A Universal Language.. Hmmm?

English. That is what I assumed it would always be. You could generally survive in most metropolitan places in the world if you have some knowledge of English. You have access to ‘better’ education resources if you know English. The www is open to you if you know English. Hell, I am blogging in English! It was the language of commerce, the language of conquerers, and the language of conversion. But the key word is ‘was’. You would expect, in this global village of ours, where cultures intermingle and at times meld, that a common global language would gradually form (A Language of Wider Communication or LWC). But I feel we are somewhat further from that goal now than we were, lets say, 80 years ago.

The primary language of any civilization is generally the language of its rulers or conquerers. Being a colonized by the British means that we have the most influence from the English language. The sun may not have set on that Empire (until the war on Iraq maybe) but they no longer have the commercial and technological advantageous over the rest of the world, that they used to have. And yet, being the last ‘Empire’, it is their language that has the most recent influence on us (By ‘us’ I mean in specific, Sri Lanka, and to a more general extent, the rest of the world).

But, with the gradual economic, and military emergence of other nations, there has been a gradual shift away from focusing on one particular language, and instead a reverting to a country’s language roots. I do not believe this shift to be solely patriotic or functional. If you have been ruled or influenced by force, once you are liberated you try and erase any influences left by those that ruled you, and so the shift to retain as strongly as possible, a country’s identity. And one of its strongest points of identity is its language.

In 1958, 9.8 % of the word population spoke English whereas 15.6% spoke Mandarin. Now, even though Mandarin is spoken by a much larger percentage of people, it is largely due to the sheer population of China, unlike the English language which spread largely through trade, culture and religion which makes it more consequential. But as of 1992, while the percentage of Mandarin speakers has remained largely the same, English has dropped down to 7.6% with increases in those who spoke Arabic, Hindi and Spanish. Countries now try to put more focus on their own languages, now that they have their own systems of education, media and economy. Russian university students study in Russian, French for Universities in France, German for students in Germany, and so on. Books of study are no longer restricted to English. My Father-in-law had to study French and German to be able to complete his PhD. The English language is not a language for use between countries either. Chinese diplomats learn Hindi in preference to English to deal with their Indian counterparts.

But yet, English persists. Why?

I believe it has to do with a cultural and economic conquest as opposed to a military one. No matter how you abhor it, ‘Western’ culture is all pervading. Hollywood makes Western Culture cool. It glorifies freedom, money and entertainment. Sex, Drugs and Rock n’ Roll baby! The economy is richer. Its more free. That freedom and money is a liberation to people. And what you envy, you emulate.

Western languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, German and French) are spoken by 20.8% of the world, which is more than all the Chinese languages put together. Then consider how many people speak English as a second or third language. This shows the cultural /economic influence of the West. And as for education, good universities are still found in the west, and still teach in English. Text books are in English. Novels are in English. Most of the internet is in English. (Granted, there are a lot of sites in other languages, and the majority of blogs which, according to the NY Times, are in Japanese, but yet English is required for the larger part.)

Times are changing, true. Western culture and language is being taken, and moulded and adapted to fit other cultures, whether it be pop culture, or dress, or film, but I still believe English is going to be around for a long time, and retain its influence.

As Huntington says:

Because Japanese banker and an Indonesian businessman talk to each other in English does not mean that either one of them is Anglofied or Westernized…..

It is a tool for communication not a source of identity and community

And so, despite the antipathy and combined with other cultural influences, I still think English is going to be around a long time.

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41 comments
  1. John B said:

    I wouldn’t worry about English going away any time soon, but I think the ability of English speakers to get away with only speaking a single language is going to slowly disappear. As globalization marches forward and business deals span more of the globe, having a working knowledge in at least one other language is going to be pretty much required of professionals. Honestly, given the tools that are available these days online — podcasts like ChinesePod and SpanishSense, for instance — there’s no good reason for anyone to be monolingual.

  2. RD said:

    I’m a linguistically challenged person as I can only speak English and have never really been good at learning languages. The mainland Europeans have a much more global attitutde towards languages than the Brits and most kids grow up speaking 2 or 3 languages. However I think English is certainly the most useful language to know if you intend or want to communicate in the Western world.

  3. sam said:

    English is not a language. It is a communication tool.

    Language is a political tool blended with a communication function. Languages separate each tribe and keeps single tribe together. Even inside a small country, even small tribes (even less than 1000 humans), can use totally deferent language – sacrificing better communication. If we use language for pure communication, we should have spoken only one language, at least in Sri Lanka – in a tiny island.

    Now at the same time while we use our tribal languages to separate us from other tribes, we need a pure communication tool for pure communication. Right now English do that delicate task. But English is not a universal language – there won’t be any universal language, Never. Languages by default must separate people.

    Yes. Countries will keep on pushing their tribal languages forward. It is political must. France, German other hand have strong political need to separate themselves from English in the first place, because English was a tribal language too before others convert that to a communication tool.

    Even the percentage of English speaking humans may relatively lower; most of the “high-end” humans use English. Majority of humans never go outside their tribal life. In that case, they don’t need English.

  4. Can some one who is qualified in linguistics/grammar can tell if there is a big difference in English and Latin languages? Long time back I heard that there is a difference in the way prepositions are used and the whole concept about about prepositions; was just wondering whether it made English an easier language or harder language.

  5. I’m German, but I like English very much and I am very happy that this language – used as that “communication tool” Sam considered it to be – makes a huge amount of knowledge and experiences available for me. English is, as I think, a relatively easy to learn language and will not become replaced by other languages as Arabic or Mandarin – because it is much better to use in the “virtual” world.

    I don’t think all the other languages will get lost over time – the national languages will survive, though many dialects maybe will not. (Here I wouldn’t use the word “tribal” language, because in many countries it will go from different tribal languages to one national, especially in Africa, I think). But English will as the people’s second language be the world’s first.

    I’m a user, not a speaker of English.

  6. @ Kulendra:

    As somebody who both speaks German / English (Germanic languages) and French (Latin) I may answer you, that there is a difference.
    The Latin languages are more difficult to learn than especially English, because they use a complexer syntax and conjugations. English mostly uses one way to build something (like plural), whereas the Latin languages offer different ways and often contain exceptions.
    I would describe it so, that in English you have to understand the system, in Latin languages you have to learn the situation.

  7. Brian said:

    You wrote:
    >Most of the internet is in English.
    I think, if you Google “global internet language”, you will find that the online percentage of English-speakers in 2004 was already down to 35%, while that of all Asian-language had increased to 32%. With the recent rapid increase of internet-ization in the latter continent these two numbers are surely even closer now.

    Coming from a small nation, whose language and culture have been almost crushed out of existence by English, I am acutely aware of the dangers of allowing any one ethnic language to achieve a position of world hegemony. I see the Prague Manifesto http://lingvo.org/2/3 ,
    the recent ‘rapport Grin’ http://lingvo.org/grin/
    and ‘universal bilingualism’, with the use of a non-ethnic, non-territorial common second language, as offering the fairest and most democratic way forward.

  8. @ Brian:

    The fairest and most democratic way? I think, then you should support English as worldwide second language. Why? Because it’s actually the language one can learn the easiest way. I see, you’re a fan of Esperanto – but Esperanto is not democratic (as it is impressed by a few languages and written in roman letters). I think, it would be learned fast by those, who are able to attend a school – and soon some countries would have the advantage. Where should a child in rural Africa learn Esperanto? I could, he / she not.

    And about the “global internet language”: What’s an “English-speaker”? I think, most of the people only are able to speak English, despite it may not be their mother tongue.

  9. Brian said:

    @ Simon:

    (Compliments, by the way, on your working knowledge of English! – from which it is obvious that you are not a native speaker, even though you claim that English is easy – ich wünschte nur, ich könnte so gut deutsch!)

    However – you are making totally wild comments about something you seem to know little about. I should support English?! A language which has destroyed my ethnic group, and which is now willy-nilly my mother-tongue?! You have become an unsuspecting victim of English-language neo-colonialism, and a fifth-columnist to boot.

    You have the idea that some heterogeneous hodgepodge (15 words of Aztec, 19 from Zulu, 33 from Maori etc.) written in a mixture of Roman, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Arabic, Devanagari & Tibetan letters is the way to go. So ein Quatsch! 50% of the world already speaks an Indo-European language; I don’t have statistics for the use of Roman letters. The essence of Esperanto is ‘maximum internationality’ – it’s not a Sammelsurium – but it works, as it is! Ignoti nulla cupido.

    You did not address any of the seven points of the Prague Manifesto, and have selected the one choice of the three offered by Prof. Grin that is the most costly one and which unfairly privileges all English-speaking countries. Do you honestly agree with this unfairness? Did you actually read these two one-page docs?

    Re your misstatement on Esperanto in Africa, see this:
    http://afriko.org/

    Re ‘global internet statistics’ – I gave you the statistics – think what you like. And how do YOU feel when some foreigner murders German? How do you think we English-speakers feel when we must constantly listen to others murdering our language – and we no longer have a language to call ‘our own’? How do you feel that the majority native-language of the EU is now so poorly treated?

  10. janusis said:

    RD
    Yeah, I am bad at languages as well.. But I do manage to get along with my Sinhalese , and curse in Hindi.

    Sam
    I would have to disagree with you on that one dude. English maybe used as a tool of communication, but it is very much a cultural identity as well. People identify themselves through their language and thus identify themselves through that language, so yes English is also a ‘language’. But yes, it is also a very political tool..

  11. janusis said:

    P.S. Will reply to other comments later.. got to run..

  12. @Simon: Thanks for the opinion

    @Brian:
    1. ‘I should support English?! A language which has destroyed my ethnic group, and which is now willy-nilly my mother-tongue?’ and
    ‘ How do you think we English-speakers feel when we must constantly listen to others murdering our language – and we no longer have a language to call ‘our own’? ‘
    Im not a native English speaker so I dont know for sure if the two sentences above are contradicting each other or not, but it surely looks like that.

    2. ‘How do you feel that the majority native-language of the EU is now so poorly treated?’ the majority native-language of the EU is….? I guess you are referring to Latinas it is root for quite a few languages or are u referring to some other language which is spoken by a majority of people?

  13. Brian said:

    @ Kulendra:

    Re 1 – no they’re not contradictory. Maybe it’s that you haven’t understood what ‘willy-nilly’ means? My mother tongue is English, but for historical, political and territorial reasons should be something else. Perhaps a situation similar to that of the native English-speaking élite in India and/or Sri Lanka, who no longer speak their regional language(s)?

    Re 2: The majority mother-tongue in the EU is German. See here:
    http://www.promotics.net/ticktack/survey/eustats.htm
    I believe Simon, to whom the comment was addressed, is a native speaker of German. On the whole, Germans, for whatever reason (legacy of WW II?), are not willing to stand up and demand equal rights for their own language. The attitude of French people to their own llanguage is usually quite different.

    I apologize if my views on language are so euro-centric, but Europe and N. America are the extent of my experience!

  14. @ brian
    1. I thought willy-nilly meant that it was imposed on you. Its just that I thought ‘if its imposed on you, you cant probably feel bad about it being murdered.’ Thats how I feel as a sri lankan about english being not-so-well-spoken; I dont give a damn. However that part of the conversation is not important 🙂 it was merely for clarification.

    2. So this is by sheer population right? (again to clarify). Or is mother-tongue equivalent to ‘native’? I suppose no? And Im not exactly sure what you mean by equal rights for German, surely they speak German in Germany? I suppose you are not suggesting that they ‘demand’ it to be learnt by others?

  15. Brian said:

    @ Kalendra

    Re 1: ‘willy-nilly’ = it happened anyway, whether I liked it or not; I had no say in the matter.

    Re 2: I was careful to specify ‘mother-tongue-speakers of German’. 18% of the total EU population has German as its first language – see the ‘Language’ table here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union_statistics
    Perhaps this short article from 2001 by Robert Phillipson will explain equal language rights:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/GWeekly/Story/0,3939,475284,00.html
    [since 2001 more states have joined – I believe the total is now 27, with a total of 23 ‘co-official’ languages. In actual fact, some languages have become more equal than others!]
    or this longer article:
    http://www.uea.org/informado/ed37-angla.html

    Thank you for your interest! Most of us (whites) no longer believe that white people are superior. Likewise it is time that English-speakers stopped acting as if our language is somehow superior. Communication should be multi-directional, not unidirectional.

  16. @ brian:

    Esperanto: In Germany there’s a group called “Lebendiges Deutsch” (“Living German”). They try to find German words when usually an English one is used. But what do they make? They create words which are not “living”, but dead, because they are created and forgotten. And that’s what’s my problem with Esperanto: It’s not grown. It may be an interesting, a wonderful language, democratic, beautiful and so on… but it is not living and it will never be. (btw.: This African Esperanto site you linked had up to now not even reached 11.000 visitors – that’s nothing.)

    English: First, I can understand what you mean, even though my opinions are different to yours. There were dozens of dialects in Germany: If you went to to Hamburg or Munich made a great difference on what you did (and still does). They are all disappearing now because one man once choose the Hanoverian dialect as what he would take as “German” for his works. We still use his “Duden”… Is this bad? I don’t think so. It’s good that we know as a nation all speak one language which everybody understands. And in times of globalism it will always grow from regional to national and from national to international languages. That doesn’t hurt me: I rather speak in a foreign language than being quiet. You will say: “You could speak Esperanto!” – but I couldn’t. I just don’t believe in it – even though the idea of a non-national language sounds very ‘sweet’ I believe language has to grow.

    Also I don’t have a problem that German is, despite it’s the majority mother-tongue, not the main language of the EU. Why? Because the other nations haven’t chosen it and I can understand them. English was the most spoken language in the EU when it was chosen and still is – I always count the speakers and not the native speakers. Everything else would be unfair.

    If everyone on the earth had the ability to learn Esperanto: Great. They’d do it. But if there are more people who have the ability to learn English: Also great. They’d do it.

  17. Brian said:

    @ Simon Columbus

    Thanks for the reaction – but you make some demonstrably false statements. You have obviously made your mind up about Esperanto on the basis of erroneous suppositions – not on any observable and checkable facts, but on a gut-reaction. And you still have not addressed a single one of the seven principles of the Prague Manifesto:
    http://lingvo.org/2/3

    >[Esperanto] is not living and it will never be.

    Languages per se are neither ‘living’ nor ‘dead’ – but their speakers are. Esperanto has thousands of living speakers, you can hear it every day on several radio stations (eg Radio Polonia, Radio Vaticana, RAI) – how then can it be ‘dead’? And what about the several thousand living native-speakers of Esperanto from Esperanto-speaking families? How do you account for them? Do you know of all the worldwide daily events that use Esperanto:
    http://www.eventoj.hu/2007.htm
    and the annual congresses that attract around 2.000 Esperanto-speakers? Perhaps dead people speaking?!

    >Esperanto: It’s not grown.

    Wrong! Zamenhof produced a skeletal grammar and less than 1.000 word-roots.
    Erich Dieter Krause’s ‘Großes Wörterbuch Esperanto-Deutsch’ [Hamburg, Buske Vlg. 1999] lists 80 000 ‘Stichwörter u. Wendungen’. Perhaps you should check your library or bookstore before making such statements? The grammar is indeed fixed, but new vocabulary is constantly being added. Your hang-up seems to be that you cannot conceive of a non-ethnic, non-territorial, constructed language based on ethnic languages. Esperanto now has a 120-year history, like Afrikaans or Ivrit, and a literary tradition.

    Re: visitors to the African Esperanto site – you denied the existence of Esperanto in Africa or the possibility of learning it there. Obviously in a continent where many have no electricity or computers there are not going to be many people interested in Esperanto or even capable of visiting the website, but they DO exist.
    Q.E.D.

    Re: history of German – Martin Luther was the initial impetus for the standardization of the German language, Duden for codifying it. [see Adolf Bach: Geschichte der deutschen Sprache]. You mentioned ‘Lebendiges Deutsch’ but not the Verein Deutsche Sprache:
    http://www.vds-ev.de/

    >English was the most spoken language in the EU when it was chosen

    Please tell me when and by whom English was ‘chosen’? Maybe unofficially ‘preferred’, but certainly not officially ‘chosen! In what document is this mentioned? And who qualifies as a speaker of English? Those who can just stumble along in spoken English, or those who can write a letter in grammatically acceptable (and understandable) language and style? Non-native speakers of English are becoming second-class citiziens of the EU – is that fair? And why should native English-speakers be so privileged that they need NEVER learn another language? Why should English-speaking countries reap such enormous economic benefits from this? Can’t we all start from a level playing-field and use a language that belongs to all (or none) of us, and ALL share the burden of learning it?

    >I can understand them. [the other nations in the EU]
    You can understand everybody in the EU? Surely an exaggeration, no? I don’t find English of any use whatsoever in trying to speak to Polish, Bulgarian or Romanian seamen here in Canada! Perhaps you confine yourself to speaking with the university-educated élite?

    Why would the EU not want to save € 25 billion yearly on language services?:
    http://lingvo.org/grin/
    And is it fair that Catalan is not an official EU language, but Danish and Maltese with fewer speakers are? (can’t put my finger on the exact number of speakers at the moment).

  18. Brian said:

    @ Simon Columbus

    And less than one hour after I had sent the previous message, I received word from Vietnam of the 63rd World Esperanto Youth Congress meeting in Hanoi right now – those young people in the photo don’t look particularly dead to me. Do they look dead to you?:
    http://english.vietnamnet.vn/social/2007/07/723720/

  19. janusis said:

    Regarding one of Brian’s earlier comments:
    You compared the online use of English 35.8% to Asian Languages 33%.

    If you are to compare, you should not compare one language with a group of languages. Then you should compare European languages 37.9% (excl. English) to all Asian languages. This just goes to show how much English is used online.. For now..

    And P.S.
    Everyone, try not to put too many links in one comment. Then I have got to fish you out of the spam detector.

  20. Brian said:

    @ janusis

    OK then, try another source where English and Chinese are now both placed equal at 31.7%:
    http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats7.htm

    It is obviously notoriously difficult to come up with figures even for mother-tongue speakers of languages, and for second-language speakers much more so. What counts as “speaking” a language? A working inaccurate knowledge, a heavily accented variety difficult for native-speakers to understand, or a grammatically competent effort? Mixtures such as Japlish, Franglais, African English, Indian English etc. – some of which I (a native speaker used to dealing with non-natives) sometimes have great difficulty with?

    For those non-natives who support the use of English as THE world interlanguage, read what David Rothkop had to say in “In praise of cultural imperialism?” [1997] – this is what you are buying into:

    >”It is in the general interest of the United States to encourage the development of a world in which the fault lines separating nations are bridged by shared interests. And it is in the economic and political interests of the United States to ensure that if the world is moving toward a common language, it be English; that if the world is moving toward common telecommunications, safety, and quality standards, they be American; that if the world is becoming linked by television, radio, and music, the programming be American; and that if common values are being developed, they be values with which Americans are comfortable. These are not simply idle aspirations. English is linking the world. American information technologies and services are at the cutting edge of those that are enabling globalization. Access to the largest economy in the world – America’s – is the primary carrot leading other nations to open their markets.”

    If you’re content with willingly making yourself a subservient client, fine! I’m not! The hegemony of one ethnic world language is dangerous and a looming disaster for the world’s linguistic heritage.

    (I’m afraid to give the URL after Janusis’ comment – you can find the article quite easily yourself).

  21. janusis said:

    By 31.7% you probably mean the users of the internet, and not necessarily the respective language specific areas of the internet? This could get confusing. If you scroll further down you find that 366 mill users are using English and 166 mill Chinese.

    P.S.

    You can put 2 or 3 links. Its just that when it is over 3 links, the detector thinks you are spam..

  22. >>”internet language”: I think, janusis said it… most of the websites – and even more the traffic – is in English.

    >> Prague Manifesto:

    1) Democracy: There are some facts which make Esperanto a very “democratic” language, as you wrote it is non-national, always bi-lingual… but as I wrote:
    “I think, it would be learned fast by those, who are able to attend a school – and soon some countries would have the advantage. Where should a child in rural Africa learn Esperanto? I could, he / she not.”
    (You see, I never denied that Esperanto is spoken by people in Africa). It may be more democratic than English, yes. But the problem would be that, if the UN (or someone else…) decided to introduce Esperanto as the world’s official “second language”, the poor and rural nations especially in Africa where just half half of the children are able to attend the school would be shook off. The difference between rich and poor country would be even bigger.

    2) Global Education: Yes, that is a good point. But would that prevent xenophobia? I don’t know…

    3) Effective Education: I don’t think Esperanto is the only language to be learned through home study. Also it’s not the only language which is useful as a preparation for learning other languages.

    4) Multilingualism: On the one hand multilingualism is absolutely good. I think, everybody should at least speak two languages. But I know too much people who aren’t able to do so. They may have there talents, but to learn languages is difficult to them. These people would be left out of the things. We live in a world where education counts. I think, everyone should learn a second language – in the U.S.A. as well as in France or here in Germany (where everybody does…). But those who can’t – who will they be?

    5) Language Rights: A good point, yes.

    6) Language Diversity: Not a problem of languages, but of people. Who long would we have to wait till the first nation would announce Esperanto as the national language because that would be useful for (mostly) economical interests?

    7) Idealism…

    >> history of German: Martin Luther was the first who gave the Germans “one” language – but Duden was the one who choose the dialect we’re now using.

    >> “I can understand them”: Here you misunderstood me. I meant, that I can understand why not German, but English was (and if in a non-official consensus) chosen as “the” language of the EU. But also in the meaning you thought it I would say it. Nowadays every child learns English at school in the EU. If you go tho Spain or to Poland, you will find that fact.

    I don’t think Esperanto is a bad thing or not useful. It has it’s very good sides and great ideas behind it. I just don’t think it will “win” – be spoken by enough people to be a important language for daily use.

  23. Brian said:

    @ Janusis

    I agree that those statistics are somewhat confusing. The essential point though is that the overall percentage of on-line English is decreasing – five languages (Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, French & Portuguese) show greater percentage internet growth than English for the period 2000-2007. That’s where the population growth is, and the spread of computers. See also the column “Internet penetration by language” – the English-language area is 4th from bottom.

    @ Simon Columbus

    Your use of tenses confuses me. We’re discussing facts, yet you say about Esperanto:
    >”it would be learned fast by those, who are able to attend a school – and soon some countries would have the advantage. Where should a child in rural Africa learn Esperanto? I could, he / she not.”

    Why ‘would’? We know for a fact that an a posteriori, regularized, constructed language such as Esperanto can be (not ‘could’), and IS, learned 4 to 10 times faster than any ethnic language. Surely this lack of irregularity means that there is a greater cost-benefit ratio? Also, those with little language aptitude are better able to achieve communicative competence with Esperanto than with an irregular ethnic language. Photos of Esperanto classes in rural Africa often appear in Esperanto magazines.

    >”the problem would be that, if the UN (or someone else…) decided to introduce Esperanto as the world’s official “second language”, the poor and rural nations especially in Africa where just half half of the children are able to attend the school would be shook off. The difference between rich and poor country would be even bigger.”

    [shake – shook – shaken]
    And yet you seem to want to make these same poor, underprivileged people spend huge amounts of time learning English (incuding all those English irregular verbs 😉 ), when some of them already speak two, three or four other languages (local/regional/national). Esperanto will same them all time and effort. Any system of communication which confers lifelong privileges on some, while requiring others to devote years of effort to achieving a lesser degree of comptence, is fundamentally anti-democratic.
    The UN is a collection of nation-states – Esperanto is not the language of any state, therefore it is most unlikely that the UN will ever consider it (although the League of Nations did, and UNESCO has passed several resolutions favoring it). Esperanto is more of a bottoms-up thing, than top-down. The EU seems afraid to even discuss Prof. Grin’s report.

    Re: Global Education – when one learns an ethnic language, one also learns about a specific culture and people. With a non-ethnic language, one is not limited to that one area alone, but can take a wider view.

    Effective FL education – very few English-language foreign-language learners ever achieve even a basic communicative competence in another language (even here in Canada). In the last 50 years, interest in learning ANY other language has reached a nadir. And why should English-speakers make the slightest effort to learn another language when non-natives (such as yourself) are so gung-ho to promote English? We can use the time to get even further ahead of you – and thanks for contributing worldwide your money on English texts and classes to our economy!

    >Also it’s not the only language which is useful as a preparation for learning other languages.

    But it’s optimally propedeutic. What other language do you know that is ‘grammar-coded’ like Esperanto (specific endings for specific word-classes). Relevant sources: the German Gesellschaft für Interlinguistik/Berlin, and Dr. Helmar Frank’s work in Kybernetische Pädagogik in Paderborn.

    >Nowadays every child learns English at school in the EU.

    But can they speak and understand it? I offer one item here:
    http://www.west.asu.edu/academic/acdw/ACDW517-03.html
    N. American universities are having to introduce testing procedures for non-native teaching assistants, because native students sometimes have great difficulty understanding them. And increasingly we are seeing on TV English subtitles for interviewees “speaking English” whose language is so heavily accented that it is barely comprehensible.

    Re: language diversity – my fear, as I have said, is that allowing any one ethnic language to achieve hegemony is dangerous and ultimately destructuctive of language diversity. The evidence from ‘endangered languages’ is already there (Google the term!).

    >I don’t think Esperanto is a bad thing or not useful. It has it’s very good sides and great ideas behind it. I just don’t think it will “win” – be spoken by enough people to be a important language for daily use.

    Likewise there was no point in having a telephone till there were sufficient others to speak to. Esperanto is useable and useful everyday right NOW, if you want it to be so. Google today shows 40,000,000 hits for the term.

    Enough for now!

  24. Seems to me that this whole language issue is determined (as every other living thing is) by ‘natural selection’. And if at present English is ‘it’, then whose to quibble? That’s just the way it is!

  25. @ javajones:

    That’s the way it is? You’d say: “Ok, we have a change in climate – but that’s just the way it is.” Do you think that’s good? Nope. Before you haven’t thought about better ways you shouldn’t just accept the status quo.

  26. Brian said:

    Simon Columbus wrote to javajones:
    >you haven’t thought about better ways you shouldn’t just accept the status quo.

    Well said! Finally I can agree with you on something!

    We Esperanto-speakers are working towards equal language rights for all, no special unearned privileges for any group (as now), the right for everybody to communicate freely without language barriers, and universal bilingualism using a democratic, fair and cost-effective means of communication. Lingua-diversity is just as important and crucial to the world as bio-diversity. The hegemony of any one ethnic language is already proving destructive to the world’s linguistic heritage:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endangered_language

  27. Simon & Brian – Perhaps you don’t understand the natural selection process. Of course organisms work to dominate their environment – the same with the issue you are on about. No problems with that – that’s just the way it is. English IS the dominant language at present. Good luck with your choices – and keep on truckin’!

  28. Brian said:

    @ javajones

    Unfortunately I understand only too well how this works, since my own language and ethnic group have been crushed in this process, and similarly most of our N. American indigenous languages have suffered a precipitous decline in the past fifty years and are now close to extinction. Only a native-speaker of English (and one who is likely monolingual as well) could make such insensitive comments condemning others to the dust-heap of linguistic history. As Simon Columbus remarked in one of his earlier posts: “Englisch als Weltsprache?” No way! Tell that to the Russians (Russia seeks to promote Russian language):
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/07/02/news/russia.php
    or to some in the EU (Linguistic discrimination in the EU):
    http://www.alde.eu/index.php?id=42&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=8797&cHash=bb6c5bec6d

    It saddens me to see that in 2007 there are still many people out there who can see nothing wrong with linguistic neo-colonialism (which often leads to economic subjugation and the creation of second-class world citizens).

  29. Brian – “Only a native-speaker of English (and one who is likely monolingual as well) could make such insensitive comments condemning others to the dust-heap of linguistic history.”
    If you were referring to me, your assumption is in error – I am bi-lingual – Sinhala being the other language. And speaking of ‘insensitivity’ – perhaps this is your hangup (being ultra-sensitive), and hence the reason for the passionate display of attachment to what you consider to be ‘the right way’. I was merely stating the obvious – without attachment to any one language.

  30. janusis said:

    Linguistic neo-colonialism? I doubt it. Rather a simple cause and effect. There is no one trying to to conquer the world using English, (except maybe over enthusiastic English professors). The dominance of English is simply due to current circumstance and previous historical events. It could easily have been Japanese, or maybe Mandarin, were the events in the past different.
    Best not let a conspiracy theory cloud your judgment.

  31. Hey J – Look what you started man! And I’m sure that all you intended was to pretty much state the obvious – that English (for all the reasons that made it so) is “going to be around a long time”.

    Oh well!!

  32. Brian said:

    I quite agree! English is unethical as the long-term solutution to the language problem world-wide.

    Professionally I am a building manager for a huge block of flats, in St.John’s Wood, LONDON, England, and yet, please believe me, there are exceptionally severe communication problems. I have to work, on a day-to-day basis, in a situation where at least one half of the occupants do not understand me. This is because they have not learnt English.

    How angry can I be then to turn to the BBC radio programme “Today”, before I go to work, to be told that “English is already the global language”

    There is no wonder that Esperanto speakers have such a strong argument!

  33. Graziano Ricagno said:

    English is national language used intenationally, but true universal democratic language is esperanto.

  34. Brian said:

    “Another Brian” (I’m the REAL one! – the previous comment was not mine) said:

    >”Professionally I am a building manager for a huge block of flats, in St.John’s Wood, LONDON, England, and yet, please believe me, there are exceptionally severe communication problems. I have to work, on a day-to-day basis, in a situation where at least one half of the occupants do not understand me. This is because they have not learnt English.”

    And I’m writing from the third largest city in Canada where the situation is similar. In my downtown apt. building about 1/3 of the occupants speak NO English whatsoever (and they are NOT recent immigrants). Communications from City Hall are now in English, Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Punjabi. I live about 10 minutes from Chinatown where there are many unilingual speakers of Cantonese, with whom it is impossible for me to communicate. Many signs are in Chinese only. Likewise in the Punjabi area – where I have to use my very basic Hindi. I too am faced with severe communication problems every day here. Two (not so severe) examples from yesterday:
    1) a Pilipina store clerk, when asked where a certain item could be found, could only say “There, there!” and wave her hand in the general direction, apparently unable to say “on the other side of the store” or something equally explicit (or else she really hadn’t any clue).
    2) I was most embarassed to have to ask a Japanese server at supper to repeat FOUR times what she was asking me, before I could understand. Turns out, she just wanted to know if I wanted some ‘hot sauce’ on my food.

    I lived several years in Quebec, where many French-speakers are unwilling to speak English (even thought they can!). English is more than just a tool – by speaking it you are buying into, perhaps not a conspiracy, but an subtly organized effort to anglicize the world (read Rothkop’s article, which I quoted previously, or Robert Phillipson’s “English-only Europe?” or his “Linguistic Imperialism” for more details).

    It simply is an outrageous myth that English is already the world-language (but I do agree that it is indeed the most useful ethnic language). We no longer believe that White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) should rule the world – why are so many non-English so willing to become victims of this neo-colonialist mentality and let themselves be exploited for others’ profit?

  35. Stefano said:

    Ayubowan, Vanakkam, guten Tag, hello…
    Saluton!

    ŝajne, la angla estas la lingvo de tiu ĉi komunikado, nu mi klopodos skribi angle. Pardonu miajn erarojn…

    mein sinhala, tamil katakaranna puluwann nehe…

    …so, I try to write in English.

    some years ago, I teached Esperanto at the Public Library – Colombo, Colombo University – Institute of Workers’ Education, at the Kelaniya University and at the Labor Secretariat…

    That was a nice time I enjoyed a lot the contact with local people. I never talked in other language than Esperanto and my students also stardted to have easy conversations with me in the International Language.

    Some of them knew only sinhalese or tamil, others did speak english also. But the teaching, the classes I conducted only in Esperanto…

    When I returned to Sri Lanka 2-3 years later, I met the local Esperanto Group and was impressed by the amount of letters they showed me and they received from many friends from all around the world.

    Unfortunately I don’t have videos about that time, but here you can see abd listen to (also sing with them) artists from Africa, Indian Ocean singing in Esperanto:

    http://www.studio-pro.ch/esperanto-muziko.html

    .

  36. Stefano said:

    sorry, that “mein” (comes from hindi…) should be “mame” (I can’t copy the sinhala fonts…)

  37. janusis said:

    I know! And here I thought it was only sex and politics that got people talking.. Good grief. Imagine what would happen were I to write something about westernization? You wouldn’t believe where I am getting hits from!

  38. Brian said:

    So, Janusis, does all this interest mean that you are going to take a closer look at the issue or will you let sleeping dogs lie? My website (available via my name) is also getting a lot of hits from odd places around the world!

    Today’s UK Guardian has a related article informing that the British Council has decided to close down its offices in Europe to dedicate more attention to the Muslim world:
    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2141835,00.html
    Some of the Council’s critics have used the phrase ‘cultural imperialism’ about its past activities, so I’m by no means the only one. If you come across any reaction to this move from the Muslim world (or elsewhere), please let us know.

  39. janusis said:

    Well, I probably will take a look into it, and Esperanto seems to deserve a looking into, but these issues are so much broader than simple linguistic colonialism, and waking the dogs is not going to make a difference.. Its a zoo out there..

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