Education

English language, international language
Sipa via AP Images
Minister for National Education Xavier Darcos

English Language Dominance Expands, as Critics Accept ‘Secret of Success’

September 09, 2008 06:55 AM
by Christopher Coats
A recent move by the French education minister to make English language education more widespread and accessible than ever could mark the end of one of the final obstacles to the language’s global dominance.

The International Language?

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Striking a stark contrast to former President Jacques Chirac’s sudden exit  from a gathering of European business leaders after the president of an employers association addressed the audience in English, the education minister has called the language “the secret of success.”

Driven by globalization and an increasingly connected global marketplace, English has come to replace French as the unofficial international language of business.

From Sweden to Tokyo, work places turn to English as the common means of communicating between cities, countries and continents.
The education minister in France endeavors to expand English language education opportunities to a broader number of students, including offering lessons outside of the traditional school calendar, but the move toward embracing the language is far more widespread.

Echoing the French education minister, India’s finance minister stressed the importance of having basic English communication skills to a class of software expert graduates in August.

Graduate schools from Madrid to Seoul have moved to offer sizable percentages of their classes in English, thanks not only to an increased demand for English speakers in the business world, but also an ever-larger number of international students—a sizable source of revenue for many universities.

Background: English dominance

Hardly relegated to advanced degrees, many undergraduate programs across Europe have adopted expansive catalogues of English-language classes, however the recent move in France signals a rare official move into lower education.

Viewed by many to be the official language of business for some time now, linguists speculate English is on its way to dominating the world economy in the same way as Latin, Phoenician and Sanskrit once did centuries ago.

Further, it appears that the language’s dominance extends far beyond the boardroom, making up more than 80 percent of the world’s electronically stored data and acting as a universal component of entertainment and global media.

Though the other languages that dominated international communication have since disappeared, scholars argue that English does not run the same risk of dissolving from view mainly due to its adaptability.

Although one-quarter of the world’s population can now communicate in English to some degree, many have adapted the language for local use, creating dialects all their own according to domestic needs and cultural needs.

Reactions: English backlash

Despite the language’s steady spread across the globe and acceptance in classrooms and chat rooms across the world, some fear that English threatens to permanently replace local dialects, or even, in a decidedly more dramatic take, become a global language. Although France seems to have embraced English education, protests to the language invasion remain, ranging from the subtle to the violent.

Meanwhile, some have taken aim at the impact of English on existing languages, such as the common use of partly or fully English phrases such as “il weekend” and “OK” in place of their Italian translations. The Dante Alighieri Society has appealed to Italians and all those who speak Italian to stay true to a pure version of the language and avoid what they have called “Anglitaliano.”
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