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English! Perched top of the food chain

THE GLOBAL LANGUAGE PHENOMENA: A global language is a language spoken internationally, which is learnt by many people as a second language, the most popular one being English.

A wide range of the words in the English language were taken from German, Latin, French and other European countries. It is the one Language whose roots cannot be traced to itself but other languages. This however has not affected the rate at which it deneme bonusu has spread the world over as it is spoken in every continent and country. James David Nicoll has this to say about English and its borrowing tendencies, “English does not borrow from other languages. English follows other languages down dark alleys, knocks them over and rummages through their pockets for loose grammar.” 

English is the world’s super international language what socio-linguists term LINGUA FRANCA. A lingua franca also called bridge language, common language, trade language, auxiliary language, vehicular language, or link language is a language or  “Dialect” dialect systematically used to make communication possible between groups of people who do not share a   “First language” native language or dialect. Lingua francas have been developed around the world throughout human history, sometimes for commercial reasons, but also for cultural, religious, diplomatic and administrative convenience, and as a means of exchanging information between scientists and other scholars of different nationalities. Bodies of languages from disciplines have been written in English. Though one might argue translation, very few have been translated.

English as a lingua franca (ELF) thus, according to Seidlhofer, is, “the use of the “English language” English language as a global means of inter-community communication.” He continues to say that it can also be understood as any use of English amongs speakers of different “First language” first languages for whom English is the communicative medium of choice and often the only option. Further, he posits that, in this context, English is defined functionally by its use in intercultural communication rather than formally by its reference to native-speaker norms. Making English vehicular.

English has spread to large areas of the world due to “British Empire” colonisation and this widespread is that of the teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) and English as a second language (ESL). It is spoken by 350 million people as First Language (L1), and half a billion people as Second Language (L2).

Because of the use of English as a lingua franca in international trade and intercultural communication, native speakers of English are outnumbered by non-native speakers, which is a situation that is quite atypical for western European languages.  A consequence of this is a sense of ownership of the language which is shared by different communities. For instance, international communication via ELF has facilitated exchange between China and the rest of the world, thus sustaining international trade. But once a language is appropriated by new communities, it is then adapted to their specific needs. Consequently, the English language is undergoing change, and this change is being brought about mostly by its non-native speakers.

It is also the language used not only by the diplomats but also by some world organisations such as UNO, WHO, UNESCO, UNICEF, OPEC, EFTA, ASEAN, UNHRC, WTO, ILO, BRICS, INTERPOL and so on.

English is the language widely used in the field of science and technology. Being adopted as the de facto universal language has had a great impact on scientific communication. As a result, scientists all around the world can make use of the available scientific literature and communicate with the scientists of the other regions wherever they are in the world. Now-a-days, the working knowledge of English has become a minimum requirement in a number of professions and occupations such as a research, medicine, and

computer and so on. This is according to Parupalli Rao.

There are about 130 million English speakers in the African continent. This is a relatively small portion of the continent’s entire population which exceeds 1 billion people. In addition to this, proficiency in the language varies widely among speakers. In some countries that have English as one of the official languages, less than one percent of the population can speak the language fluently. In West Africa, the Pidgin version of the language is spoken by about 75 million people. African states however, use English for trade and diplomatic relations. This thus still makes English the most influential language in the continent though Germany and France too have colonies in the continent.

As a lingua franca, users of English focus mainly on function which is communication. They do not fuss much about grammar and pronunciation as long as the message gets across. Thus, people can choose make a hybrid of English and their first languages to get by. Speakers accommodate to each other’s cultural backgrounds and may also use code-switching into other languages that they know. 

In Botswana under Education for Kagisano, English was adopted as a language of instruction meaning it is the language through which basic skills and knowledge are imparted to the population and the medium in which the production and reproduction of knowledge take place. From standard two, all subjects, except Setswana are taught in English. This was done in an effort to be abreast with interconnectivity and globalization, since English is widely used language in the world in international trade, diplomacy, mass entertainment, international telecommunications and scientific publications as well as publishing newspapers and other books.

A linguist, Robert Phillipson, has decried the expansion of English labelling it “linguistic imperialism”. “Linguistic imperialism”, according to Phillipson (1992), “is the dominance asserted and retained by the establishment and continuous reconstitution of structural and cultural inequalities between English and other languages”. Kachru (1983) further says, “As a result, English became the most dominated and most powerful language in the world that motivated many linguists and language researchers to call it an international language”.

 Quite a number of scholars share Phillipson’s view, they believe what English is doing is both linguistic and cultural genocide since language is a means of communication and people share their thoughts, feelings, expressions, ideas and expressions. In other words, language exercises cultural transmission, socialisation, status, sharing power, politics, and knowledge and so on. Their argument is that you cannot teach a person English and not kill their culture since English comes with its own culture. This is true since, when English was introduced to academic life, it caused Latin and Greek to vanish from the curricula of schools and universities. This belief is very strong in West Africa where they have tamed English by “pidginising” it.

Rao avers that although different people may have different opinion regarding English as the future global lingua franca, it seems beyond any doubt that English is the only language that has the potency and vigour to sustain as the global lingua franca in future. Buttressing it, he postulates that, English has already become a dominantly prominent part of our lives. That without English, we cannot hang out these days. For, people learn English now because they believe English will be the global language.

“Good English: well spoken and well written, will open more doors than a college Degree. Bad English will slam doors that you didn’t even know existed.” William Raspberry

Educationally Speaking



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