How did English become the whole world’s language?
There are huge numbers of people around the world who speak Chinese, Russian or Arabic but there is no doubt at all that the language of the internet, business, tourism and international diplomacy is English. In 2018 wherever you are in the world, you will find someone nearby who has some level of English.
So how did this come about? Well, undoubtedly the British Empire has played a huge role here. As an imperial power the British stole and plundered enormous amounts of goods and money from many countries, by invading, occupying and stealing from so many countries around the world (from North America to East Asia and everywhere in between) in English, the UK accidentally gave the world a global lingua franca.
Later as the British Empire collapsed during the Second World War, the USA (another former colony of the UK) eventually emerged as the word’s economic, military and technological superpower and the rise of English became well and truly cemented. People who wanted to buy and sell things from the USA and other former colonies of the UK such as Canada, Australia and South Africa would have had an increasing need to do so in English. English had also become well established in places like India and Japan by the end of the Second World War. By the time of the late 1950’s the word’s new market capitalist economic system had become well established, and with the economic boom years that followed the Second World War so to came boom years of technology with the advent of television, mass produced cars and telephones. The world was getting smaller and smaller. Globalisation was in full swing by the end of the 1980s and as China began to open up it’s economy to the rest of the world globalisation demanded one unifying language. There was only one contender for the spot. English.
Whilst the rise of English as the world’s language is due to military, economic and political reasons it is probably technology that has ensured it will remain so for the future. As globalisation went into overdrive with advances in communications technology, specifically the internet, English has become cemented as the language of the world, in a future blog post we will ask whether this is likely to continue or whether there are other contenders for the title.