It was in the last half of the nineteenth century when the idea of creating a single, unifying world language appeared. This language was meant to accompany world unity, coexisting alongside with other national languages reduced to the role of dialects. Some saw the way out in creating a new language to fill this need, as Dr. Zamenhof did when he launched Esperanto, which is still considered to be the most popular among the artificial languages. The idea of a synthetic language was seen as a way to promote a language to the status of a global language without stepping on any nationalistic toes. However, no matter how rational the idea of a man-made language may seem to be, it would suffer from three main disadvantages. The first one would be a difficulty in the creation of new words for it. Another would be that in the conversation between two people of different nationalities the artificial language would not be the native speech for either party. The third disadvantage ďis simply that the sturdy common sense of mankind will forever refuse to undergo the long labor of acquiring a language without a literature, and without a historic past.ĒĚ (Matthews, Brander. ďOne World Language or Two?ĒĚ pp. 277-8).
¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† From the linguistic point of view English is not a particularly good or bad language, as any other language it has advantages and disadvantages. It will be used more than any other language not because of its linguistic or grammatical superiority, but because of political, historic and economic reasons. With development and spreading of information technology its importance is dramatically increasing.
Today, when English is one of the major world languages, it is even difficult to imagine that¬†this is a relatively recent thing. In Shakespeare’s time, for example, English was spoken by only a few million people. Furthermore, the language was not thought to be very important by the other European nations, and was unpopular with the rest of the world.
The exporting of¬†English¬†began in the 17th century, when the¬†first¬†settlements in North America appeared. One of the main reasons that has given the English language its present standing in the world is the great growth¬†of¬†population in the United States, caused by massive immigration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
The English language possesses some characteristic features which make it favorably distinguish against the other languages. First of all it is its simplicity of form. Old English as well as Greek and other languages used to have many inflections to show tense, person, singular and plural, etc. But over the centuries words have been simplified. Today English adjectives do not changed according to the¬†noun, and verbs have very few¬†inflections.
The flexibility is another feature of modern English. Due to the loss of inflections, the same word can serve as many different parts of speech. A lot of verbs and nouns have the same form, for example smile, gaze, drink, kiss, and walk. We can talk about a paper to read and to paper a room, to water the flowers and water to drink.
Prepositions are flexible too. Adjectives can also be used as verbs. Our clothes need to be cleaned and dried if they are dirtied; if we are cold, we warm our hands in front of a fire.
One more advantage of English is the openness of its vocabulary. It includes the easy creation of compounds and derivatives and the free admission of words from other languages. Many world languages have enriched English vocabulary at some time,¬†but the process is now being reversed. Purists of the French, Russian, and Japanese languages clamor against the arrival of English in their vocabulary. ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† It is obvious that today English is international language. But it is also evident that the dominance of English today induces not only communicative and linguistic inequality but also the feelings of insecurity and anxiousness especially among the non-English-speaking people in a rapidly globalizing world in which English dominates largely.
English is considered to be the most widely used language for international and intercultural communication.
According to the statistics, English has the greatest number of speakers (1.5 billion people), is designated as official languages of 62 nations, is the most dominant language in scientific communication with 70-80 percent of academic publications being published in it, is the most taught foreign language across the world (Ammon, 1992, pp.78-81).
Because English is the most dominant, it is also the ďhegemonicĒĚ and ďneocolonialistĒĚ language. The dominance of English causes serious effects including linguistic and communicative inequality to a great disadvantage of the speakers of languages other than English, colonization of the consciousness of the non-English-speakers, causing them to develop linguistic, cultural, and psychological dependency upon the English, its culture and people.
The non-English-speaking people turn out to be inevitably disadvantaged in a situation where English dominates communication. They become deaf and mute, and therefore prevented from fully taking part in communication.
The dominance of English also produces the stereotypes and prejudices which, in turn, creates discrimination against those who do not or can not speak English. For example, those people who do not speak English fluently are considered to be incompetent, and are perceived to be inferior.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† The example can be cited from the Time magazine article which reports on a Chinese immigrant to the United States. He was imprisoned in a mental institution for thirty-one years because of ďthe incomprehensible EnglishĒĚ he spoke. The article reports that when the Chinese visited a doctor, he was diagnosed as ďabnormalĒĚ because of the English he spoke. (ďFree at lastĒĚ, 1984).
Having briefly reviewed the role of English as the international languages and its advantages and disadvantages, I can say that English is the most widespread language on Earth, second only to Mandarin Chinese in the number of people who speak it. It is the language of business, technology, science, sport, and aviation. No doubt this will continue, although the assumption that all other languages will die out is absurd.