English as a Global Language English is fast becoming the dominant means by which the world is able to communicate. It is being referred to as the global language as it is seen as a common means for interaction between different countries. This new phenomena can be seen in a positive light because the use of English as a common language brings efficiency and greater understanding. Growth and development are not tolerant of differences and English becomes a means for international expansion. Nonetheless this also brings with it a development which “gobbles up cultures and traditions”.
In South East Asia, as a result of English becoming a kind of global currency, there is a large turn towards acquiring language skills not in any language but most specifically in English. As the world becomes more “globalised” or as corners of the planet open up for trade relations with other countries and tourism booms, the need for English increases. Hotels, shops and schools have a desperate desire to sell their services and make a living. People’s ability to survive is strongly linked to their ability to communicate in English. Consequently native languages become redundant and even endangered.
People focus on learning English over learning other languages and also in many cases need to use their individual languages to a lesser degree. In fact more Asians speak English than anyone else. This movement has numerous negative repercussions. Language is deeply entrenched in individual culture and thus the growing popularity of English and decreasing need for local language directly impacts on traditions. In Laos, for example, Sou spoken in the Southern part of the country has only around a thousand speakers and is said to be in “peril”. Thus with the growth of English there is a loss of culture and tradition.
Essentially language matters as it is more than merely a communication device. Language is not only linked to culture but through the use of literature is able to express a unique experience. In literature the translations of languages into English or vice versa causes a loss of rythmns, sounds, images, allusions and evocations of the original. With the growth of English and globalization, small communities are becoming inundated with English media. This media results in people hearing more English than other languages. There are more English translations than any other languages.
Increasingly people are writing in English in order to appeal to a world market and in doing so producing writing which is more western and does not encapsulate the different experiences of story telling which differ so considerably from culture to culture. World literature, because of the increased use of English as a global language becomes English literature In sum the global nature of English is linked with a loss of individuality. The unique nature of language, culture, tradition and literature can become lost in response to the wave of western English culture and language.
Personally I have no idea where this new movement may leave us. It is a great shame that individuality may be lost, as is alluded to in this article, in the strive for a growth and a more convenient world. Nonetheless I do see advantages gathered from the use of English as a dominant medium. I do believe that there is room in all this for a compromise between local culture and language and that the global use of English which does not necessarily mean the loss of one and gain of the other. As an English teacher and a native English speaker it is important to bear in mind these aspects of the global use of English.