English as a global languageIn November 2010, Mr. Hiroshi Mikitani, President of the japanese
company Rakuten®, announced that by the year 2012, all operations at their headquarters in Tokyo will be done in English¹. To some, this news was a welcoming change, while to many others it spelled heartache. According to Mr. Mikitani, in order to survive in the global market place, English was ?essential?, as the company expands into more regions . This move by Mr. Mikitani and others like him brings to light the importance of English as it secures its place as the global language of choice.
A global language or lingua franca is a tool that is used to bridge the communication gaps that occur when people from different cultural backgrounds meet (Huntington 1996:61). According to the author Samuel Huntington, people pursue a second language for the purpose of trade, that is, for goods, services or information² (Huntington 1996:63). Since the main reason people trade is to make a profit (or to acquire benefits), it would make sense to do what is necessary to maximize one?s chances; learning the lingua franca, would give this necessary edge. It is for this reason that a japanese
company, like Rakuten® would make such a dramatic change in their operations.
As the world becomes increasingly global, the competition for capital and customers becomes more difficult² (Huntington 1996: 63). To have and to maintain the edge needed to survive in the global market place, it is important to know and use the global language. Many companies, like Rakuten®, do business with clients from all over the world for example: china
and these businesses are conducted in English. If companies want to attract more customers/clients it becomes necessary for them to adopt the global language. Also by adopting English as one of the languages of communication, these companies put themselves in a position to recruit skilled individuals from all over the world and not just from their base country.
With English playing such a major role in the global market place, many individuals find it necessary to acquire it as a second language. students
and professionals, who seek promotion or higher educational opportunities, make themselves more marketable by learning English. A speaker of English as a second language can gain entry into universities where English is the language of instruction. Likewise a professional who speaks English, can seek employment opportunities in an English speaking country/ work environment.
With such a high demand for acquiring English as a second language, so are the demands for teachers of English. Native as well as competent speakers of English are able to gain professionally as well as financially by becoming English teachers. Here in Japan, it is not uncommon for companies to hire English teachers to help prepare their staff for the global market place. Not only companies, but many individuals or groups look to native or competent speakers of English for their instruction.
The use of English has become so wide spread, that in almost all airports in non-english speaking countries
, signs in English as well as English speaking staff are available to provide the necessary services for travelers. In the area of tourism as well, many non-english speaking countries
, use English as one of the languages of communication within their hotels and areas of attraction. It is clear that having English as one of the languages of communication is an excellent way to attract more clients to the country.
The rise of English as a global language is an undeniable part of our reality today. Thanks to the internationalization of business, politics, science, technology
and entertainment, the status of English as a global language is indeed fact² (Huntington 1996:63). Coined as the language of the shopkeepers (business) long ago, English has indeed taken its rightful place as the language of trade.