People love to complain about English as a universal language.  It demonstrates the hegemonic nature of the United States, and it has all kinds of negative implications for places that speak anything else, and it shows that the U.S. is a big bully.  This is ridiculous.  Before English was the universal language, it was French.  Before that, maybe Latin? A consequence of globalization is that we need to be able to connect with people in other places that speak different languages.  It is easier if everyone learns one common language, and if it is English then that is great for those us that speak it.  That is not to say that we should not learn other languages, as there are many incentives to doing so.  But consider the alternative to having everyone speak English.  Every international meeting would require interpreters, every email would require translation, every facet of business would require an extra step.

It comes off as lazy and almost offensive at this point to not speak a second language.  But the truth is, languages are hard to learn when you’re 22 and the extent of your childhood language experience was 4 years of Latin.  Through a year of study and 10 weeks in China, I became practically conversational in Chinese, but without daily intensive practice I have lost almost all of it.  The inability of people like me to learn a second language should not be held against us.  We are good at other things, and linguistically talented people need us too.  The point is that a Universal Language is almost required for international business and a necessary consequence of globalization.  I am going to choose to not complain about the fact that it is English.

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2 Responses to English

  1. Liza says:

    I also think its very interesting the amount people complain about English as a universal language. However, since I am a native English speaker I always considered by own bias. However, I am curious of the arguments that would be made by people who do not speak English. Would these people say that English as a universal language is unfair and is just another mechanism for the US to gain more power, or would they say they agree that it is a good mechanism for international communication and if they had the means to do so, they would learn English. I do think that having a universal language would be very beneficial, but people would need to recognize the cultural differences within English as well as the gaps that could be created. I think it is very hard to say– lets have a universal language– when so many people in this world still remain illiterate.

  2. I think this is a fascinating topic and one that has become more germane given that an increasing portion of Us population is comprised of Hispanics and the resultant cries of “What is the official language.” We live in a culture and society where English is the first language. Despite recent migratory patterns, English is the language of our history, constitution, laws and common communication, to say nothing of business, legal and finanacial transcations. I find it disrespectful to live in a country and not make the effort to learn the language of the place so that one can interact with other members of society, read and learn the history and culture and assimiltae without losing one’s primary culture. This is not to say that when I travel to a country where English is not teh first language that I expect to other to adapt to my lack. Moreover, if I moved to say, France, I would learn the language first in order to learn the culture and about my new environment and interact with my neighbours. I don’t think it’s asking or expecting too much. Because as politically incorrect as it may seem, English is still the labguage generally spoke if not official and it is the language in which the country operates. There are many long term consequnces to this. I shudder to think what will happen in grade schools. Should an English speaking child’s learnign be curtailed because other non-English speakers need time to catch up? Should extra time be allloted to civil service test takers because they don’t have strong grasp of the language? Having an official language is great but it’s also important to know at least one language to keep abreast of teh changing times.

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