Should English be the world’s lingua franca? The world definitely needs a standard language and “many people feel that the only realistic chance of breaking the foreign-language barrier is to use a natural language as a world lingua franca”1. In history there have been precedents, like Latin as a medium of education from the Roman times to the Dark Ages and French for International diplomacy from the 17th Century to the 20th Century. In my opinion a world language should be a language that everyone understands, a standard with which to communicate between different nations.
This hypothetical lingua franca should not replace the nation’s mother tongue, and therefore deprive people of their national identity, but offer valid support for international communications. English may not be the world’s most widely spoken native language, as Chinese, with more than one billion mother tongue speakers, doubles the number of English mother tongues. But no other language can compete with English as regards its international level of use. English is now used throughout the world in airports, airlines, international business, international communications and academic conferences.
This is because it is already considered a widely spread language, which most people are studying. English is the preference for the scientific, technologic, diplomatic and medical world but we can also find this language used for sports and advertising. All the best-known pop groups and singers use English, and the international hall of fame for non-English singers starts with a song in English. More books are written in English than any other language, and more than three quarters of the world’s mail is in English.
It is used as either the official or semi-official language in more than 80 countries. Also the EU uses English as the common language, although there is only one English speaking country in the whole EU. English has developed around many different languages and is a language that continually develops and changes. Words can be traced back to Latin, Germanic, Celtic and finally French. The English language has absorbed the best of these languages and cultures. Therefore English can be considered a common language for the languages deriving from the indo- European root.
It has no polite form, has easy grammar and simple verb schemes. English started to be used as a common language following British expansion in the world; the British Empire needed a common language, and English was forced upon a quarter of the world. After British military imperialism there has been American economic Imperialism. These two have contributed very much to the spread of English as a global language. On the other hand English has confusing, unnatural spelling, which could impede many people from learning it.
And what about speakers of languages that do not derive from the Indo-European root? They are disadvantaged, as this could be a barrier for other language groups. Another problem regarding the use of English as a global language is that it would put mother-tongue English speakers in an advantageous position; it is not easy to speak a language at the same level as your mother tongue language, as the figurative, idiomatic and connotative use of words will always be different. What about countries opposed to an English-speaking country?
How can they be motivated to learn English? Language expresses identity and culture, thus explaining many linguistic differences. A common, global language cannot permit these differences. What about movements where there is strong desire to retain and express social, regional or national identities? An example curiously comes from within the United Kingdom itself: Welsh nationalism. Although English grammar is easy and the language itself is very flexible, its richness of vocabulary (500000 used words) may make it very challenging to learn to a full extent.
It is difficult to comprehend the many shades of meaning that a sentence could have. English can also be confusing, as the word “fly” has three very different meanings: the zip on men’s trousers, a flying insect and the verb, to fly. In conclusion, I think that English is well on the way of becoming a global language, as there are an estimated of 2 billion speakers worldwide, it is already a standard in many aspects of international communications and more and more people are learning it every day.