Overall, the prevalence of the English as a lingua franca has had enormous effects on people throughout the world. The benefits of learning this language have cut across scientific, technological, economic, educational, cultural and political arenas so that English is constantly being learned as a second or a third language for many different purposes.

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As we continue the series on Globalisation, we will now look at the impact of the English language in the global arena.

“With over 375 million people claiming English as their mother tongue and over 750 million more speaking English as a second language, English is the most widely spread language in the entire world.”

“over 80% of the information stored on computers is in English, and more than half the world’s technical and scientific papers are published in English as well.”

The wide-spread use of English clearly has a tremendous impact on globalisation. English is now the most commonly used language in the world as many western nations having adopted it as their first language. British colonisation has spread English throughout the globe, making it one of the most influential languages, even in nations where English is not the first language. English is used as the official language in many countries where the first language is not necessarily English, making it almost mandatory to learn the language for administrative purposes.

A largely globalised transnational economic market, with distribution coordinated between English-speaking countries, also requires that people understand English in many of the emerging markets. An enormous amount of information is processed in English.  As Emmanuele Invernizzi, the preseident of EUPRERA, explains “over 80% of the information stored on computers is in English, and more than half the world’s technical and scientific papers are published in English as well.” Because the internet and computers have rapidly influenced the world so that almost every household in developed nations owns a computer, “the Internet has, so it seems revolutionized the ways of human communication as well as English language learning in a global context.”

Percentage of English spoken in countries around the world

Percentage of English spoken in countries around the world

English as the Lingua Franca of the globalised world

 “The world is a village and English is the lingua franca” - John Portelli  

The rapid global growth of the English language in the past few decades has made it a ‘lingua franca’ of the globalised world, where people of different cultures use English as the common language to communicate. The dominant economic powers of both Britain and America in the last few centuries have vastly influenced many other countries to adopt the language in order to communicate effectively. Migration into English-speaking countries has greatly increased, as highlighted by Tanja Eckert et al, who state that “even today, migration supports and encourages the development of different varieties of English.” They also define English as a world language, because of its widespread use in fields of publishing, science, and technology to music and politics.

As people use English in many different forms for a variety of purposes, accents develop, and social or cultural attributes can change significantly. Some scholars argue that En­­­glish is going through a metamorphosis, a transformation of linguistic ideologies. With many new methods of learning languages, English is more easily accessible than ever before. As a result, the correct usage or the original dialect of this language is slowly declining as many regional versions of English are developed. As David Crystal describes in his paper, English as a Global Language, “from Bengal to Belize and Las Vegas to Lahore, the language of the sceptred isle is rapidly becoming the first global lingua franca.”

Effects of English in a Globalised Market

English is largely used for economic purposes including trade, media, communications and politics, where English proficiency is closely related to human capital. Firms use English as a means of knowledge creation to co-ordinate between different countries, produce contracts and reports, and communicate effectively so that businesses can spread around the world in large emerging markets such as India, Brazil and China. As John Portelli suggests:

“Globalisation has witnessed an increasing number of mergers between companies domicile in different countries, these too, in large measure, have adopted English as the language of communication and as a global marketing tool. English gives them a global perspective, they no longer belong to or are associated with a particular nation or culture, they belong instead to the world; modernity is associated with English.”

Business English has also emerged for international trading purposes. Many companies have now started having a Resource and Development section providing English language training to help their employees develop the language for business requirements. This is specifically evident in cultures where English is not the most common language but where could gain employment benefits by using it. Because English is also one of the most dominant languages for research and education, economic benefits gained from publication and teaching are also influenced by the ability to efficiently use English. As mentioned in the previous article, many transnational corporations that have a large impact on economic development communicate in English. Since they control production facilities in more than one nation, the other nations where their firms are based are also influenced by English. These firms use English to communicate throughout the globe, hiring employees who are familiar with the language. The use of English has therefore transcended boundaries in the globalised economic market.

Overall, the prevalence of the English language has had enormous effects on people throughout the world. Although English-speaking cultures still maintain their local vernaculars, English is constantly being learned as a second or a third language for many different purposes. The benefits of learning English have cut across scientific, technological, economic, educational, cultural and political arenas. Global companies are also continuing to stress the importance of English proficiency, as it is predominantly being used today as a lingua franca of the globalised world.