English - the universal language of the world?

Brett from nomoreincumbents.org left an interesting comment on my last post:

You might ask yourself why you are communicating in English?

In the 17th century scientists initiated a new more logical and descriptive language. It does not utilize forms of the verb ‘be’ for example. It has not really taken off despite its logic and practicality.

It’s not the first time that the question pops up. Why am I communicating in English?

There are of course a lot of pretty good reasons:

  • It’s spoken, or at least understood, by more people than any other language, thus giving you the biggest audience.
  • Easy - I dig it. Ever since I heard my first Comedy Album in English (Denis Leary - No Cure for Cancer), I prefer American Comedians.
  • I watch TV series in English. That stimulates my imagination and my creativity almost automatically. A nice way to come up with new ideas.
  • My English is far from being perfect and I guess it will always be. I enjoy learning everyday. Should my English become too good, I might start learning Spanish or something like that.
  • There are a lot of creative ways to swear in English. As I already said, my fascination began with comedians, and George Carlin is responsible for a huge part of my vocabulary ;-).
  • I like the sound. This might appear silly to you, but I think American English sounds better than German (depends on the dialect, of course).

According to wikipedia roughly 1 billion people speak English as their first or second language, and another billion is learning English.

I never understood the need or desire for a constructed “world language”. English is simple to learn, fun to use and versatile enough to express every thought. With 1 bn speakers and 1 bn learners it’s also got a huge head start, that another language would have to make up for.

Is there a need for a universal language? Yes, a global economy in the information age actually could benefit from a language that’s spoken by a majority of the people. So, why make one up?

But what about the other languages? Don’t you think it is important to conserve the different cultures? Of course it is. No one wants English to be the official first language in every country. But what is wrong with teaching it as a second language? You will learn a hell of a lot more about other cultures, if you are able to talk about it.

I enjoy talking to people from all around the world. And the one thing that enables us to do so is the language we all speak, at least good enough to understand each other.

I’m interested in history - different times, different locations, different events, different people. So, don’t take it the wrong way when I say this:

English IS the universal language of the world.


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2 Comments

Comment by brettbum
2007-04-29 16:51:46

Great follow up article!

Don’t get me wrong I prefer English myself. There was a time not so long ago when French was more widely spoken and considered more universal. It eventually faded.

English is in fact one of the hardest languages in the world to learn. Its a cat 5 language as compared to Mandarin which is a cat 4.

It is the language of business today partially because it is so widely spoken, now. Partly also because it is rather blunt and doesn’t mess with sexual connotations or honorifics which do not always have any place in business.

From a comedy perspective I agree with you completely!

 
Comment by jdhatl
2007-05-03 10:50:55

Europeans are very good at learning the nuances of the language, frequently knowing grammar better than 99% of Americans (I’m sure the English are much better with that). I’ve met Europeans with fluent American English who had never been to the US. It is so widespread in the media that it’s hard not to learn it. Spelling is another matter, that’s a total disaster.

 

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