English as a World Language

The global spread of English over the last 50 years is remarkable. It is unprecedented in several ways: by the increasing number of users of the language, by its depth of permeation [“pE:mI’eISn] into societies and its range of functions.

There is a model consisting of 3 circles proposed by B.B. Kachru in 1982 in order to describe regional varieties of English. The 1st or inner circle includes people who speak English as their vernacular language (200-400 mln speakers).The outer circle includes people who live territories colonized by Britain and USA (India, Nigeria). And the expanding circle includes the rest of the world which is learning English.

English is used for more purpose than ever before. Over 70% of the worlds scientists read English. About 85% of the world’s mail is written in English. And 90% of all information in the world’s electronic retrieval systems is stored in English.

There are several basic characteristics of the English language which make it so popular. 1) The simplicity of form. It has no many inflections to show singular and plural, tense, person like in German, Russian and French. Verbs have very few inflections and adjectives do not change according to the noun. 2) Flexibility. As a result of loss of inflections English has become a very flexible language. Without inflections the same word can operate as many different parts of speech. Many nouns and verbs coincide in form. Adjectives can be used as verbs. 3) Openness of vocabulary. This involve the free admissions of words from other languages and easy creation of compounds and derivatives. Most world languages have contributed some words to English.

Though English is a world language there are some ideas of creating a lingua franca which will be the vehicle for international communication. Such a lingua franca can become Esperanto. Created in 1887 by Ludvig Zamenhof as a
means of unifying the whole world it’s spoken by 8 mln people all over the world. It’s taught at schools in China, Hungary and Yugoslavia. There are some advantages of Esperanto as a 2nd language. -It’s easier to learn (Esperanto has 16 rules and no exeptions). -It’s a neutral language. It has no political or cultural bias. -It saves money because 55% of expenses in all international organizations are spent on interpreters and translators. But nevertheless English which began 1500 years ago as a rude language now encompasses the world. There is no reason to believe that any other language will appear within the next 50 years to replace English. However it is possible that English will not keep its monopoly in the 21st century. A small number of languages may form an oligopoly – each with special area of influence (Spanish for example).

English has been an international language for only 50 years. Geographically it’s the most widespread language on Earth, second only to Mandarin Chinese in the number of people who speak it. It’s the language of business, technology, sport and aviation. This will no doubt continue although the proposition that all other languages will die out is absurd.