ENGLISH: World Wide Language
English is the language of the world. Indian writer Gurcharan Das wrote, “English has become the global language at a time when technological breakthroughs have shrunk the world.” Mr. Das observed that his grandfather treasured his knowledge of the English language as his greatest possession, for English united the Indians intelligentsia and civil servants. (The present Indian Constitution recognizes 14 languages as official languages so English is a unifying language in a nation with various sectional dialects.) Mr. Das said the English language, “…introduced Indian minds to liberal ideas and the ideals of the French Revolution, while the British Empire was practicing the opposite through colonial rule. Schools and colleges taught liberty and equality while the rulers practiced subjugation and inequality.”
English became India’s portal to Western thought and Mahatma Gandhi used the British rule of law against the English in his quest to liberate India. The English taught the Indians the language of Liberty, and Indians demanded what was rightly theirs—in English. And within a couple of generations, English may become the dominant language of India by the end of this decade. India will be world’s largest English speaking nation. The English language contains nearly a half-million words, which is nearly fivefold more than French and is constantly changing and growing as its reach expands beyond England and North America.
Scholar Brad DeLong speculates that the Internet will expand international trade and many of these jobs created will be white-collar jobs. Those who speak English will be the major benefactors of this movement and this will encourage English to stay as the world’s major language of communication. Economist Arnold Kling, in a recent piece, wrote, “In the era of the English dominated Internet, to speak another language is to impose a barrier on the fastest-growing component of international trade.” In Israel, there was a debate on whether to teach high-level technical courses in English or in Hebrew nearly 50 years ago. It was decided to teach these courses in Hebrew but today many Israelis maintain their Web presence in English to reach a wider audience beyond Israel.
Some disagree with the thesis that English will continue to the dominant language. Nicholas Negroponte of MIT Media Lab believes that Chinese will the dominant language within a decade and “English speakers will find themselves on the wrong end of the digital divide.” Negroponte added, “We’re going to see again a real rise in multilingual systems and of course multilingual, in my opinion.”
Kling disagrees for now in writing, “the Internet revolution is boosting the economic prospects of the English speakers of the world. This includes the countries where English is primarily spoken, as well as the people in other countries who happen to be educated in English.”
I agree with the Kling thesis for the simple reason that American economic and military preponderance throughout the world allows English to stay dominant. English first was spread worldwide through the British Empire, which extended the language throughout Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. From Hong Kong to Africa, the British Empire was home to nearly a quarter of the world’s population in the 19th century, and this allowed English to become the worldwide language. The emergence of America in the 20th Century merely cemented it. As long as America is the leading military and economic power, then English will still be the dominant language. With the emergence of India as a potential superpower and the rise of Indian information technology challenging the United States, English will continue to be the prevailing language in the 21st century. Bangalore in India is the Silicon Valley of Southern Asia and, perhaps, India may yet supplement America as the new economic power in this new century.
English is the dominant language throughout the world and this came as a result of the spread of the British Empire in the 19th Century and the emergence of the United States in the second half of the 20th Century. The result is that Western ideals have been spread throughout the world and this has enabled its values to triumph. With India soon to become the leading English-speaking nation, these values will no longer be a Western value but a worldwide value. There will be no longer be an East or West but democratic values that are universal complemented by the language of liberty: English.
By becoming the world’s language, English is moving the Anglo-culture throughout the world. The United States is part of a broader coalition that is slowly evolving. James Bennett terms this coalition as the “Anglosphere.” Mr. Bennett writes, “To be part of the Anglosphere requires adherence to the fundamental customs and values that form the core of English-speaking cultures. These include individualism, rule of law, honoring contracts and covenants, and the elevation of freedom to the first rank of political and cultural values.” Bennett observes that these nations share a historical story, which includes the Magna Carta, the American Constitution and the bill of rights. Knowing English does not make a person a part of the Anglosphere but knowing the language shapes the person in those values of the Anglo cultures.
English is the language of the Anglosphere and this language helped to assimilate past immigrants and as Bennett states, “Today’s Anglospherists see immigrants forming a new layer of intra-Anglosphere ties, as the East and South Asian, Caribbean, and Mediterranean origins of immigrants throughout the Anglosphere create new cross-relationships.”
The power of English language is underpinned by the spread of Anglo-Saxon values. As I mention previously, the presence of an Anglosphere is no longer a Western phenomena but worldwide phenomena. Where the English language permeates, the American/British values travel with it. India, North American, The British Isle and Australia are unique cultural trend that stretches throughout the world.
Final Lessons of Anglosphere
The Anglosphere is more than just the United States; its a new liberal Alliance whose final contribution is the spread of freedom. Bennett views the Anglosphere as a civic state based on “cultural affinity, essentially voluntarily assumed ties and a shared narrative and culture.” This culture has spread beyond what can be classified as the West. India and South Africa are slowly joining the Anglosphere. What does the Anglosphere offer the world? It offers the world a vision of the rule of law and constitutional rule. These institutions lead to limiting power of the rulers and enhanced power for those being governed. In other words, increased freedom.
In the 19th Century, it was the British who ruled the world and the 20th Century was the American century. The 21st Century may expand beyond the American century and become the Anglosphere century as the Anglosphere as a group dominates the world.
The Anglosphere is an ever growing alliance that within the next half-century will include South Africa and India. If successful, this alliance will become the mechanism in which freedom and stability will expand throughout the world. A pundit once wrote that there is no East or West. With the Anglosphere alliance, that statement has become truth.