English is present everywhere as a language, sometimes more and sometimes less. Have you surfed the Internet today? Were you at an important meeting? And is there another event you'd like to attend tonight?
The English language seems to be indispensable nowadays, not only when traveling, but in our daily actions. But perhaps you also think: “No, so far I've always done well without English."
Is that really the case? Is it still possible these days to do without any knowledge of English?
Just join us on a short journey through the meaning and history of English!
In the following article you will learn how English could actually become a world language and in which areas it is absolutely needed. We will look into the question of whether one can afford not to speak English at all and what benefits speaking this foreign language brings.
Which languages are spoken most often?
According to current statistics (Vgl. statista 2017: Sprachen weltweit mit den meisten Muttersprachlern), English is spoken as a native language by approximately 335 million people worldwide. English is the main and national language in 29 countries. The best known are of course all countries of the British Isles, the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
But did you know that in Guyana, for example, English is also the national language? English is also the national language in Singapore, where Chinese, Malay and Tamil are also spoken. After all, English is the official language in 30 other countries. This means that English is the language in which authorities and governments communicate with each other. The official language does not necessarily have to be the language that the population mainly uses for communication.
Only Hindi (about 525 million speakers) and Chinese are spoken by more people around the world. While Mandarin Chinese is spoken by 726 million people, the number of speakers of all Chinese languages amounts to 1.3 billion people! That's 17.2% of the world's population!
If so many people around the world speak Chinese, why has English of all things become such a great language power?
The origin of English
English, a Germanic language, was originally a Scandinavian-lower German dialect. After the Normans had conquered present-day England, French joined them as a Romance language with their vocabulary. Little by little superfluous Germanic endings disappeared - the result was English.
The various influences from the West and North Germanic languages, the French language and the classical languages Latin and Greek have led to English having an extensive vocabulary as we know it today.
While the Chinese system of signs was and is only used in China, Taiwan and Singapore (not exclusively), English uses the Latin alphabet. This alone makes the language more accessible to the majority of people than Chinese.
What is a world language?
This raises the question of what exactly constitutes a world language. The number of speakers? Are only native speakers included or also those who speak a language as a second language?
Of course, on the one hand there is the number of worldwide speakers. However, a world language is not only the number of native speakers. They also include those who speak a given language as a second language. Many inhabitants of India, for example, speak English as a second language alongside one of India's native languages. This is because India was a colony of England.
If you add up native and second language speakers, there are as many as 510 million English speakers worldwide.
For a world language, however, it is not only a question of how many speakers speak a language worldwide, but also of the geographical distribution of a language. Chinese as a national language, for example, concentrates solely on the areas of China, Taiwan and Singapore. However, there are English-speaking countries almost everywhere in the world.
Like Spanish, English was first and foremost spread throughout the world during colonial times.
Dissemination through first conquests
By the 15th century, the English had conquered the British Isles. Ireland, Scotland and Wales belonged to the English from then on.
Around 1500 the Spanish, French and English Crown sent expeditions to conquer the so-called New World. While the Spanish and French conquered Central and South America, the English occupied the North of America. The name America, by the way, comes from none of the conquerors mentioned. It was named after the Italian Amerigo Vespucci, who previously traveled frequently to South America.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the English also consolidated their colonial supremacy over the Dutch in India.
After America became independent in 1776, the English were forced to expand in the Pacific. Australia and New Zealand became colonies of England.
After the Napoleonic Wars and the abolition of slavery, the Congress of Vienna met. This finally regulated that the English, Spanish and French had to give up certain occupied colonies. However, England emerged as the big winner, as it was awarded most colonies, including Malta, Mauritius and Guiana.
Loser or winner?
During the Industrial Revolution, the English were able to expand their influence in the world. Around 1914 they owned several African colonies, from South Africa to Egypt and Sierra Leone.
But the British colonies were also increasingly striving for independence and self-determination. Decolonization progressed rapidly and England lost more and more influence.
Today, Great Britain still exercises sovereignty outside the British Isles in 14 overseas territories.
The English lost many colonies and much influence. However, English went around the world and remained in many former colonies. The largest area where English is still spoken today is North America.
Travel in English
Imagine that you want to visit the magnificent Taj Mahal in Agra, India. You want to take the next bus, but you don't know exactly how to read the timetable. In such a situation it is of course nice if you can simply ask a local.
If you want to avoid using your hands and feet for communication, it is advisable to speak English.
In this way it is possible to communicate easily with the majority of the world's population. English is the lingua franca. This is not only a good way to get around the world - it also creates a basis for encounters with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.
With English along with you, there is a sense of security. So nobody has to wait in vain at the bus stop anymore.
Language of business and science
But English is not only very useful when traveling. When managers and politicians from all over the world meet, one language is used above all: English. Trade relations between Asia and the USA? World economy? All this would not be possible without the English language.
Even scientists know that without English they would probably not have a successful career. Few people can afford not to publish in English. The language also ensures that scientists from different countries can communicate and work together on projects.
Not only natural scientists are affected by this exchange of knowledge in English, but also humanists and social scientists offer study results that are worth sharing with people all over the world.
“He who does not know foreign languages knows nothing of his own." (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
Of course, it can be said that the German language contains many Anglicisms. Certainly one can argue about the appropriateness of discussing how to form the participle of these Anglicisms such as “download”. Some people don't even know that the German word can be used instead.
But does it really make sense to replace terms that are mainly used in communication? Internet, smartphone, computer, laptop, email and messenger are just a few of the many words Germans use every day that come from English. Of course we understand these.
Language purism is interesting, but it can also be exaggerated. For centuries, languages have mixed and words have been adopted as loan words in other languages. That's the way of things.
The efforts of the Académie Française, which has the task of maintaining the French language, show that laws on language regulation can go wrong. The Académie is dedicated to grammatical doubts and publishes a dictionary that is to be regarded as a standard reference work. In everyday language, however, there is no talk of these proposals being adopted.
The Académie wants to prevent Anglicisms from entering the French language, for example. But influences from music, film and technology are unavoidable. Of course, this influence does not only exist for young people, who are partly more open to (slang) language than adults. In reality, therefore, even an académie cannot prevent people from speaking naturally.
Experiencing cultures and people
It seems almost logical to conclude from all this that English will soon dominate the whole world. But as beautiful as an idea of a world in which everyone can communicate in the same language may be: Language diversity is right and important.
It is not only the major languages and language families that count, but also and above all the minority languages, which are threatened with extinction. Without them, new cultures would only be half as exciting.
But if we are honest, the best way to experience cultures is through exchange with other people. English helps to get in touch with these people and makes everyday life much easier.
English - the gateway to the world
English is represented in so many areas. Science, travel, business and commerce. Not to forget English music, films and the Internet. Without English they would all be unthinkable.
English opens the door - and mostly the hearts of the people with whom you would like to talk.
Don't you want to be able to understand English lyrics and talk to people abroad?
But to travel and communicate in a relaxed way, you don't need to take years of lessons. With Linguajet you have a simple way to learn to speak and understand English. You don't have to learn grammar and vocabulary all the time, but learn the words one after the other by familiarizing yourself with short passages of text. At the same time, you read the word for word meaning in German and then hear, quite incidentally, how the words are pronounced. Soon you will not only understand the world language that is English, but you will also be able to speak it.
If you are already an English expert, try Chinese as another world language, because you can also learn Chinese with Linguajet.
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