There have been several languages mainly used in business endeavors internationally, such as French, German, English, and Chinese, with English and Chinese ranking amongst the top two. Not long ago, however, English surpassed the others for first place. English is now the number one, international language used in all types of economic and business interactions. It is a language of globalization, politics, and diplomacy. It is estimated that by the year 2050, 50% of the world’s population will be at least somewhat proficient in this global language. English is growing, faster and faster….
Another thing to consider: should we consider the global development of English as a “lingua franca” to be positive or negative? More specifically, is English becoming a tool for more success economically, or is it creating more inequalities? People in China were asked about their reasons for studying English. They all answered in more or less the same way: “We must learn English to succeed.” Some of these answers were hopeful while others were resentful.
So why English? Why is English such a necessary language to know well? Personally, I believe that it is because the English language is thoroughly expressive. English is a descriptive language revolving around detail and clarity. It has a word for anything and everything. I am able to describe any feeling in English, any place, any thought, any dream, and any personality-type. I am able to describe any doubt, any time, any uncertainty, any nostalgic memory, and any object without precisely naming it. I am able to tell you how wind tastes, how music feels, how colors sound, how dancing smells, and what running tastes like. Through the combined use of non-verbal forms of communication (such as body movements, gestures, facial expressions, and gaze) and verbal communication (such as volume, speed, hedging, diction, clarity, etc.) for a vivid description, the sky’s the limit – nothing is impossible!
During a recently visit to Japan, I noticed that the latest clothing trend depicted images of short English words and phrases, simply because the “look” of the written language is considered to be appealing. However, these words and phrases would be considered to be a little odd to a native English speaker because it is not necessary for these phrases to make grammatical sense – because the language is foreign, no one can much read it anyway! For example, these English phrases on their clothing use words like “Try My Delicious Salt Beef,” “Best Smile Again,” “Clock,” and “Benign.” Strangely enough, the Japanese culture continues to appreciate the appearance of English letters. I had no idea English is so aesthetically pleasing to look at.
On the other hand, we, as Americans, do it too. I once knew someone with a tattoo on his upper arm of the Japanese kanji word “courage.” While the meaning of this word was known to him, the “look” of these characters appeals to many English-speaking people.
Let’s say that I were trying to describe to you the word “rapidly.” I would begin by using words like “fast,” “quickly,” “promptly,” “speedily,” etc., after pointing out that it is an adverb, of course. When describing a nostalgic feeling, I would say something like “It evokes tears. It feels as though you can touch it. You can even taste it and, if you listen hard enough, you can hear it too. It’s as if you’re there.”
I also noticed in college that, in Japan, the clothing fashions seem to be about a year or two behind those of the United States. About ten or eleven years ago, I noticed that the Japanese international students almost always exhibited the 80s punk rock “look.” About four or five years ago, I noticed that these college students were exhibiting spiked, neon-colored hair and the 80s rocker “look.”
The Western countries of the world delegate the trends of pop culture. Fashions always begin in Europe or The United States and this seems to be influential. These fashions then quickly move toward Asia and the other continents. These trends, both essentially and subconsciously, influence other aspects of the world, as well, such as politics, economics, business trade, and everyday living. Thus, the primary language of the Western region (English) will inevitably go along with these trends. English proves to be primarily the most impressionable.
The Rise of English: The Rise of Globalization in China and the European Union. Johnson, Anne. Macaleter International, Volume 22.
Photo by: kcherif