e» is disgrasful.
By the fourth yer, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing «th» with «z» and «w» with «v».
During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary «o» kan be dropd from vords kontaining «ou» and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters. After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and everivun vil find it ezi to understand ech ozer. ZE DREM VIL FINALI COM TRU!