Is the Global Spread of English Good or Bad?

Last updated: February 23, 2017

English has in the 20th century become the global language. It is the language of trade, diplomacy and the internet. However the increase in international languages, in particular English but also Spanish and Mandarin marginalise smaller languages even within their own homelands. In Indonesia Bahasa Indonesia, the language that is supposed to unite the diverse country increasingly is becoming a second class language. As it becomes more attractive to learn global languages so smaller languages become not worth learning. Is this spread a good thing?

Is the Global Spread of English Good or Bad?
Yes because...

Communication for the globalised age

The world is becoming increasingly more and more globalised. Countries are more interdependent than ever and with the advances that we have seen in technology in the last few decades, communication is instantaneous. For us to be able to effectively communicate, especially within fields such as international trade and economics, as well as diplomacy, a common working language is key.
No because...
A language officially and natively used by specific nations does not qualify as a good international communication means. There is little fairness in the use of English between a U.S. diplomat who natively speaks it and an Ethiopian diplomat who does not natively speak it, for instance. The spread of English as an auxiliary language defeats the political ethics of the globalised age.

Is the Global Spread of English Good or Bad?
Yes because...

English does not require the learning of new symbols.

The English language is one that is very easy to learn. Unlike the most spoken language in the world, Chinese, it does not require most people around the world to learn new numerals. We find other languages also require the learning of new symbols. This is true in German with the eszett (double SS sound but looks like a B) and French with their accents. English as a language does not have these. This means that the language is easily accessible to the many. If we wish to communicate effectively we need all people to be able to communicate in it; even those who have difficulty in learning languages. Therefore having a global language which requires no learning of characters is important.
No because...
English has its own peculiar and highly irregular orthography. For instance, "o" in "box" is pronounced not straightforward [o] but [ɒ] in Britain and [ɑː] in the U.S.; "u" in "bud" is not plain [u] but [ʌ]. It's heavily inclined towards non-isomorphic diphthongs such as "light" [laɪt] and "lure" [lʊə], which defies most other language speakers' common familiarity with straightforward pure vowels. Literal phonemes are irregularly dropped, as in "wednesday" [wɛnzdeɪ] and "leicester" [lɛstə]. "th" varies between [θ] and [ð], and both sounds are less than common among other languages.

English also abounds with the kinds of consonant clusters that are completely alien to many languages. For speakers of those Austronesian languages that have no consonant cluster at all, the likes of "sixths" [sɪksθs] prove extremely difficult.

The statement that (the orthography and phonology of) English is "very easy to learn" or "easily accessible to the many" cannot be further from the truth when the learners means international.

There are many alternatives -- natural or artificial languages -- that do not involve uncommon (non-ASCII) letters/characters/symbols other than English.

Is the Global Spread of English Good or Bad?
Yes because...

Mistakes made in the English language do not change meaning

Unlike in French or German, mistakes that people make in English are easily understood by native speakers. The English language is a simple one with simple sounds. These sounds separate words nicely. It is for this reason that the English find it very easy to understand people from other countries even if their level of language is low. The English language is from Anglo-Saxon origin instead of Latin. Whilst Latin was a beautiful language, it is also a very complex one with elongated words and sentence structures. The Anglo-Saxon language however is one that can be used with very few and very short words. This makes the global spread of English as opposed to other languages a good thing.
No because...
Many languages don't distinguish the sounds English makes significant use of. Chinese makes little difference between the voiced and unvoiced consonants. Samoan has no consonant clusters, let alone a word-ending consonant. To native speakers of such languages, the likes of short closed-syllable English words like "kid" and "kit" are just difficult to differentiate.

Isolating languages that do not require the learning of a complex inflection system is probably a preferable kind of international auxiliary language to fusional languages that do require such learning. However, English is not optimally isolating; it still inflects, and in an irregular way even. For instance, while a truly functional isolating language would have a word to periphrasally express past-ness of an event for any predicate, English requires that the verb itself inflect just like in Latin. It doesn't make possible isolating and consistent forms like "go --> [past] go", "see --> [past] see", "love --> [past] love" but fusional and inconsistent forms like "go --> went", "see --> saw", "love --> loved". And this is further complicated by the irregular conjugations for present and past participles such as "going | gone", "seeing | seen", "loving | loved".

Is the Global Spread of English Good or Bad?
Yes because...

English has no genders and therefore less redundancy

English does not apply random genders to nouns. Greek has three genders (male, female and neutral), depending on what (pointless) gender is assigned, several words in the sentence have to be changed just to fit in with that nonsense.

What a waste of time and brainspace.

English also uses shorter words than many other languages, without any loss of clarity or eloquence.

It also uses a simple, common, alphabet.

No because...

Is the Global Spread of English Good or Bad?
No because...

It makes us lazy

In a country like the UK, we are lazy. Foreign languages are not an important part of education because there is the general consensus that everyone in the world speaks English.

The number of students studying languages at school has dropped significantly, and this is a real shame. The study of other languages not only offers up possibilities of work opportunities abroad, but it helps you understand more about another culture, another way of life. Studies have also shown wider benefits of bilingualism, such reducing ageing of the brain.[[]] We are lazy. We don't feel the need to learn about others, their language, their culture. Even if native English speakers do try to learn a new language, people often wish to practice their English, so there are limited opportunities to develop your skills.

This spread also leads to elitism - some elitist schools put stress on teaching Latin/Spanish/French/Urdu/Persian/German/Mandarin apart from English. Knowing a second or third language has perks, giving the impression of being cultured,international,cosmopolitan, sophisticated and civilized.
Yes because...
Why would we want to sacrifice easy communication and globalization/globalisation on the off chance it may make children more interested in learning a foreign language?

And why would we purposely want to make it difficult for people to understand each other, surely understanding each other is more important than learning about their culture but not being able to converse whatsoever.

One-third of the people living in the city of London are from the subcontinent and are at least bilingual(This doesn't take into account the number Chinese,Polish,German,French,etc Londoners). As for the rest of the U.K : Norse languages prevail in rural areas and outside England.

There are a huge number of immigrants(second/third-generation included) in Scotland. Relatively fewer but still plenty of immigrants reside in the rest of the Isles.

The global spread of English also has the opposite effect on non-native speakers of English - it encourages them to learn a second language. Without English, a second language would only slightly increase the number of people you could communicate with. With English (or, if it ever takes off, Esperanto!) there is a stronger incentive to learn the single language that will dramatically improve your ability to communicate.

Far more people are not native English speakers than are, so you could argue that the point falls apart in a wider context than the UK.

Is the Global Spread of English Good or Bad?
No because...

Loss of local languages

As the language of instruction is, in many places, predominantly English; that usually is the language people become most fluent in.
Multi-linguals are likely to only have a more impressive command of one language. There is now pressure for that language to be English and once local languages are less well spoken than English, there will be little point in learning them any longer so they are likely to decline and disappear.
Yes because...
Yes, it can be argued that many former colonies (the British in the subcontinent as an example), have left a legacy where English continues to be used as the language for formal education and formal working life in many cases. However, this means that in many parts of the world, people are growing up bi, or even tri-lingual, which is an outstanding achievement.

Is the Global Spread of English Good or Bad?
No because...

It makes people culturally ignorant.

The fact is that even if English becomes fully globalised (which it has not yet) other languages will still be used. Though English may be used in business transactions, these people will still go home and speak their mother tongue. If people begin to only communicate in English, a valuable lesson could be lost in manners and respect. Even if there is one common language, it should always be borne in mind how respectful and polite it is to at least attempt to speak the other’s language. In business transactions, the person will have to know their clients language to a greater degree in order to complete this than on a social level. However, with the globalisation on English people will forget this sign of respect and will only speak English. This is a sad day for cultural recognition and mutual respect.
Yes because...

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Chris (jihoon) polk

I believe spreading English would not harm a countries native speaking population as currently English is taught as a second language across the world. First this can give a massive opportunity to countries whose people do not have it well, by learning English and having a chance they may be able to move to an English speaking country that could possibly be doing much better economically, allowing them access to jobs and more. Currently America is the leading superpower of the world, leading people to open more communications and business’s and prosper if they learned that countries language. This allows a base line language that anyone can learn and communicate between countries, and for someone who is unfamiliar with a language like this it can be considered a good gate-way language for most European languages. There are risks like creating possible dead languages and groups to leave their language behind for the popular one, however majority of the time languages are linked to culture and heritage so most would not simply abandon their native language, however they would teach the second more readily.

Alex Bland

Yes, because with the incorporation of English into the society as the reigning language, people will be able to communicate and come together as one. Yes, other languages throughout the world will end up dying, but it is for the greater good of everyone being able to communicate with each other fluently and effortlessly. The difficulty for learning the English language is milestones easier than the learning of other languages such as Hebrew or Japanese, and with everyone being able to speak a common language, society can coexist with each other.

Hannah Anderson

No because the spread of English will gradually make learning new languages harder and less valued and will less diversify our world. I think it is ok to use English as a trade and business language but it should not be allowed to take over the world.