English as a Global LanguageOf the six billion people world-wide only 350-400 million speak English. Why then is English considered to be the single most important language on our planet Earth?
A closer looker at this statistic will explain this discrepancy.. While a far greater number of people speak chinese, this language is largely limited to china itself. On the other hand, English is spoken globally. It is the native language in the united states
, Canada, the united kingdom, Australia, ireland, South Africa and New Zealand, as well as the official language of 25 smaller countries. In addition, over 700 million people speak English as a second or foreign language. It is interesting to note that more people speak or understand English in India than any other country in the world.
Historically the global spread of English is largely due to the influence of British colonialism especially in Asia and Africa where varying dialects hindered the development of a national language. The current agent that has made learning English more accessible to learn as well as more vital to know is the internet. The use of the English language continues to spread globally and to grow steadily through the use of the internet.
Today English is the accepted language for communication between international governments in organizations such as the United Nations, and the European Free Trade Association. Approximately 80% of international business communication is conducted in English. English is the primary means of communication in the areas of global education, science and technology, engineering, construction, news and media such as movies, music and modern literature. Global financial and major stock exchange transactions are conducted in English. English is the means of communication of the maritime industry and international flights. Success in the hospitality and tourism industry is dependent on knowledge of the English language.
The ability to speak, write, read and understand English can broaden one?s world and opportunities in it, especially in today?s competitive job market. For example in rural southern United States a growing number of professional engineers, physicians and Catholic priests have names we cannot pronounce as in influx of English speaking immigrants join our work force to meet our growing demands.
Courses in universities throughout the world are taught in English. Speakers of foreign languages are required to pass an examination for admission to these institutions. Also many textbooks especially in math, science and engineering are written in English. While travelling in italy recently, I observed that the young college student seated beside me was studying from an English mathematics text. He explained to me that even though he was attending an Italian university, many of the texts are written in English.
At least some knowledge of English can make world-wide travel in our ever shrinking world less threatening and more enjoyable. Last year while attending school in italy, I was able to communicate with international students in our common language of English. Remote areas in which English is not spoken are less likely to attract tourism. For example, American tourists are attracted to Rome, Florence and Venice not only because of the rich cultural experiences (and oh-so good food!) but because ?English is spoken here?. Southern italy also offers many rich experiences but tourists are less likely to book a reservation at a bed and breakfast no matter how charming if English information is not available on-line or the person on the other end of the phone does not speak English.
As the world becomes ?smaller?, the need to communicate in a common language becomes greater. However, in my opinion an individual who has the ?good? fortune to be born in a country where English is the native language (e.g. The United States) can benefit from expanding his or her mind by learning a foreign language and acquainting him or herself with the richness and diversity of foreign experiences and culture.
As I reflect on my approaching role as an English instructor in southern italy, I plan to encourage my students to learn English for the many reasons sited in this paper. At the same time I will honor their culture and encourage them to preserve their heritage while increasing the global opportunities available to them through the common language of English.