THE IMPACTS OF ENGLISH AS A GLOBAL LANGUAGE Since the world’s origin, language has evolved to meet specific social and cultural needs. Human beings have developed manifold languages to be able to communicate and identify as a community. Louis Calvet states that language emerged therefore polygenetically, and that humankind is multilingual (23). At present, however, English is considered to be a global language, a lingua franca and a window onto the world, leaving aside other languages of major importance in the past and present.
The idea of modernization with the objective of creating social hegemony as regards language may provoke a backlash from some people, given that not everyone has access to learn English. Therefore, there is a great majority that is not competent in English as to adapt to social change and to the consequences that this modernization might cause. As Robert Burchfield affirms: English has also become a lingua franca to the point that any literate educated person is in a very real sense deprived if he does not know English.
Poverty, famine, and disease are instantly recognized as the cruelest and least excusable forms of deprivation. Linguistic deprivation is a less easily noticed condition, but one nevertheless of great significance. (160) English seems to have acquired an international expansion and it has reached the media, the Internet, workplaces and it also has a major influence in cultural issues. Robert Cooper affirms that language spread may be defined as an increase, over time, in the proportion of a communication network that adopts a given language variety for a given communication function (15).
A growing gap between the dominant social groups and the people unable to reach the basic standards of English has stemmed from this English trend. The disparity between members of society also mirrors the number of people who are being socially excluded. This paper purports to examine the reasons and consequences of the social exclusion in different contexts where English has an overwhelming influence. Firstly, English seems to have gained a strategic role in companies and in the business world.
Nowadays, it might be a requirement to be competent in English in order to qualify for a job. Not only is English required in international business but also in local business. Many highly qualified companies and smaller companies invest large amounts of money and effort to hasten technology of modern communication. As David Crystal states: The need for a global language is particularly appreciated by international academic and business communities, and it is here that the adoption of a single lingua franca is most in evidence, both in lecture-rooms and board-rooms all over the globe. 13) Although this is an idea which is still in process, not everyone seems to have access to the type of jobs for which people need to be efficient and effective in English, as they have no previous knowledge of the language. As Crystal mentions, it is very common to find cases in which technology is used worldwide, for example, in conversations over the Internet across the globe (56). Under these circumstances, employees will not have access to better job positions if they do not have a proficient level of English.
Secondly, English is present in the media technology, newspapers, magazines and the Internet. As Phillipson and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas have affirmed, English is considered as a language of wider communication (44). It can be claimed that the foremost objective of this trend is to maintain a global hegemony. However, although English is dominating mainly the internet and computers, this does not mean that hegemony is actually achieved. A common example of this nonacomplishment can be seen through the Internet; however, there is a glimmer of hope if we consider David Graddol’s words:
At present 90% of Internet hosts are based in English-speaking countries. It is not surprising, therefore, that the majority of traffic and the majority of Web sites are based in English and that those users based in other countries and who normally work in other languages, find they have to communicate with others in the cyberspace community through the medium of English. The quantity of Internet materials in languages other than English is set to expand dramatically in the next decade. English will remain pre-eminent for some time, but it will eventually become one language amongst many. 61) People who fail to be competent in English might find the media frustrating. Emotional crisis in connection to social exclusion might lead to personal severe crisis. It has been affirmed that (… ) individuals or groups being sidelined by those representing the dominant model in society. This exclusion applies in particular to employment (many people who are out of work feel shunned) but it also affects other areas, such as the family, housing and education. People lacking social acknowledgment are prone to identity crisis. (“Social Exclusion”).
Nevertheless, it is not only the feeling of frustration in connection to the media and workplaces that may induce an irreversible crisis but also the same feeling in connection to our culture. People’s own languages may be affected by the influence of English. English intrusive words seem to enhance the differences among people, given that naming things in a different language seems to sound more prestigious. Shops with an “On sale” sign and other messages in English on the window shop are a kind and exclusive invitation for people from a certain social group with high purchasing power thus excluding others.
This can be found in Allan Luke’s own words Allan Luke states that “discourse and language in everyday life may function ideologically. They may be used to make asymmetrical relations of power and particular textual portrayals of social (…) worlds. ” (85). In sum, although English may be seen as the language of progress and modernity, special attention should be focused on the serious effects a society may experience through modernization. People from different contexts and backgrounds may be the victims of this controversial issue as regards English being a global language.
They might find themselves socially and culturally excluded in their daily lives, given that they do not have the same economic, social and cultural possibilities as other members of society. Robert Phillipson states: “At the present time English, to a much greater extent than any other language is the language in which that fate of most of the world’s millions is decided” (55). However, a linguistic phenomenon should not constitute an impediment to those who have limited access to the English language. References:
Burchfield, Robert. The English language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985. Calvet, Louis. -J. Linguistique et colonialism: petit traite de glottophagie. Paris: Payot, 1974. Cooper, Robert L. “A framework for the study of language spread” in Cooper (1982) Language Spread: Studies in Diffusion and Social Change. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, for the Center for Applied Linguistics. Crystal, David. English as a Global Language. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Graddol, David.
The future of English? London: The British Council, 1997. Luke, Allan. Text and Discourse Analysis in Education: An Introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis. Rev. Res. Ed. 21:1-48, 1995. Phillipson, Robert. Linguistic Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. Phillipson, Robert and Tove, Skunabb- Kangas. Linguicism Rules in Education. Roskilde: Institute VI, Roskilde University Centre (3 volumes), 1986. Reseau Financement Alternatif (Online) Retrieved 11-12-2007, from Http://www. eufin. org/