WILL the English language overwhelm other languages? No, unless of course they fail to grow. Can any language displace English to become the international language? No, English is too heavily entrenched to be uprooted. And the system and infrastructure it has developed over the centuries cannot be replicated.
There are 1200 standard languages in the world. But only a few have the potential to grow into any significant language. For example, Chinese, which is spoken by more than a billion people.
Next comes the claim of the English language with 500-600 million people. Next come Spanish, Arabic, Bengali and Hindi in that order. But while Chinese is spoken by the Han race alone, English is spoken by segments of almost all the racial groups of the world. And English is used by 2-2.5 billion peoples. With globalisation and information explosion, the use of the English language has grown astronomically.
It was colonial expansion that brought about the changes in the fortunes of the English language. More precisely, it was Macaulay’s decision to teach English to the natives which helped the rapid expansion of the English language. Thus, growing needs of the international community opened up opportunities for the English language. What was more, Britain was at the head of the largest empire of the day.
But is that the only reason why English has come to occupy the position that it enjoys today? No There are other reasons. For example, English is the most advanced language of the world. And, there is a final argument for English. English has grown meeting specific needs of the international community. No other language has played this role. Which is why nationalist arguments for a new world language had failed to impress the world.
Here are a few more instances of these needs. There is need for an international language to bring together the people of the world. There is need for an international language to conduct world commerce. And being a store-house of knowledge English is a language of references. In fact, it has not equal in this. In multi-lingual countries which were under Britain English serves as a link language. For example India. English serves writers and thinkers, in fact the entire international intellectuals community. Only English can provide translations of the best works in the world of literature.
English is still the language of the governments, courts, schools and colleges in countries which were under Britain. And so long there is diplomatic service, there will be an international bureaucracy.
And the more a country is dependent on imports and exports, it has to use English. And every international institution has adopted English as the medium of communication. When European Union politicians meet, they speak in English, not in French or Spanish. Today there is a vast international bureaucracy consisting of employees of the UN and its associated institutions. They all use English.
The world is aware of this significant role played by the English language. The demand today is not for a ban of the English language but for protection of native languages. Continuing use of English as a link language, however is an expression of the lack of a national spirit. It shows how our minds have been subverted by a slavish mentality.
English is confined to urban centres. It has no influence in rural regions. Thus English does not reach 85 per cent of India’s rural people. But the urban people, who use the English language, are very influential and powerful. They can determine the course of a country’s history unless they are checked by a democratic system. In a democratic system, English can never overwhelm the national language. In any case, link languages are rapidly growing in these countries to challenge the position of the English language.