The Emerging Role of the English Language

Globalization as well as the growth of international trade connections, alterations in the political conjuncture, the ongoing cultural exchange offer a new perspective on the role of the English language. In the past, it was a mode for communication in academic circles; English is one of the official languages of numerous international organizations with a different scope of influence. English was associated with the most powerful nation in the world. Yet, the world is changing rapidly and the focus of attention is nowadays drawn to the East. Bearing that in mind, this paper aims to determine the current status of the English language and the tendencies of its future development. It is presumed that the role of the English language in the XXI century would be tied to the Westernization tendencies and, as suggested, its significance will shrink.

In order to verify this hypothesis, the presented paper aims to analyze the reasons that have led to the dominance of the English language in the world; to trace the economic tendencies of developing economies and their impact on the spreading of English; the ties between the colonies and former empires as well as to research into the possible alternatives that can replace the English language in the modern society.

The prepositions for the dominance of the English language in the political, cultural, and economic sectors

The British Empire and its influence over the spreading of the English language around the world

The spread of the English language due to the colony policies of the mother state started long time ago. The historical accounts have proved that the residents of the present-day Irish territories were forced to learn the English language as William the Conqueror invaded Ireland at the end of the 11th century.

However, such little shifts in the language map of Europe were not as significant as at the beginning of the 16th century. These ages are nowadays tied to the beginning of the formation of most successful modern states. In global terms, the growing of the influence of the English language started in the 16th century when English monarchs began to draft their imperial strategies (Swales). English became the language of the imperial expansion that was introduced into many colonies all over the world. Its roots reach the tribes in South Africa, New Zeeland, and India.

Yet, it should be stressed that the history of the spread of the English language differs from country to country. For example, in Canada it had to co-exist with the French language. For years, the residents of this country were bilingual and everyone was interested in preserving the status quo (Swales). Nevertheless, the external powers eventually intervened. After the ending of the Second World War, Europe was too concerned with the challenges within the continent and France and it lost interest in dominating its overseas colonies. The dominance here does not refer to political power or influence, but to the impact the culture or language might have on the citizens of other country.

At the same time, the USA, the neighbor of Canada and the largest English-speaking country in the world gains more and more influence in the global arena. Naturally, the number of those speaking English in Canada starts to grow significantly. English is also an official language in the Caribbean due to the influence and the trade ties that exist between the USA and the countries of this region.

Australia the New Zeeland should also be separately considered due to their historical ties with the former colony. In 1770, James Cook discovered the territories of the present-day Australia (Swales). Soon after that, the British Crown had started the policy that expatriated criminals and convicts to the new isles. By the end of 1900, Australia was occupied by 4 million British citizens sent to this land (Swales 380). Of course, all of them spoke English as their native language and borrowed cultural, social, and economic patterns that served for the establishment of effective democracies and open societies. New Zeeland is quite a different story since no convicts were sent here. The strong influence of the indigenous population remains strong until today and it is of course noticeable in the language used there as well.

The advances in the political, economic, and cultural areas that torpedoed the use of English

Other factors that have fostered the spread of the English language refer to literature, movies, popular music etc. The advertising is also ranked among the factors that have greatly affected the use of English as a global language. During the 19th century, the advertising business extended, especially in the developed and industrialized countries (Wong and Canagarajah 259). The citizens of these countries were wealthier than the rest of the world and, of course, they could afford advertising.

On the other hand, those were the years of the growth of the mass media. Consequently, the owners of magazines and newspapers realized that advertisements would make their publications cheaper and, thus, more profitable. As a result, they started to attract possible business partners. The USA was the leading country then and, naturally, its contribution to advertising was the biggest (Johnson). It served as an extra stimulating cause for the natural spread of the English language all over the world.

Broadcasting and motion pictures were also dominated by the English language. Since the invention of the telegraph, the USA started to aggressively use this technology. Telegraphs were installed across the country and in other states. The language of broadcasting was English. Then, motion pictures emerging on the first screens were also in the English language. All these new methods of entertainment were extremely popular with the citizens of the USA and other states.

Additionally, the First World War had blocked the movie-making industries in France and England, so that the American movie industry started to dominate. Later, when movies were eventually accompanied with the sound, the language that was spoken was English too. All these trends have resulted in the creation of Hollywood studios were the majority of the movies are produced even now.

Popular music is another branch of the culture that has served as advertising for the English language. All major recording companies in the world have English roots and origins. Of course, this tendency was also initiated years ago when the first songs were recorded in English. However, one should recognize that the spread and popularization of the English language through music, movies, newspapers, and magazines is a gentle yet rather effective capturing of the areas that were native-language oriented at first. Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, and the Beatles won the hearts of millions, instilling love to the English language as well.

As for the achievements in the social and economic dimensions, one should draw attention to the tourism and education industries. For years, English is used as the means for communication in all countries in the world (Aintzane, Lasagabaster, and Sierra). There are instructions in the mother tongues, in English, and only then in other languages. English is the international language in international aircraft control that has been created after the end of the world wars.

With regard to education, the most successful and famous universities and schools of thought are located in the UK and in the USA. In addition, the schools that teach in English are organized not only by the US or UK related funds, but by other nation-states, which proves the high prestige of English that has remained until today.
The emerging of the United States of American and its ongoing impact on the use of English from the years of its establishment till today.

Despite the fact that the British Empire was the dominating country in the world in the18th century, it was replaced by the USA in the 20th century. After the two consequent world wars, Europe found itself in ruins. At the same time, the territory of the USA were literary non-affected by the horrors of these war. So that, it had all the possibilities for developing a stable economy and taking the leading position in the world. Additionally, after the Second World War, European states committed themselves to preventing any bloody armed conflicts with the continent. The rest of the world joined them. Such aspirations at first resulted in the establishment of the League of Nations that was transformed later into the present day United Nations Organization with its headquarter in New York (Skapinker).Naturally, English was the language chosen as the official language of this and other international organizations.

The reasons for the frequent application and knowledge of the English language in the colonies of the past Empires
Other colonies of the British Empire should also be outlined as they have a direct impact on the state of the English language in the modern world. They are specifically interesting due to the combination of the traditions and cultures of the dominating state and the state that has been oppressed for years. Many of them are located in South Africa. The British control there was established in 1806 (Skapinker). The first settlements of the British colonies started to arrive after the 1820s. In total, more than one million of Englishmen reached the shores of South Africa. The indigenous population of the country also employed the language and nowadays English is among other official languages in South Africa.

South Asia is ranked as the third largest English-speaking area after the Great Britain and the United States. A lot of British methods of administration, education, and regulation have been adopted there. As a result, these territories still have very strong connections with the Great Britain even nowadays. Consequently, the majority of the residents of these regions speak English more or less fluently.

West Africa experienced the raise of trade relations and activities with Western countries in the late 19th century. Here, several English creoles and pidgins were established (Skapinker 320). The use of the English language is still common now. However, local tongues and accents have significantly influenced the pronunciation and usage of the English language. Nevertheless, 6 West-African counties have English as their second official language. The list includes Ghana, Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Liberia. The territories of East Africa were discovered in the16th century. However, the first settlements arrived only in the18th when the protectorates were established by the British government. The colonies remained under the British influence for a long time, and at the moment the English language is official here as well.

Finally, South East India and the South Pacific region represent a mix of English and Australian English (Jackowitz). The British influence there was initiated by the first visit of James Cook in the 1940s (Gandhi). However, due to huge differences that existed among Asian states, no South-Asian version of English has emerged till today.

The current state of the use and application of the English language

The use of English within the European Union

Similarly as in international organizations, English serves as a means for communication at international meetings. At the same time, English is just one of the official languages of the European Union and, thus, it has no special status compared to other languages (Johnson). Nevertheless, de-facto, each European politician as well as citizens of the EU know at least basics of the English language. Additionally, English is a common spoken language in 19 out of 25countries of the EU (Al-Dabbagh).

The use of the English language in the countries of the former Soviet Union

The use of the English language has significantly increased after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, the quality of education systems in these countries is still far from desirable, so that the majority of the population does not speak English (Al-Dabbagh 224). At the same moment, it should be stressed that the popularity of this language grows at a rapid pace due to European integration of some countries and their aspirations to enter the European market where English is still used as the main means for communications.

The spread of English in the countries of the Asian region

It should be pointed out that the dominance of the English language significantly depends on the leading role of the Western civilization. For the first time, this issue was discussed in the Clashes if Civilizations written by Samuel Huntington. Nearly twenty years ago, he anticipated that the influence and leading position in the global arena would shift to the Eastern direction. Despite the ongoing importance of the trading cities such as London, New York, and Paris, their Eastern prototypes are developing at an enormous pace. Hong-Kong, Seoul, Singapore, and many others are dictating new trends in cultural, economic, and political life (Zhe). Yes, the Western civilization has been extremely popular in Eastern countries. However, at the moment, the majority of them reconsider their national identities and the attitude towards their cultures, which in turn threatens the leading position of the English language.

On the other hand, the growing presence of Arabian states with their overpopulated regions also raises the question of the international language and dominance in the world. From the perspectives of numbers and the population size, the quantity of those speaking the Chinese language definitely exceeds the number of those speaking English. All in all, due to the dissemination of the world dominance among numerous countries, the status of the English language might be revised as there is a global tendency to balance the influence of different states in the international arena (Al-Dabbagh 187).

III. The future role of the English language in international arena

The strengthening of the economic potential of Asian tigers and its influence on the position of the English language in the world.

The influence of the Asian tigers on the use of the English language is still rather indefinite. At the moment, the populations of Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong-Kong are tolerating their partners and still conduct negotiations in English. However, the time period given for the English language in this regard is rather undetermined. The world is nowadays in a stage of transition from the old order to a new order. Numerous yesterday leading countries are losing their positions. The superpowers such as the USA and the Russian Federation nowadays have to follow the recommendations of the European countries and keep an eye on the Asian region (Johnson).

Nevertheless, one should stress that the traditional historical ties with this region are not that strong as in the former colonies of the British Empire. Thus, one can suppose that the states occupying these territories might represent a new alternative for the English language. To the very least, they are able to demand respect and equal treatment from their partners, which was not the case years ago. More than that, this region has long been the consumer of the Western culture; yet, nowadays it produces its own content and culture that could be exported to the USA. It was the General Motors Company that learned from Japanese Toyota and not vice versa. A lot of changes are currently on the way and a lot of them would have direct influence on the status of the English language.

The Shrinking role of the Western world and the new challenges imposed by Arabic countries and their relation to the usage of the English language

The challenge related to the raise of fundamentalist streams in the Arabic world and the terrorist attacks that Western countries experience at present do not directly affect the status of the English language. Nevertheless, they undermine the political stability in the richest countries in the world, making them helpless and vulnerable. The holistic policies that are executed with regard to immigrants as well as to refugees are cultivating a negative attitude towards the countries of the Western Europe where they are currently residing (Wallraff 61). As a result, more people are accepting the roles of protectors of their own cultures and, thus, they refuse to learn English as the language of the oppressor and the country that discriminates people due to their origin and the color of their skin. Of course, such presumptions have no reasonable ground; yet, immigrant and refugee groups are vulnerable by default and they are absorbing different kinds of propaganda.

The deteriorating economies of Europe vs. the growing influence of Asian countries

The attention of the economic elite of the world is nowadays drawn to the Asian emerging markets. Without any doubt, there are several reasons for that. A lot of Asian countries have managed to perform an economic wonder, having evolved from agriculture- based states to the industrial super-giants with enormous productivity (Johnson). Corporate and business cultures of Asian countries significantly differ from the Western ones that enable businesses to draw new benefits from establishing their presence in this region. While Europe is sinking in a crisis and economic stagnation, Asian countries show an enormous growth of all rates and GDP.

At the same moment, many historians doubt that China, Singapore, South Korea would be able to develop sustainably (Jackowitz). They assert that their economic growth and well-being might have a temporary effect. In order to stabilize the development and ensure future success, the states have to develop corresponding political instruments, establish an order that would ensure the stability, ensure and a transition of powers that would not jeopardize the existence and growth of various industries (Khanna).

Asian countries, however, have been famous for combining mechanisms of market-based economy and authoritarian ruling regimes. It is still impossible to say how long such a model can exist. Thus, the suggestions regarding the economic powers and the influence of these countries might be more or less accurate. However, it is hard to voice presumptions concerning the dominance of the English language.

Possible substitutes for the English language in the XXI century

The theorists who are concerned with the status of the English language in the future and who carry the research regarding possible alternatives for replacing English as the language of international communication suggest basically three options. In accordance with one of the theories, worlds power would be so much disseminated that the world will become extremely polarized. In its turn, every country would be treated equally and no language will be granted a global status (Poole).

On the other hand, there are those who consider that the ongoing globalization and the removal of geographic barriers would either result in the development of one language for all or the recognition of the English language as the means for international communication (Phillipson). Yet, many efforts are to be made in this regard and this scenario is currently viewed as a less likely one (Wallraff). Finally, the third group of scientists presumes that there will be regional alternatives for the English language, depending on the economic rates and dominance of particular countries (Khanna). Thus, for example, the territory of the Eurozone might fall under the German or English influence; the territories of the Asian region might be incorporated by the Chinese –influenced territories etc.

The strengths of the English language and the reasons for preserving the status quo in regard to this issue
Despite the challenges faced by English as a language, there are a lot of reasons to consider that its dominance will be prolonged for at least several decades. First, the world is still run by the richest countries that include three purely English-speaking countries, namely the Great Britain, the United States, and Australia, which assume an enormous political influence in the world (Phillipson). Second, at the moment, English is still considered to be the modes for communication within the scientific community, which means that lots of books, articles, documents, and so on are published in English. Third, the countries that try to fall out of the influence of the Russian Federation usually have strong ties with the American government that in its turn stimulates the spread of English and the American or British culture.

Fourth, despite possible economic achievements made by Asian countries so far, the political institutions that have been established and developed by the British Empire are recognized to be the most efficient, the most stable, and long-lasting ones (Gunnel and Shaw). One should also bear in mind that these institutions are still being developed, modernized, and improved. In this regard, economically successful Asian countries have a lot to work on not to mention the countries of the former Soviet Union that are forced to re-launch the entire system of public administration.

Thus, contrary to the vulnerability of economically successful Asian countries, the West can still benefit from stable and efficient political systems that ensure the protection of ownership and fundamental rights of their citizens. So, considering all these facts, it is presumed that the West will still play the dominant role in the world as well as its modes for communication, the English language.


It should be stressed that world dominance depends on several factors that include the economic prosperity of Western countries; their prestige within the global arena; the proportions of hard and soft powers and their distributions around the world, and the ties the former empires have with their former colonies. As it could be inferred after the analysis of all these issues, the English language will preserve its leading role due to the following. First, the connections existing between the British Empire and its former colonies are still rather strong that ensures the sympathy of the latter to the English language and its learning. These colonies share the past and the future as they frequently have the same political institutions, legal systems, etc. as the empire they used to belong to. Contrary to the Spanish Empire that also had colonies around the world, the countries that were under the influence of the British Empire (the present-day USA, Australia, New Zeeland) are economically stable and successful countries. Second, the rise of Asian tigers does not seem to be as influential as it has been supposed at the beginning of the research. These economies are still vulnerable and there are no guarantees that their development will become sustainable.

Despite the dissemination of the influence among several centers, the USA, Great Britain, and other Western countries still have a decisive role in key global processes. In other words, they still have hard power. The latter is usually followed with the soft power that involves the high prestige of cultural aspects, including the language. Therefore, considering all of the above mentioned facts, one should stress that at the moment the English language faces a transition period. Yet, there are all reasons to presume that it will preserve its leading position in the future as well.

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