English the World Language

English
The World Language
 
Part of our TESOL on-line course.            
 The first significant step in the progress of English towards its status as a world language began through the voyages of English sailors at the end of the 18th century, notably the journeys of Captain Cook in the 1770s.  At that time, the number of mother-tongue English speakers in the world is thought to have been between five and seven million, almost all of them living within the British Isles.  By 1952, this figure increased almost fifty fold, to around 250 million, the majority living outside the British Isles. Today the figures are now believed to be in excess of 377 million speakers of English as a first language and 350 million speakers of English as a second language. 
 
            There is no doubt that English is and will remain a vital linguistic tool for many business people, academics, tourists and citizens of the world who wish to communicate easily across nationalities for many years to come.  There are a number of interlocking reasons for the popularity of English as a World Language.  Many of these are historical, but they also include economic and cultural factors, which have influenced and sustained the spread of the language.
The biggest influence in the spread of English throughout the world is due to America.                              This in its self is a bit of a problem, especially when trying to teach someone who has had a strong influence of American English.
 
             People in England and America generally understand each other, most of the time.                                        Sir Winston Churchill once said that England and America were two countries divided by one language. There are many differences between British English and American English. The variation is considerable: grammar, vocabulary, spelling and pronunciation.  With vocabulary, the same word may have a different meaning all together, a simple example would be, British chips are American french fries; and American chips are British crisps. Sometimes there are completely different words for the same thing: a lorry in British English is called a truck in American English, a rubber in British English means an eraser but in American English, it means a condom, so a bit embarrassing if you go into a shop in America asking for a rubber. With spelling, possibly American English (AE) could be seen as more logical than British English (BE). For example, catalogue (BE) catalog (AE), draughty (BE) drafty (AE), plough (BE) plow (AE), just to name a few. This has made many a student confused in countries where the teachers do not recognize or are not even aware that there are spelling differences. As in the Philippines, where teachers in regular schools were marking students spelling as wrong if it was spelt the British way, only because they themselves had only learnt the American spellings. Until there is some sort of unification with regard to spelling, both have to be considered correct, as long as the use is consistent.   Throughout the world, there are many different varieties of English. David Crystal a well renowned expert in the English language lists 67 in 75 territories where English holds a special place, but there are many more, when you take into account all the regional variations of  accents and dialects. A regional accent refers to features of pronunciation and a regional dialect refers to features of grammar and vocabulary. 
 
            Even within the British Isles itself, there are people who are native speakers of English who do not always understand each other because of accents, dialects and the idiomatic use of the language.                For example, people from the South of England speaking to someone from Scotland or Liverpool may experience considerable problems. Even people living in the same areas can sometimes find it hard to understand each other, the old trying to understand the young, people trying to understand jargon (words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group of people) and trying to fully understand when someone is using extreme forms of Estuary English. Only the other day one of our members had to give their e-mail address over the phone, which ends in freeuk.com. The young woman on the other end of the phone (because of her own mispronunciation of the th) assumed it was said 3 uk.com. This in itself is a small example of the problem of mispronunciation but never the less a problem it is. These differences are not so much a problem for native speakers of English, in England, who basically have to be multi lingual within their own language, (when you include all the variations due to accent and dialect) but for someone trying to learn English as a second language it can be very confusing for them.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 16th, 2010 at 5:04 pm and is filed under Learn English online, TESOL/TEFL, Teacher Training, The English Language. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses to “English the World Language”

  1. resveratrol Says:

    It all sounds good but how is everything related together?

  2. regional dialect | REGIONAL Says:

    [...] English the World Language [...]

  3. Ken North Says:

    Are you a professional journalist? You write very well.

  4. keith Says:

    We stand corrected.
    Thank you Regional Dialect.
    We will chang it to English “the” World Language.