This essay is about considering the issue of whether I think the spread of English can be regarded as killing off other languages with which it comes into contact. To complete the essay, I am required to identify the factors at play which encourage and discourage people from maintaining their heritage language(s) in the face of the advantages of learning and using English. In so doing, I need to reflect on the extent to which the use of English can accommodate the use of other languages. Furthermore, I am asked to consider and investigate at least two areas of human activity featured in Block 3 such as education, publishing (academic or literary), media and entertainment.
All over the world there is a concern about the disappearance of languages. Languages are dying in a very big way everywhere in the world. And who is to blame is the much-asked question. In my essay, “Discuss the proposition that English is a killer language “is big question, whether we can blame alone English as the cause of increasing number of vanished regional languages or other factors are also at work. We will find out people’s notion to this question through human activity in Block 3 of the U214 module, journals and websites examples.
What exactly is a language? A language is a means of expressing oneself, and of communicating with each other. The dictionary will tell us that it is the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way. (Oxford dictionary)
The English language is becoming the world’s language, the pathway of global communication and global access to knowledge. English is much more than a language: it is a bridge across borders and cultures, a source of unity in a rapidly changing world. (Block 3, Words of English, page 3)
According to activity 1.2 from Block3, the extract of speech made by Gordon Brown in 2008 when he was British Prime Minister. He wanted to introduce and promote English language to the world because he is considering English as global language and by learning English it means people will gain such knowledge or privilege of success. For activity 1.4, we can see that people are motivated to learn a language for different reasons. From the advertisement on fig.1.3, there are several illustrations of reasons of why people wanted to learn English which some are as follows: some were looking at communication, others were related to internationalism and the idea of moving abroad to live in English country, others about shopping. Looking at different reasons, we can say that English is a way of connecting people or changing people’s life to a better future. English is very important for economic advantage and improving employment prospects. Learning English is a lifestyle choice. (Block 3 of U214, Pp17-18)
According to Mark Tully, former BBC India correspondent who sees English from a completely different viewpoint. Mark doesn’t see English as a language killer in fact he makes one think the growing usage of English from a different perspective. What he says is “English is one of the advantages India has, which are said to be propelling it to economic superpower status. So Why not use it”. He clearly means us to reflect towards the job opportunities and many other things that English has created how it has helped India to improve its economy. Also, Former editor of the Economist, Bill Emmott said India fell short of china in almost every measure except ability to speak English. So why should not India have built on its one advantage. Not only Mark and Bill many other people also see English as the means of creating more opportunities. People have also cited life changing experiences when they acquired the ability to speak fluently in English. On the other hand, we also have people criticizing the growing usage of English language. As Nicholas Ostler founder of endangered languages ELF said “English is killing off scores of minority languages in its wake to spread, with English sneaking in among younger generations everywhere as the language of mass communications and symbol of progress minority regional languages are becoming increasingly difficult to accommodate”. Marc Ettinger PhD linguistics UC, Berkeley had also quite the same opinion. He says often Languages associated with a nation state kill minority languages as a function of Nationalized school where success is determined by knowing the dominant language. Also, in Centralized government dominant language is crucial to finding a job. Social pressure to fit in with what everyone is doing. Urban migration and many other reasons. Fortunately, in India for example the government promote other languages also. But by default, nowadays the main language seems to be either Hindi or English. Because of English becoming a global language as well as important for getting a job. What mostly people think is that English is just a requirement in this globalized world
The phenomenon of the exclusive use of English is caused by the attitude of a person or a community towards English. This attitude cannot be directly observed, it can be seen from the expression of positive or negative feeling towards it. This attitude may enable a language to grow and prosper or to decay and die. In this case, while English as a global language is growing, other minority languages are dying. The prominent reason for English dominating the world is positive feeling of speakers towards it which reflects in degree of importance, elegance, and social status. For instance, in the degree of importance, English holds an important role in education, technology, politic and economy. The speakers of it feel that it is important to be able to speak and understand English because a wide range of information is provided in English. Beside there is a common belief in countries where English is spoken as a second or foreign language that knowing English makes people clever, to speak English is all we needed, when someone speaks English we think he is educated, when someone speaks English it creates a good impression for him, speaking English helps to get a job, people who speak English have more friends, people would like to be considered as a speaker of English, if they have children they want them to speak English, and they feel sorry for people who cannot speak English. Those kinds of feeling lead English become a dominating language.
The consequence of this attitude is English as international language will spread widely. English becomes such a need which is required to be fulfilled in today’s life. Everyone must be able to understand English, both orally and written. While this is happening, on the other parts of the world there are some less powerful languages which are trying to survive or even die. Regarding to this phenomenon, there are such languages as follows: When the number of people speaking a language is actively growing, it is considered healthy. When children are no longer taught a language, it is considered endangered. When a language is spoken by only a handful of elderly people, it is considered dilapidated. When no one at all speaks a language as a first language, it is considered extinct. It is so sad to know that from thousands of languages on earth; almost half of people of the world speak one of six dominant languages, English, Mandarin Chinese, Hindustani, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic. The other small languages are left behind. (BBC News)
The spread of English can be linked both to communicative and social inequalities and is threat to local languages and cultural practices.
In activity 1.6 Blommaert in the Block 3 identified different ways in which the sermon about minority language rights conceals the linguistic politics that contributes to the marginalisation of certain languages. English can often be a threat to other majority languages, such as French or Portuguese, rather than to local languages. (Block 3 of U214, page 29)
The spread of English is a threat to other languages. This threat is clearly documented in statistical predictions such as those suggesting that, of the estimated 6900 languages spoken in the world today (Ethnologue, 2009), somewhere between 20 and 50 per cent are likely to become extinct by the end of this century.
Furthermore, the phenomenon of language death is the process by which a language stops being spoken entirely, either because its speakers die out without passing it shifts to the use of another language. It occurs most often in contexts in which a majority language that is a language such as English which has high political and social status takes over the roles that were previously played by a minority language that is, one spoken by small proportion, or politically less influential section, of the population and thus speakers of the minority language shift to using the majority one. If one considers that, at the end of twentieth century, 96 per cent of world’s languages were spoken by only 4 per cent of its population and that English is one of the preeminent majority languages in today’s world, it seems very likely that the spread of English must take some responsibility for the death of smaller languages. It is for this reason that some scholars describe English as a “killer language”. (Block 3 of U214, Pp26-27)
Colonization under the British Empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries spread the English language around the world. English became the main language in many of these countries, for example Canada (where French was also spoken), the US, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. In other countries, like India and Pakistan, English was used as the language of business and commerce and offered a good way of communicating between people who had so many different dialects. This led to the use of English as a dialect, where people with different mother tongues communicate with each other through English. It is inevitable as the world goes global and technology shrinks the distance between people that one language will emerge as the prominent means of communication. Because it was already so widespread, English has become and is that language.
Another reason for the dominance of English is the cultural and economic dominance of the United States. The British would like to imagine that they “own” the language, and they have given Shakespeare, the BBC and Monty Python, but the huge influence of Hollywood, television, MacDonald’s and Coca-Cola, for example, have helped not only to spread English, but have also made it popular to speak English. Add to this music, music videos, programmes about all the musicians and actors etc. and you see that children are flooded with examples of English. This early exposure to English means that so many millions of people will be primed to use English as a foreign and second language, making it easier to learn and develop into fluency. (The economist, 2009)
Because the internet and many other digital breakthroughs started in the US, the working language of these tools was also English. Other languages are of course used on the net and our mobile phones now, but the predominance of English on the net when it first burst onto the scene has helped to establish English as the language of choice when communicating with people of different languages on various digital communication channels. In Norway they have always preferred subtitling movies and television shows. This has also helped to raise the level of English in the country. In countries like Germany, films and television programmes are generally labelled and consequently English does not seem to be as widespread among the general population as in Norway, for example.
Languages are dying everywhere in the world. Secondly, wherever the English language has gone in the last 200 years, it has managed to wipe out the local languages. It is very important to preserve languages in terms of protecting any cultures. If it is not, the world will become dull. Even if English language is very influential, we should maintain our identity, our nationality, that we have our own language that we can be proud of. Language will just die if the people will obviously no longer use it, but preserving it is one way of showing to the whole world how united we are as a nation because language is a keystone of culture.
To conclude, I would say that English language is a powerful language. It is spoken in most part of the world especially in developed countries for instance the United States, Great Britain, and Canada. This is an inescapable process of globalization, the process of extending social relations across world-space. Globalization leads to the commonness of English in several fields such as science, technology, economy, politic etc. The result of this is English dominating the world and disregarding minority languages. That is why English language is often named as “a killer language” that wipes out smaller languages and their cultures by exclusive use.
It is estimated that in the world today about two billion people have some working knowledge of English, and the language is spreading rapidly. It is safe to say that English has become the global language and the killer of other languages.
So it is that English is the most commonly used language in business, education, diplomacy, media and science and technology. As the world becomes more and more globalised, countries will be even more dependent on their ability to communicate with each other.
Block 3 of U214
BBC News – Will English kill off India’s languages? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-Dying languages: English kills
www.economist.com. Accessed 23/04/2018
blogs.reuters.com/India/2013/09/07/ Indian English: Will English kill off India’s languages
www.quora.com/Indian-English/Will-English-kill-off-Indias-languages. Is English killing other Indian languages?
http://www.rediff.com/news/2006/mar/14msg2.htm. Accessed 25/04/2018