The modern pace of progress of our civilization has culminated in a belief that we live in a global village. Some people attribute this state of things to the globalization of business. Others are convinced that mass media have a great deal to do with it. Some point their finger in the direction of the Internet. Still others shift the focus to the expansionist policy of the USA.
All of these things must, of course, be taken into account when we speak about the global village, but the driving force behind it is the English language. This factor combines all things mentioned above into a coherent whole: English is the dominant language of science and technology, international organizations and mass media, business, the Internet and the most powerful nation – the USA.
It is everywhere. Some 380 million people speak it as their first language and perhaps two-thirds as many again as their second. A billion are learning it, about a third of the world’s population are in some sense exposed to it and by 2050, it is predicted, half the world will be more or less proficient in it. It is the language of globalization—of international business, politics and diplomacy. It is the language of computers and the Internet. You’ll see it on posters in Cote d’lvoire, you’ll hear it in pop songs in Tokyo, you’ll read it in official documents in Phnom Penh. Deutsche Welle broadcasts in it. Bjork, an Icelander, sings in it. French business schools teach in it. It is the medium of expression in cabinet meetings in Bolivia.
The article of Robert D. King is captivating, not to be denied. The very complicated problem of language Mr. Robert D. King elucidates from the very democratic and human point of view. One can not but agree with the expressed ideas. Mr. King describes the “linguistic” situation in many countries – Great Britain, The United States, India, Irland and others.
I would like to supplement the picture by one of the recent examples. Take, Ukraine, this long-suffering country and its nationalists led by their president Yushtshenko who have raped the country and impose their values on it. They want to justify the war criminals from the so-called Ukrainian Rebel Insurgent Army, they want to tear up the people from Russia, their traditional friend, brother and protector. These nationalists pathologically hate the Russian language, great and powerful, as Iwan Turgenev puts it, notwithstanding the fact, that the greater part of the country speaks Russian, practically all its southeastern part, economically most developed in addition. The nationalists proclaim the Ukrainian the country’s only official language. At almost all schools and institutes the pedagogical process is conducted in Ukrainian, nobody is interested in the desire of parents and students. In my opinion such forced Ukrainization can not be successful, in this respect my opinion fully coincides with that of Mr. King as I understand it.
Mr. King says that in the United States English should be the law, but the process of spreading the language must be voluntary and natural, without any compulsion. We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, of American nationality and not as dwellers of a polyglot boarding houses” (Theodore Roosevelt). There are many countries where the problem of language is solved democratically as it must be in civilized countries: The United States, Great Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, India. In Canada, Ceylon and in the Ukraine this rather complicated problem is solved undemocratically. I am opposed to the idea of independent Quebec. Ukrainian nationalists want and even dream to become a member of the European Union, but the policy of suppression of the Russian is barbaric way of solving this problem, it violates all European norms.
“Language is an explosive issue in the countries of the former Soviet Union” (Estonia, Moldova, the Ukraine). In the United States of America there is no linguistic problem: “Who needs a law when, according to the 1990 census, 94% of American residents speak English any way?” Not many of today’s immigrants will see their first language survive into the second generation. Spanish is hardly a threat to English… The everyday language of South Texas is Spanish, and yet South Texas is not about to cede from America” This “language does not threaten American unity”. “History teaches a plain lesson about language. There is almost nothing the government of a free country can do to change language usage and practice significantly, to force its citizens to use certain languages in preference to others, and to discourage people from speaking a language they wish to continue to speak.”
The world of languages gives a glaring demonstration of inequality. Some languages give better opportunities to success and enrichment than others. Every language has a certain investment appeal: some languages are more attractive and some less. According to some estimates 90 % of the current some 6.000 languages will have died out by the end of the century. In terms of culture it would be a tremendous loss. However one must be a realist and face up to the inevitable. We may like or dislike English, but we must recognize the fact that English has already ensured a future for itself. How right was Kipling when he wrote:
“But first you must master their language
Their dialects, proverbs and songs.
Don’t trust any clerk to interpret
When they come with the tale of their wrongs”.
Politicians may be forcing people to speak the language with a poor investment potential, they may even declare the language to be the only state language, but what they prove by it is their poor educational backgrounds and deplorable reading habits. Life does not obey political slogans. It has its own laws. We have to adjust ourselves to the realities of life in this village. The only laissez-passer to this village is English. English is certainly bound to survive and flourish.
Crystal, David.(1999). The future of Englishes. English Today,15, 10 – 20.