The reason why a language is spoken globally has more to do with who its speakers are, and little to do with how many they are (Vance, Charles, and Paik 88-90). For instance, Latin did become an international language during the Roman Empire because of the large number of Romans; it was simply because they were more powerful. Even after the decline of Roman military power, Latin still continued to remain an international language of education for close to a millennium. There is a close relationship between the language supremacy and economic, military, technological, as well as cultural power (Vance, Charles, and Paik 88). No language can progress to become an international language without a strong power base. Language exists in the minds of its speakers; if they are successful on the global front, their language also succeeds. However, if they fail, the language also fails.
According to Vance, Charles, and Paik (88-90), the size of a language’s vocabulary, or its inherent structural properties, or association with a great culture, does not make a language global. These factors can motivate people to learn the language, but they cannot aid in its worldwide spread, or its survival. A good example is Latin, which despite being a global language in the past, has only remained as a classical language. This emphasizes on the point that a language becomes a global language mainly because of the power of its people, in particular, political, military, and economic power. Greek became an international language in the Middle East, more than 2000 years ago, because of the military power of the troops of Alexander the Great, and not because of the intelligence of Aristotle, or Plato.
Though the establishment of international language has been achieved in the past through military might, economic power is also very vital in its maintenance and expansion. At the beginning of the nineteenth century Britain was the leading trading and industrial country worldwide. Because of their economic and political power, the British political imperialism was able to order that English be used globally, and indeed English became language spoken by everyone. Towards the end of the century, the U.S. population had significantly increased in number (almost 100 million), and its economy was the most rapidly growing and the most productive in the whole world. In the twentieth century, the economic dominance of the new Superpower America saw the adoption of English as the language of choice worldwide (García 99-100).
The Need of a Global Language
For several years, language enthusiasts have yearned of replacing the numerous conflicting vernacular languages of mankind with one universal language. If a global language is adopted, people from all over the world will greatly enjoy its numerous benefits. Though an international language may be heard to learn and adopt, it is worth trying because it will enhance communication among people. People from whichever part of the world will be able to interact freely, and communicate easily with one another in a clear manner. Consequently, relationships will be improved (Crystal 44-46). For instance, international relations among different countries which have largely been marked by the use of interpreters, because of the language barrier, will be improved. There will be more peaceful international relations. The adoption of a worldwide language will eliminate the use of translators, since people will be able to understand one another. As witnessed in the past, not all translators are perfect in their jobs; there have been numerous cases of translation error, which has greatly affected the relationships of different countries in a negative way. A global language will help eliminate such errors, thus misunderstandings between different languages will be avoided. In addition, the high cost of translation services that countries speaking different languages have been incurring in the past, will be eliminated, because with one language being spoken worldwide, there will be no need of translation services (Crystal 44-46).
The learning of a second language other than one’s native language is easy when one is below the age of eight years. However, past that age, learning a second language will necessitate that a person dedicates substantial time and effort, and even with all the practice, people’s various accents will still be evident in the new language. The adoption of a single global language will mean less necessity for the second languages; hence, educational costs of learning second languages will be reduced (Vance, Charles, and Paik, 88-90).
Some people have refuted the fact that speaking the same language would promote peace among people, citing different cases where hostilities have been witnessed among groups of people speaking the same language, for instance, the Northerners and Southerners (U.S. Civil War, 1861-186), as well as, the Tutsis and Hutus in 1994 (Crystal 44-46). However, the degree to which a similar global language eases verbal communication and promotes peace is a matter of debate. There are those who support a global language, saying that it will help promote the world peace. They argue that ethnicity-related violence witnessed in different parts of the world, which have led to loss of property and lives, will be prevented if a global language is adopted. This is because, people will be talking one language worldwide, hence international peace will prevail.
A global language is very instrumental in both the local and international business industry. Business relations between different countries have been strained because of the misunderstandings that come with language barrier, as well as the translation errors. Since, trade is a key driver of a majority of economies worldwide, such misunderstandings greatly affect the development of various economies. With the adoption of a global language, there will be no more language barrier, and trade among different countries will be improved, which will consequently improve economies (Crystal 44-46).
Trade depends on the understanding between the trader and the consumers. Understanding the needs of the customers, and providing products or services that are tailor-made to suit their specific needs is a key to the success of any business. However, this cannot be achieved when there is a language barrier between the seller and the buyer. Therefore, a global language will enable traders to communicate with their customers both domestically and internationally, and consequently, traders will be able to sell more, and attain greater profits (Crystal 44-46). Speaking a single language worldwide will encourage more liberal trade amongst different countries, as well as to drive the workforce movement. Also, in the educational sector, there have been cases of students studying in a foreign country performing poorly in their academics, due to the language barrier. Adoption of a global language, will mean that students can study in any learning institution, anywhere in the world, because, they will be able to understand what is taught to them (Crystal 44-46).
The Dangers of a Global Language
As discussed above, adopting a global language has its fair share of advantages. However, we cannot ignore the dangers that come with its introduction. For instance, native speakers of the language adopted as the official global language are highly likely to develop into an elite class, who will take advantage of the other people, manipulating them, to their advantage. They will be thinking and planning deals in the mother-tongue; deals that benefit only them. Hence, a linguistic gap will be created between the native speakers of the global language, and the rest of the world; something which might cause animosity (Crystal 44-46).
In addition, if English were to be adopted as the global language, not everybody would want to learn it, since, it is associated with the violence, war, and the cruel treatment of the British colonialists, therefore, introducing it as a global language, may be viewed by some people as a risk of future dominance by the British Government (Black 256).
Another problem with a single global language is that non-native speakers may find the chosen language hard to understand, and it may make them feel poor. For instance, the Eskimos have numerous words for referring to snow, because they require it. Suppose they only had a single global word for snow they many not be able to communicate properly. In addition, the Swedish people will not be able to use the word, lagom; a word which has a significant meaning to them and their society (Crystal 44-46).
If a global language is introduced, what will happen to minor languages and cultures? Introducing a single language spoken worldwide, might result in discrimination of other languages, which is comparable to loosing identity. Language goes beyond just a communication tool; language and culture are intimately related. The adoption of a global language will lead to the various native languages of people becoming extinct, and so are their cultures. Minority languages will no longer be used in the educational systems, and even the media. English has been called the killer language, because it is the dominant language worldwide, learnt at the expense of peoples’ mother tongues i.e. the use of English puts off the use of other languages. The few English-Only movements that have been formed in the United States, have been rejected by numerous people including linguists; an implication that it takes more than language to create a political movement (García 99-100).
In addition, there is no guarantee that when a single language is used worldwide, there will be the mutual understanding and social harmony in our communities. The Spanish Civil War and the American Civil War are just a few examples that prove the above point (Swaan 10-13). Other dangers of a global language are discussed below:
The adoption of a global language might encourage laziness among people, when it comes to learning other languages, or it might lessen their chances to do so (Crystal 44-46). This attitude has its disadvantages on speakers of a single global language, as opposed to non-native people, who can converse in two languages. However, the attitude is changing among English-speaking communities, with more people increasingly becoming aware of the need of breaking away from monolingual prejudice. People whose native language is English, are now learning foreign languages, upon realization that they need it to boost their international trade, as well as to attract foreign investments. According to a study carried out by The Centre for Information on Language Teaching based in the UK, about one third of British professionals miss out on job opportunities due to their poor language skills (García 99-100). In an attempt to solve such problems, learning institutions such as schools in Australia are now teaching Japanese as their primary foreign language; while both the UK and the U.S. are concentrating more on Spanish (McKenzie 45).
A Feeling of Loss
According to studies done in the recent past, a majority of people against the adoption of a global language have argued that speaking only one language might make them feel poor, especially when they want to express their emotions and feelings. It may be difficult for them to express how they feel in a language that is not native to them (Swaan 10-13).
Threat of Losing Identity
Culture defines who a person is, and that is what distinguishes us from others, therefore tracing one’s roots is very important. Language is a vital part of people’s identity, and by speaking one global language, it means people’s native languages and their identities will be lost (Mair 315). Mostly, the English language has been associated with the American and British cultures, and therefore, if at all it was to be the global language, people from other cultures will feel that they are loosing their identities.
Confusion Over which English Standard Should be Used
The English language is the native language of millions of people worldwide. Suppose it was to be the global language, which English standards would become the worldwide standards? Would the standards be strict or loose? The Standard English is the one that taught at schools, used to broadcast news, and spoken among intellectuals. According to Black (256), the British Standard has been the English standard that is taught at schools. Moreover, it has a significant cultural influence on the languages used in Commonwealth countries, like the Australia, South Africa, and India etc. We have heard of other types of English Standards, such as the South African-English, or the American-English, but in real sense, such terms do not exist. The various English types are derived from the British English, but their vocabularies and grammar vary, depending on foreign influence. Most likely, the British Standard of English might be adopted; something which might be translated by some people as the return of British dominion (Black 256).
From the discussion above, the introduction of a global language has its advantages and disadvantages. International language is needed for easy communication in matters of trade, politics, education etc. In addition, using one global language will lead to the reduced educational and translation costs, greater job opportunities and enhanced international peace. At the same time, people are worried about the cultural perish, language death and identity loss that will come with speaking one global language such as English, which is largely associated with British and the American histories and cultures. Some people may not be willing to adopt the new global language for the fear of domination by the above cultures. Perhaps, a language with less links with these cultures will be viewed as neutral, and may be accepted. I am of the opinion that if at all a global language will be introduced; let it be English, since millions of people all over the world already know the language, and the others who do not, can easily learn it, as compared to other languages.