Does the Spread of English Cause Language Loss
The attainable of English as an international language of social, economic, and political communication is well documented by sociologists. The dominance of English over other language is hardly disputed empirically even by people who criticize its expansion over other languages. However, there is no consensus over the effects that English has dominance over other languages with some arguing that English has a potential danger in the survival of other languages, posing a risk to even standardized national languages. As such, local languages stand the risk of being relegated to a lesser function in an incipient global arena. Also, English encourages the communicative inequality between native speaking academicians or scientists and non-native speakers. Thus, this implies that even within the context of the language becoming a universal acceptance, its use will always be enshrined in the communicative inequality between native and non-native speakers of the language.
The 20th century saw English becoming the global language as it became the de facto language of diplomacy, internet and trade. This status forces many countries around the world to declare English as the official language even in countries that were never in contact with the British through colonization. However, this phenomenon whereby English as a language spread uncontrollably and attain the international language status is likely to marginalize other languages even within the countries where they are spoken. In some cases, such as Indonesia, where the Bahasa Indonesia is supposed to unite the diverse country with different cultures, it is becoming a second class language as English spreads in all institutions of the country. The danger is that as English becomes increasingly attractive for global purposes, smaller languages progressively become worthless as people encourage their children to learn English. There is a need to examine the probable impact of English on other languages such as Arabic in the wake of widespread emphasis of the language as a global language (Phillipson, 2003).
Because of its applicability in a great number of instances on the world stage, including technology and trade, English has forged its position as an important language in the world. As the world becomes more globalized and draw near to global village concept, the need for a universal language comes across as a natural requirement for people from different countries. The universal language allows people from different countries to communicate with others in a global village. Furthermore, the increased importance of English language is the result of globalization effects where people need to interact at different levels. English is not only used in literature, business, and politics, but also in academic research and science.
According to Fishman (2001), more than one billion people spoke some form of English at the dawn of the 21st century. More than three quarters of mails sent in the world annually are written in English and 80% of all information on the internet stored in the English language. In terms of trade, more than 50% of business deals across the world are contracted in English while two thirds of world’s scientific papers are written in English (Phillipson, 2003). In addition, countries that have traditionally provided some languages that could rival English like Mandarin in China, French, Germany, and Spain have started to embrace English as a language of official communication. Most universities around the world require students to pass English test through International English Language Testing System IELTS or the popular Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFEL). More recently, students and international travelers are being required to take English for International Communication tests before they are given visas to visit other countries. English as a universal language has varied impacts on the continued use of other languages, especially where these languages carries a special signage to the people who use it. The risk of abandoning other languages for English can mean that extinction of certain languages as carriers of culture could signify the death of these cultures (Phillipson, 2003).
English Language Causes Loss of Other Languages
The rapid spread of English as the universal language of communication has had a great impact on the use of mother tongues in several countries. The popularity of English in some instances has meant that children are taught to speak and communicate with other people from the early stages of their life. Therefore, they grow up knowing only the English language. Because of the economic aspect of language where English is the main language used in trade, other languages, and especially those spoken in the developing countries have not been sustained. This endangers their development and continued usage as globalization brings about the need for a universal business language. English has been associated with developed countries like the U.S. and Britain where it originated. This means that other countries cannot compete with English to sustain and maintain their weak languages. The use of English has become a common phenomenon in international politics, technology development, economic prowess, and scientific research. It means that many people across the world are forced to leave mother tongue languages in support of English as they cannot use them to involve the rest of the world (Oakes, 2005).
Language is an effective tool to pass own cultural practices to the next generation. This means that learning English involves an aspect of acquiring a new culture, which is taken up in favor of the native culture. As a new culture takes root in a particular society, people find themselves abandoning their language in favor of the English language, which denotes the new culture that they want to adapt. English becomes a strong and mainstream carrier of the dearth of the native languages, because people want to jump to the bandwagon of a new language. In certain case, the mainstream language, English for that matter, becomes the official language in a society that had a native language. Thus, English becomes the dominating language of interaction and, therefore, herald the loss of the native language in that particular society (Oakes, 2005).
Globalization also at its best privileges the English language over the native languages across the world as it moves these languages into vanguards. The sociolinguistic behavior characterizing the global interaction favors the expansion and acquisition of the English language over the native language in many countries. Such languages become increasingly endangered and beleaguered as they are not empowered to remain in use. Lee and McLaughlin (2004) noted that English has approximately caused the loss of over 3,000 languages in countries that were colonized by British. Out of the estimated 8,000 languages that have been spoken in the world, only 400 are estimated to be capable of surviving into the 22nd century as people leave their languages in favor of English.
English Language Does Not Cause Loss of Other Languages
In a world where countries have become interdependent on each other, the use of English language helps to share the social and cultural practices of other communities including the languages. The use of English language across many cultures has contributed to the knowledge of other languages that were not known to the world. English is used as a carrier to broadcast the sociolinguistic and cultural aspects of a community that was once closed from the rest of the world. English as a language helps small communities to incorporate the rest of the world, as they make their language and culture known through the internet and other media of communication (Lee & McLaughlin, 2004).
English as a medium of instruction and education has led to the growth in the number of people who are bi-lingual. This is a lasting legacy in many countries where the language is used as an official language. In such countries, children are taught their native languages together with English language. This is unlike in Britain where most people only know one language. The fact that people grow up with more than one language is an achievement that English language continues to bequeath the world, albeit at the detriment of international languages such as French, Germany, and Arabic (Crystal, 2003).
The use of English language by many people has simplified communication and allowed people to move to other cities. English facilitates easy communication among people who speak different native languages. More than 30% of people living in the city of London are not native speakers of the English language. Many of them come from different cultures but can communicate and interact, because of the use of a common language. The use of English has enabled many non-native English speakers to learn another language. Without English, most people could only be able to communicate with lesser people, and the use of English is in itself an incentive for people from different cultures to interact through communication (Crystal, 2003).
The English language uses words and phrases from other languages, and it is simpler for words to be adapted into English than it is for English words to be used in other languages. For instance, the popular Swahili word Safari has been adopted in the English language and obtained a global status. Based on this reason, most people are interested in the language from which some popular words are adopted. Swahili thus is now taught in many European and American universities.
Due to the fact that the English language is very easy to learn makes adapted words from other languages to acquire prominent global status as many people are able to read and understand them easily. The learning of new symbols or characters is not mandatory for English speakers, because it borrows them from other languages. This makes the language easily accessible through other languages. The language thus stands out as among the few international languages that does not require much learning and processing of characters to be able to understand (Wright, 2004).
The Negative Effect of English Language to Other Languages
The continued use of a language depends on the supportive cultural and social structures that are put in place by the community that uses that particular language. Already, the English language is established as a language of diplomacy, trade, and science. Therefore, the language almost automatically gets to be supported across the world. Furthermore, the movement of people to cities and towns means that people will require a common language to unite them, and English comes across the default language to be used by many people. However, this is not the same with other languages such as Arabic where native speakers are forced to abandon in preference to the English language.
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The force is not so much coercive but voluntary in the attempt to accommodate the many business partners and workers who come to work in cities such as Dubai. As the city becomes the business center in Europe and Asia, the use of English in communication will continue to signify the death of other native languages in that region. The words that are adapted from the native languages are not sufficient enough to make an impact in the English language that also borrows from many other languages across the world (Crystal, 2003).
The rapid increase in popularity of the English language also encourages the migration of people to cities like Dubai. Most of them lose interest to learn the native language of that city where they migrate since they know that they can communicate with the natives in English. As such, there is little incentive for locals and immigrants to learn the native language, in this case Arabic. Many signs on the roads and shops are translated into English as a further encouragement for people to neglect the native language for English.
As the language continues to spread across the world, there are views from its users that people only need one language to communicate, and as such the death of other languages becomes a phenomenon that is imminent and synonymous with the use of English both in social and official functions. There is also the danger of lingual triumphalism where some people are likely to celebrate the success of one language over the other. Thus, it makes those failed language appear as though they are inferior (Crystal, 2003).
The adaption of words from other languages into English is also likely to do more harm than good to the language where the words are adapted from. While the English language expands in its grammar and word, most languages lose their words, because the adapted words are “Englished” rather than used as they are in the native language. Sometimes they acquire new spellings or meanings depending on the wider application in the local language. They stop having their original meaning in the local language, but instead acquire a global meaning that should be understood as such by the global users of the English language (Wright, 2004).
The global status of English also creates an elite group of users who are dismissive and complacent in their attitude to other languages. This group is mostly monolingual, and are not willing to learn any other language as they feel totally empowered and sufficient to navigate the many cultures in the world using English only. In many cases, the elite English monolinguals are in most cases socially, economically, and politically empowered to be able to influence other people’s language (Wright, 2004). Thus, their impact on other languages seems stronger than those languages can resist. The negative impact on these languages comes about as an unavoidable incident as other languages cannot compete with the privileged status of English language.
The use of English as a first choice in many aspects of human socialization may imply that there is nothing to stop the language from killing other languages. There is always a danger that monolingualism could spell a bad future for small weak languages that have been used by communities across the world. Although many governments have put in place policies to encourage the use of native languages in official functions, the encouragement incentives for their use are still lacking, and people prefer the use of English to their own mother tongues. Furthermore, people who want to move to new places, for instance, in Dubai have no incentive to learn the Arabic language since they know that the majority of people in Dubai can communicate in English. This is bad to the development and growth of other languages in these cities. There is a need for those in charge of making policies to put in place structures that will celebrate the use of local/native languages over English to ensure that the local languages are preserved as being important for its users.
It is also important that the policy makers take up fundamental decisions on language preservation and development policies. This has to be done knowing very well that once a language dies, it becomes difficult to restore it to its original status. Once people start using English as their only language, it is almost impossible to change their perception of about other languages since their only access to primary communication tools is delivered in English. Governments must provide resources to language planning to ensure that their native languages, which in most cases carry the religious and cultural elements of the society, are maintained to the required levels of use to avoid their loss to English.