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October 7, 2011

Dangers of Global Language


Introductory Comment

English has spread across the globe to such a vast extent that it won’t be an overstatement to call it an omnipresent language. It has been adopted as the medium of communication in numerous multilingual countries. Globally it is confirming its place as the language of education, commerce, politics, mass media, and many other fields.

Even though there are many positive aspects of having a global language, there are negative aspects as well. A number of commentators have talked about some possible dangers of global language. One such commentator is David Crystal, who, in his book English as a Global Language expresses his concern about the possibilities that this global language will have a negative effect on itself and also on other languages which do not have all the power that English, being the global language has. He points out that English should not be the language spoken worldwide and therefore being the cause for the disappearance of other languages. The points Crystal talks about are of a big importance, and with them he is encouraging his readers to learn other languages.
1. Linguistic Power
The first danger he talks about is linguistic power. Crystal says that people who don't have English as their mother tongue, but have it instead as their second or foreign language, will have a disadvantage in front of those, who do have it as a mother tongue. Crystal tried to say that a global language might cultivate an elite class with native speakers, who take advantage of the possibility to think and work quickly in their mother tongue. If this was the case they might manipulate it to their advantage at the expense of those who has another language as their mother tongue and in this way create a linguistic gap between people.
2. Linguistic Complacency
There is a possibility that a global language may make people lazy about learning other languages, or reduce their opportunities to do so. This type of attitude has brought some disadvantages to them. Whereas a nonnative person can speak two languages, the natives can speak only one language. But nowadays their rigid attitude is changing. There are clear signs of growing awareness, within English-speaking communities, of the need to break away from the tradition of monolingual bias. They have realized that boosting exports and attracting foreign investment involves learning foreign languages. The UK-based Centre for Information on Language Teaching found that a third of British experts miss opportunities because of poor language skills. To solve this problem some measures have been taken. For example, Australian schools now teach Japanese as the first foreign language, and both the USA and UK are now paying more attention to Spanish.
3. Linguistic Demise
An introduction of a global language might lead to discrimination of other languages. Losing a language equals losing identity. The language is much more than just a tool for communication. According to Trudgill there is an intimate relation between language and culture and a large homogenisation of culture might lead to a shift in language where native people adopt another language and eventually the old language may die out. There is a difference between “language death” and “language murder”. Language death is when a language disappears naturally; its speakers are leaving it voluntarily, but “language murder” means that the killer language actively discourages use of other languages. Minority languages may be removed from the media and educational systems. English is referred to as a “killer language”, which means that it is a dominant language learned subtractive, at the cost of the mother tongues, rather than additively.
4. Threat of future dominance: English has a history, sometimes cruel and violent with colonialism and war, and introducing English as the global language might be seen as a threat of future dominance.
5. Linguistic Bankruptcy
One of the risks having only one language is that the chosen language may become very technical and impoverished for nonnative speakers, e.g. the Eskimos, who have several words for “snow”, because they need it. They would probably not be able to express themselves properly if they only had one word for snow. And Swedish people would not be able to use the word “lagom”, a word which says a lot about the Swedish society and people.
6. A Feeling of Loss
Many of the people who answered the question about “English as a Global Language”, expressed a worry that if we only had one language, they would feel “poor” when it comes to expressing feelings and emotions in a language that is not their mother tongue, that they would not know enough words to be able to really express how and what they feel.
7. Threat of Losing Identity
It is important for people to remember their roots, and language is a very integral part of one's identity. English is closely linked to the British and the American cultures and history and is therefore not a “neutral” language. People whose languages are being lost because of the dominance of the English language, may lose their identities.
8. Threat of Social Clash
The use of one single language in a community is no guarantee for social harmony or mutual understanding. This has been proven several times during the history, e.g. American Civil War, Spanish Civil War, and former Yugoslavia.

Concluding Comment

Our discussion has shown that the creation of a global language has numerous advantages and disadvantages. We are in need of an international language for communication, politics, trade and security, but at the same time we are worried about language death, linguistic gap, and cultural decay.

References

Crystal, David. English as a Global Language. Cambridge: CUP, 1997

“English as global language: problems, dangers, opportunities.” AccessMyLibrary. 2008.
Gale. 29 June 2008 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_(mythology)>.

Zelander, Emilie.“English as a Global Language- Good or Bad?.” Mittuniversitete. 2005.
Mittuniversitete.29 June 2008 < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_(mythology)>.




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