English as a World Language
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19 – ENGLISH AS A WORLD LANGUAGE A world language is alanguagespoken internationally which is learned by many people as a second language. A world language is not only characterized by the number of its speakers (native or second language speakers), but also by its geographical distribution, and its use in international organizations and in diplomatic relations. In this respect, major world languages are dominated by languages of European origin. A living world language should have a large number of speakers, official status in several countries, a significant body of literature and used extensively in international trade relations, international organizations and the academic community. History of English The first inhabitants of the British Isles had their own language, however nobody knows what it was. In the 5th century BC the Celtic tribes came to the Isles. Their language merged with the language of the original inhabitants. The Celtic tribes were: Irish Gaelic, Welsh, Scotish and Breton. Another significant change in the British language was caused by the Roman invasion in the 1st century BC. The Romans spoke Latin. The next to invade were the Germanic tribes Anglo-Saxons. The Angles gave the language it's name - English. Their germanic language strongly influenced English. We call the English from this period the 'Old English'. Some examples of Germanic words in English are for example 'mother', 'father' or 'house'. There is an important piece of literature from this time - the epic poem Beowulf. It already contains some abstract words. Then came the Vikings, who invaded the isles in the 9th century AD, and brought Skandinavian, or the 'Old Norse'. The words which came from this language are for example sky, school or skeleton. The last successful invasion took place in the 11th century, specifically in the year 1066. The aggressors were the French-speaking Normans lead by William the Conqueror. French was mostly used by the aristocracy and it influenced English quite a lot. For example the words 'roayal' or 'parliament' come from French. From the 11th to the 15th century the language is called 'Middle English'. English was somewhat simplified during this period. The most famous writer from this period is probably Geoffrey Chaucer, who wrote the Canterbury Tales. From the late 15th century to the 17th century we talk about the 'Early Modern English'. The language was standardized by the government and the administration. More foreign words were adopted, mostly from Latin or Greek. After that we call English 'Modern English'. It was standardized even more and it obtained a great number of new words thanks to the development connected to the Industrial Revolution. This is the English we speak in the present day. In Shakespeare`s time only a few million people spoke English. It was considered as unimportant and was unknown to the rest of the world. English has become a world language because of its establishment as a mother tongue in all the continents of the world. The exporting of English began in the seventeenth century with the first settlements in North America. Above all, the growth of the population of the United States followed by massive immigration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries ensured its current predominance in the world. Geographically, English is the most widespread language on Earth with 400 million speakers, second only to Mandarin Chinese which has more than 700 million speakers. Many languages of the world have contributed to the vocabulary of English which has approximately 500,000 words and 300,000 technical terms. However, purists of French, Russian and Japanese have been resisting the arrival of English words. George Bernard Shaw once said that the United Kingdom and the United States were “two countries divided by a common language” but the differences that exist are few and unimportant. British do thingsat the weekend while Americans do thingson theweekend and Americans may use the past simple where the British would use the present perfect simple. Spelling only affects a small number of words. Compare the British spelling withcolor,aluminum,traveled,dialogandprogram. Vocabulary can cause confusion and maybe some embarrassment. Compare the use of the wordsbathroom,squash, public school, subway, mad, vest,coach(of Hungarian origin) andfootball. The British have different words forsidewalk,trunk (of a car),gasoline,attorney andelevator. American pronunciation is often the easiest to understand and usually far easier than a strong Glasgow, Liverpool or Newcastle accent but the difference is usually small. As the British comedy group, Monty Python, pointed out to American audiences: “you say tomato and we say tomato but you say potato and we say potato ..... so what`s the problem?” What all types of English have in common has been their openness of vocabulary - the readiness to acquire words from other languages. In British English foreign words reflect Britain`s European heritage and colonial past. From French camefait accompli,coup (d`état), coup de grace, enfant terrible, café, femme fatale andpassé. From German there isschnitzel, zeitgeist andschadenfreude and from Spanish there iscanyon, sombrero,guerrilla,flotilla,incommunicado andaficionado. From India camebungalow,verandah,curry andkhaki. American English has absorbed new words as a result of successive waves of immigration. From Yiddish cameschmuck, schlep,wanderlust,schmoozeandchutzpah.