Unit 2 English: A Global Language? TEACHER: Today’s topic is English as a global language. I know many of you speak English as a second language, right? How about you, Hiroshi? Is English your first language? STUDENT l: No, my first language is Japanese. English is my second language. TEACHER: And how about you, Patricia? STUDENT 2: English is my second language, too. My first language is Spanish. TEACHER: See, many of you use English as a second language, even as a global language to communicate with other people who speak English as a second language. Today, I want to give you two contrasting points of view on whether or not English is a global language. The first is that English is obviously a global language. People who support this point of view believe English is the language people all over the world use to communicate, and that it is gradually replacing other languages. The second point of view is that English is not truly a global language, because it is not the main language spoken by most people worldwide. Supporters of this view say that even though many people speak some English worldwide, English has not replaced other languages. They acknowledge that people use English every day, for many reasons, but this doesn’t mean English is replacing other languages, nor does it make English the main language spoken in the world. First, let’s examine the first view. First of all, English is the dominant language of business, travel, and science. When people need a common language, they often use English. Think about it. English is often used at tourist information centers, in international hotels, at airports. If you use a taxi in Rome, and you can’t speak Italian, the taxi driver is more likely to use English than any other languages. It is used at business meetings and international sports events. The European Union uses English, along with French, at its meetings. . . . ASEAN, the Asian trade group, uses English at its meetings. Can you think of other situations in which English is used as a common language? STUDENT 2: How about this class? All of us are listening to you in English. TEACHER: Absolutely. Educational settings are a great example. Any others? STUDENT 2: How about a chatroom on the Internet? I sometimes go to chatrooms and everyone is using English. TEACHER: Excellent example. The Internet has created a lot of international communities and people often use English. In fact, most people who use the Internet know English. This helps support the view that English is a global language. The second major reason that people believe English is a global language is that it is the official language
of more than seventy-five countries. This means these countries use English in schools, banks, business, and government. Of these seventy-five countries, English may be the only official language of the country, like in England, or English may be used along with other official languages, like in the Philippines, Singapore, and India. In countries like India, where so many languages are spoken, you can see how using English as an official language makes it easier for people to communicate. The third reason to support the global argument is that every year about 1 billion people study English. Why? What are some of the reasons? Hiroshi? How about you? STUDENT l: Well, now to study, and someday I want to be in international business. TEACHER: That’s a solid reason. How about you, Oksana? STUDENT 3: I’m not really sure. I just think it will help me in the future somehow. TEACHER: OK. There’s a more general reason. The point is, people want and need to learn English because it offers them opportunities. To sum up, English is used every day by many people. People all over the world come in contact with each other for many reasons. They need a common language, a language to facilitate communication. Being proficient in English gives someone an advantage in these situations. OK. I have given you many examples of how English is used in a variety of situations. Nevertheless, does this mean that English is a global language? Let’s look at why some people don’t believe English has replaced other languages. First, there are about three times as many people who speak Chinese as their first language as those who speak English as a first language. And in many countries where some people use English for work each day, they don’t use English anywhere else. Even in English-speaking countries, there are millions of people who prefer to speak a language other than English at home, with friends, or at work. Second, I mentioned before that seventy-five countries have English as their official language. This doesn’t mean all, or even most of the people in these countries can speak English. For example, in India, most sources agree that only about 5 percent of the population speaks English. That’s a small percentage! Third, how much English does a person need to know to be called an English speaker? People may learn some English for specific situations, such as the taxi driver I mentioned earlier. However, I think you would all agree with me that a taxi driver who knows a few phrases like “Where are you going?” or “What is the name of your hotel?” isn’t really a proficient English speaker. Another example is Airspeak, the English that is used by air traffic controllers and pilots. A pilot for Japan Airlines or an air traffic controller in Paris needs to know Airspeak. But they may learn only the English words they need for these jobs, and therefore they can’t be considered English speakers.
The point here is that people all over the world may use some English for work or other situations. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean they are fluent in English. They still use their first language for daily communication. English is not their main language. So, what does this all mean? I think it’s safe to say that English will continue to be the main language used in many international settings because, as I said earlier, people all over the world need a common language. And, for now, English is that language. But, English won’t replace other languages for most daily communication and this, to me, is what a global language really is, one that replaces others for most everyday communication. Some people are afraid of this. They worry that as people use English more and more, their ability in their first language will decline. I think people will use English along with other languages. We are moving into a global culture, and as this continues, I think people from non-English speaking countries will want to maintain their culture, including their first language. They may still want to learn English, but I don’t see them giving up their own language for English. What do you think? I’m going to stop there. I know that’s a lot of information to digest. We’ll continue talking about some of the differences in the English words used in various countries like Australia, Singapore, and the Philippines. That’s all for today. Come see me if you have any questions.
 

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