How the global spread of English has both benefited and harmed the language. Thesis Two



This paper represents how the global spread of English has both benefitted and harmed the language. This paper focuses on positive & negative effects of global spread of English. This paper has shown that the creation of a global language has numerous benefits and harmful effects. The enormous irregularities in the English system of spelling, for example, may often be seen by a newcomer as a disincentive. Millions, however, are undeterred. One of the strongest incentives for learning the language is the use to which it can immediately be put, socially, economically and culturally.






The expanding use of English around the world is due to a variety of reasons. Crystal (2003) maintains that this increase can primarily be attributed to the British colonization era of the seventeenth century. He goes on to maintain that this increase in use is related to the industrial revolution headed by Britain during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In addition, he argues that the role played by the United States of America as an economic and military power is the major reason for this increased use of the language since the last epoch of the nineteenth century. Graddol (1997) points out that this spread will continue to the 21st century.

Phillipson (1992) argues that there is a strong relationship between the global spread of English and this Western imperialism. He (1992) goes on to argue that English has been supported and promoted to be used around the world specifically for political and economic purposes. This argument forms what he calls English linguistic imperialism. Phillipson (1992, p. 47) defines English linguistic imperialism as ‘the dominance of English is asserted and maintained by the establishment and continuous reconstitution of structural and cultural inequalities between English and other languages.’ Pennycook (2001, p. 61) explains this saying that ‘the dominant role of English in the world today is maintained and promoted through a system both of material or institutional structures (e.g. through English maintaining its current position as the dominant language of the Internet) and of ideological positions (arguments that promote English as a superior language).’ That is, being the dominant language in the era of globalization, and the mother tongue of the superpower countries, English has gained another dimension to its importance and superiority over other languages. Globalization in the world today has been carried by several languages but English is the most dominant. There is a connection between Globalization and English. This is because, as Gray (2002) explains: In the first place, the rise of transitional corporations does much to promote the spread of English. Typically these organizations have headquarters located in Europe, North America or Japan, and geographically dispersed (yet flexible) centers of production, all of which are connected electronically…. This can imply business and legal documentation being produced in English, oral and written communication skills training in English for staff, possible spinoffs for the local hotel and tourist industries, and more English being taught in local schools. Secondly, the increase in the number of world organizations, many of which are themselves implicated in globalized networks, means that English continues to be in demand globally…. The third area is linked specifically to the Internet. English currently predominates on the Internet. (cited in Block and Cameron, 2002, p. 153-154).

The dominance of the English speaking countries in various fields gives English an even higher status, and helps it to be predominant over other living languages. Crystal (2003) states that English now is the dominant language of international relations, security and travel, media, education, and communications. McKay (2002) asserts that this widespread use of English in these areas makes it ‘imperative’ for any country wishing to become part of the global community. This is easily observable from the increasing numbers of people in the world today who want to learn English so as to benefit from the opportunities that speaking English can provide.

McKay (2002) contends that the number of people using English today is vast and these numbers are growing. This growing is fueled by the advantages that English offers to those speaking it and these advantages facilitate and assist people who are familiar with the language and can readily use it. Expanding use of English around the world, according to Crystal, (2003) has reached a high status in more than seventy-five countries. This status of English in the world varies from one country to another. Kachru (1989) describes its status by using a figure of three concentric circles: 1) the Inner Circle, where English is considered to be the mother tongue of the country such as in the United Kingdom, the United states, Australia, and Canada; 2) the Outer Circle, where English comes as a second language in a multilingual country such as India, Singapore, and the Philippines; 3) the Expanding Circle, where English serves as a foreign language such as in Japan, Korea, and China. Graddol (1997) argues that the growing use of English between the citizens in the Expanding Circle countries inevitably leads to these countries joining the Outer Circle countries.

As the wide spread of English around the world has resulted in an increasing number of speakers of English, it has also led to a number of varieties in English. The spread of English around the world has already demonstrated this, in the emergence of new varieties of English in the different territories where the language has taken root. The change has become a major talking point only since the 1960s, hence the term by which these varieties are often known: ‘new Englishes’.The question arises here is whether globalization has positive or negative effects on the language. However, the following section will provide some of these effects.

The Effects of global spread of English

English has become a world-wide language for several reasons. England started discovering new territories in the 16th century, established its first colonies in North America in the 17th century, claimed land on the Australian continent in the 18th century, and occupied the Dutch colony at the Cape of Good Hope in 1795. The use of English grew rapidly when colonies were conquered all over Africa and Asia on behalf of the British Empire in the 19th century. In the end, the language was present all over the globe; only South America remained nearly untouched. Nevertheless, the most important factor for today’s situation is probably the military and economic dominance of the United States of America in the 20th century.

In continental Europe English became significant when the USA entered World War II and intervened in international politics. It was the military power of the British Empire and the USA that established English as an International Language, but the economic power of the USA managed to maintain its status and even expanded the use of English.

Factors that contributed to the spread of English included the global success of American music and movies, as well as the development of computer technologies and the Internet, which are based on programming languages derived from English. It is especially the factors of mass media, global trade and popular culture which are connected with the USA.

Graddol (1997: 11) speaks of “75 or so countries in which English has special status”, Ethnologue lists 106 countries and territories where English is spoken. McArthur (2002: 3) is in-between with his statement that “English is used in over 70 countries as an official or semi-official language and has a significant role in over 20 more”. Moreover, it is difficult to define what may be considered to be ‘English’, as some languages are called varieties of English, others are recognised as pidgins and creoles,

Phillipson states that “the number of native speakers of English now remains constant at about 315 million, whereas Crystal (1997a: 54) estimates the number between 320 and 380 million, whereas Crystal (2003: 109), somewhat surprisingly, counts 329,058,300 native speakers. If the number of speakers of English as a Native Language (ENL) is uncertain, then the estimates for speakers of English as a Second Language (ESL) are even more so. Crystal (1985: 7, referred to in Phillipson, 1992: 24) approximates the number of ESL speakers at 300 million, whereas Graddol (1997: 10) states a total number of 375 million. Crystal (2003: 109) counts 422,682,300 ESL speakers. The number has risen from 300 million to nearly 423 million within 18 years.

It is impossible to count the speakers of English, but the estimated numbers give an impression of the relevance of the language in today’s world. With the breakdown of the Soviet Union and the Political restructuring of the former Eastern Bloc, Which also led to an opening of other communist regimes, especially China, the demand for English as a foreign Language has grown immensely.

English has in the 20th century become the global language. It is the language of trade, diplomacy and the internet. However the increase in international languages, in particular English but also Spanish and Mandarin marginalise smaller languages even within their own homelands. In Indonesia Bahasa Indonesia, the language that is supposed to unite the diverse country increasingly is becoming a second class language. As it becomes more attractive to learn global languages so smaller languages become not worth learning.


This section focuses on some of the effects of global spread of English. It discusses, respectively, the positive and negative effects.




Positive Effects of global spread of English

As a result of globalisation the function of English as an international tool for communication needs rethinking in the English language classroom. This does not only include linguistic skills to understand various kinds of accents and to be understood by others, but it also includes knowledge of other cultures which provides the learners with the ability to respond adequately to problems arising from cultural differences between the participants in international communication, Since English is the only truly world-wide or global language, its importance, especially in education, is still increasing; this development positively influences the learners’ abilities to participate in international communication, but it can also have a negative effect on other languages that are taught. Although other languages are vital in understanding other cultures, their importance seems to be decreasing, especially in the eyes of students and their parents. Since English is the language of international trade and economy, it regarded to be an  indispensable prerequisite for taking part in future economic developments. As a result, the foreign language to be learned at school will very often be chosen by parents and pupils according to its value for future employment, regardless of pedagogical, social or political aspects. The teaching of English at all educational levels is therefore also promoted by many governments.


Communication for the globalised age

The world is becoming increasingly more and more globalised. Countries are more interdependent than ever and with the advances that we have seen in technology in the last few decades, communication is instantaneous. For us to be able to effectively communicate, especially within fields such as international trade and economics, as well as diplomacy, a common working language is key.

English does not require the learning of new symbols.

The English language is one that is very easy to learn. Unlike the most spoken language in the world, Chinese, it does not require most people around the world to learn new numerals. We find other languages also require the learning of new symbols. This is true in German with the eszett (double SS sound but looks like a B) and French with their accents. English as a language does not have these. This means that the language is easily accessible to the many. If we wish to communicate effectively we need all people to be able to communicate in it; even those who have difficulty in learning languages. Therefore having a global language which requires no learning of characters is important.


Mistakes made in the English language do not change meaning

Unlike in French or German, mistakes that people make in English are easily understood by native speakers. The English language is a simple one with simple sounds. These sounds separate words nicely. It is for this reason that the English find it very easy to understand people from other countries even if their level of language is low. The English language is from Anglo-Saxon origin instead of Latin. Whilst Latin was a beautiful language, it is also a very complex one with elongated words and sentence structures. The Anglo-Saxon language however is one that can be used with very few and very short words. This makes the global spread of English as opposed to other languages a good thing.


English has no genders and therefore less redundancy

English does not apply random genders to nouns. Greek has three genders (male, female and neutral), depending on what (pointless) gender is assigned, several words in the sentence have to be changed just to fit in with that nonsense.

What a waste of time and brainspace.

English also uses shorter words than many other languages, without any loss of clarity or eloquence.

It also uses a simple, common, alphabet.




It makes us lazy

Why would we want to sacrifice easy communication and globalization/globalisation on the off chance it may make children more interested in learning a foreign language?

And why would we purposely want to make it difficult for people to understand each other, surely understanding each other is more important than learning about their culture but not being able to converse whatsoever.

One-third of the people living in the city of London are from the subcontinent and are at least bilingual(This doesn’t take into account the number Chinese,Polish,German,French,etc Londoners). As for the rest of the U.K : Norse languages prevail in rural areas and outside England.

There are a huge number of immigrants(second/third-generation included) in Scotland. Relatively fewer but still plenty of immigrants reside in the rest of the Isles.

The global spread of English also has the opposite effect on non-native speakers of English – it encourages them to learn a second language. Without English, a second language would only slightly increase the number of people you could communicate with. With English (or, if it ever takes off, Esperanto!) there is a stronger incentive to learn the single language that will dramatically improve your ability to communicate.

Far more people are not native English speakers than are, so you could argue that the point falls apart in a wider context than the UK


Loss of local languages

Yes, it can be argued that many former colonies (the British in the subcontinent as an example), have left a legacy where English continues to be used as the language for formal education and formal working life in many cases. However, this means that in many parts of the world, people are growing up bi, or even tri-lingual, which is an outstanding achievement.



Negative Effects of Global Spread of English

The spread of English has therefore an ambivalent character; it is a lingua franca necessary for international communication, and it is a vehicle for the spread of a culture influenced by the USA and, to a lesser extent, Western Europe. Dovring (1997: x) has researched into the “problems in understanding double talk in political English around the world” by analysing the massive impact of electronic media on the spread of English as a global lingua franca. English is not only seen as a threat to other languages, but also to the cultures connected with these languages. When English is taught, it is seldom ever entirely separated from its cultural background, which is generally American and British. Non-native users of English may fear an ‘anglification’ of their own culture, or they may feel communicatively disadvantaged, because native speakers of English can use their native language. On the other hand, native speakers may fear that through the increasing use of English as a lingua franca, non-native speakers may have considerable impact on the English language and “take possession” of it.

Chew (1999) reports on the linguistic development of Singapore, where the English language has been established as an official language, not as a result of natural development or because of historical reasons, but by law. The use of English has been enforced by the government and therefore it has become a dominant language, which has enabled the country to take part in the global economy and profit from globalisation. At the same time, English is seen as serving as “the courier of many cultures and sub-cultures” (Chew, 1999: 42) and the population of Singapore “views the adoption of English not so much as a threat to their own languages but as the key to a share of the world’s symbolic power” (Chew, 1999: 43).


Communication for the globalised age

A language officially and natively used by specific nations does not qualify as a good international communication means. There is little fairness in the use of English between a U.S. diplomat who natively speaks it and an Ethiopian diplomat who does not natively speak it, for instance. The spread of English as an auxiliary language defeats the political ethics of the globalised age.


English does not require the learning of new symbols.


English has its own peculiar and highly irregular orthography. For instance, “o” in “box” is pronounced not straightforward [o] but [ɒ] in Britain and [ɑː] in the U.S.; “u” in “bud” is not plain [u] but [ʌ]. It’s heavily inclined towards non-isomorphic diphthongs such as “light” [laɪt] and “lure” [lʊə], which defies most other language speakers’ common familiarity with straightforward pure vowels. Literal phonemes are irregularly dropped, as in “wednesday” [wɛnzdeɪ] and “leicester” [lɛstə]. “th” varies between [θ] and [ð], and both sounds are less than common among other languages.

English also abounds with the kinds of consonant clusters that are completely alien to many languages. For speakers of those Austronesian languages that have no consonant cluster at all, the likes of “sixths” [sɪksθs] prove extremely difficult.

The statement that (the orthography and phonology of) English is “very easy to learn” or “easily accessible to the many” cannot be further from the truth when the learners means international.

There are many alternatives — natural or artificial languages — that do not involve uncommon (non-ASCII) letters/characters/symbols other than English.


Mistakes made in the English language do not change meaning

Many languages don’t distinguish the sounds English makes significant use of. Chinese makes little difference between the voiced and unvoiced consonants. Samoan has no consonant clusters, let alone a word-ending consonant. To native speakers of such languages, the likes of short closed-syllable English words like “kid” and “kit” are just difficult to differentiate.

Isolating languages that do not require the learning of a complex inflection system is probably a preferable kind of international auxiliary language to fusional languages that do require such learning. However, English is not optimally isolating; it still inflects, and in an irregular way even. For instance, while a truly functional isolating language would have a word to periphrasally express past-ness of an event for any predicate, English requires that the verb itself inflect just like in Latin. It doesn’t make possible isolating and consistent forms like “go –> [past] go”, “see –> [past] see”, “love –> [past] love” but fusional and inconsistent forms like “go –> went”, “see –> saw”, “love –> loved”. And this is further complicated by the irregular conjugations for present and past participles such as “going | gone”, “seeing | seen”, “loving | loved”.

It makes us lazy


In a country like the UK, we are lazy. Foreign languages are not an important part of education because there is the general consensus that everyone in the world speaks English.

The number of students studying languages at school has dropped significantly, and this is a real shame. The study of other languages not only offers up possibilities of work opportunities abroad, but it helps you understand more about another culture, another way of life. Studies have also shown wider benefits of bilingualism, such reducing ageing of the brain.[[]] We are lazy. We don’t feel the need to learn about others, their language, their culture. Even if native English speakers do try to learn a new language, people often wish to practice their English, so there are limited opportunities to develop your skills.

This spread also leads to elitism – some elitist schools put stress on teaching Latin/Spanish/French/Urdu/Persian/German/Mandarin apart from English. Knowing a second or third language has perks, giving the impression of being cultured,international,cosmopolitan, sophisticated and civilized.



Loss of local languages

As the language of instruction is, in many places, predominantly English; that usually is the language people become most fluent in.

Multi-linguals are likely to only have a more impressive command of one language. There is now pressure for that language to be English and once local languages are less well spoken than English, there will be little point in learning them any longer so they are likely to decline and disappear.


It makes people culturally ignorant.

The fact is that even if English becomes fully globalised (which it has not yet) other languages will still be used. Though English may be used in business transactions, these people will still go home and speak their mother tongue. If people begin to only communicate in English, a valuable lesson could be lost in manners and respect. Even if there is one common language, it should always be borne in mind how respectful and polite it is to at least attempt to speak the other’s language. In business transactions, the person will have to know their clients language to a greater degree in order to complete this than on a social level. However, with the globalisation on English people will forget this sign of respect and will only speak English. This is a sad day for cultural recognition and mutual respect.


From time to time English is discussed as the only official language for the EU, although many Europeans fear that other languages may ‘lose’ and eventually disappear due to the widespread use of English. They see English as a ‘killer language’ which destroys weaker languages. Lesser-used languages are seen to be particularly threatened by English. Of course, the cultural identity of smaller communities is strongly connected to the respective language, so a loss of the language would have a considerable impact on the culture, all of which does not seem desirable. If a language loses importance and eventually dies out, speakers would rather adopt other regional languages as their primary language and not English.

So if for instance Lithuanian should die out, speakers will probably adopt Latvian as their first language rather than English or Russian, the language of the former oppressor. On the other hand, if Maltese should face extinction, the speakers will probably turn to English, as it is their second official language. With regard to other countries that once adopted English as their official language and kept their own culture “The fear that the possible adoption of English as a lingua franca in the EU, or as only a working language of the EU institution, will seriously threaten the diversity of languages and cultures appears to be completely without foundation. Nevertheless, English is the dominant language in the educational sector in Europe, where learners prefer to have English taught as the first foreign language. The spread of other European languages outside their native speaker- territory could in this way be ‘threatened’ by English.

The varieties of English taught at European schools are usually British English with Received or BBC Pronunciation or American English with a General American accent. Features of these varieties are often mixed by many Europeans, not only due to differences in classroom practice, but also because of music, movies and TV. The result may be called Mid-Atlantic English (MAE). In the context of English as a Lingua Franca in Europe, scholars argue  if there will ever be a European standard of (sometimes called ‘Euro-English’). So far, there is no convincing evidence for a European variety which includes features of all European languages, but it has been proposed to establish a European variety of English to signal national identities in international contexts.








The spread of English will gradually make learning new languages harder and less valued and will less diversify our world. I think it is ok to use English as a trade and business language but it should not be allowed to take over the world.

I believe spreading English would not harm a countries native speaking population as currently English is taught as a second language across the world. First this can give a massive opportunity to countries whose people do not have it well, by learning English and having a chance they may be able to move to an English speaking country that could possibly be doing much better economically, allowing them access to jobs and more. Currently America is the leading superpower of the world, leading people to open more communications and business’s and prosper if they learned that countries language. This allows a base line language that anyone can learn and communicate between countries, and for someone who is unfamiliar with a language like this it can be considered a good gate-way language for most European languages. There are risks like creating possible dead languages and groups to leave their language behind for the popular one, however majority of the time languages are linked to culture and heritage so most would not simply abandon their native language, however they would teach the second more readily.




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