English is one of the most spoken languages in the world. Globally around 380 million people speak English as their first language, 250 million use it as their second language, and 1 billion are in the process of learning it and about one third of the global population are affected by it one way or the other. By the year 2050 it is forecasted that around a half of the world will be able to communicate properly in English. (Pennycook A. 1994) English is on its way to become a dominant global language.
The language has developed to become the language of use in international trade, international science conferences, and global politics. The predominant usage of English has gone further to affect international and regional organizations such as World Bank, European Union, and other multinational companies. (Brutt-Griffler, J. 2002) English dominance originated from political suppression and economical manipulation by Britain and United States. Some policies of international organization such as World Bank have served to propagate the dominance of English in developing countries (Keal, P 1983).
However, the most important factor that has led English to become such a globally spoken language is the emergence of United States of America as a ‘world super power’ a nation that uses English as its major language of communication. (Brutt-Griffler, J. 2002). Since the United States and Britain dominate in the international organizations such as World Bank, World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations (UN), World Trade Organization (WTO) and so on, this has influenced such worldwide entities to use English as a major language of communication.
((Brutt-Griffler, J. 2002) The use of English as the dominant language in these organizations has generated enormous benefits especially in the ease of operation. However it has not been smooth sailing has a myriad of controversies have continued to emerge because of the same dominance. (Keal, P 1983). “Linguistic dominance has its origins in conquest, military and political subjugation, and economic exploitation.
The role of language in imperial expansion has been a central element of the europeanisation of the world” (Robert P) This view has continued to emerge in many forums where most nations (especially the non-English speaking) have constantly objected to the dominance of English because it has been seen as a way of “Europeanizing” others. (Robert P) The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze both the benefits and costs with the purpose of establishing the direction the organizations are likely to take in this thorny and controversial issue.
Benefits of English language in International organizations Communication This is perhaps the greatest benefit that the domination of English has brought to almost all world bodies. Having one language as a “lingua franca” facilitates or breaks down the communication barriers. (Gary C) Members of such bodies like the United Nation, the World Bank are able to communicate easily despite the fact that they come from different countries and cultural backgrounds. In fact most delegates of European Union and common wealth are able to speak English as their second language.
What this means is that a Chinese is able to communicate effectively with a German national despite their cultural differences. (Edwards, J 1985). Because of globalization, there has come a need for faster communication tools and processes. Internet has played a significant role in speeding up the globalization phenomena because it is very fast and inexpensive. (UNESCO) The language that has dominated most of the Internet use is English slated at approximately 80% usage on the websites. This has enabled most of the international organization’s develop communication channels via the Internet that eases the mode and the cost of communication.
The organizations have been able to implement most of their programs within specified period across the globe. (UNESCO) Up to 700,000,000 people speak English language across the globe, what this means is that almost all countries of the world have a sizeable number of people who are able to communicate in English. This makes it easier for the International organizations to operate and find employees in the respective countries, thereby lowering their payroll budgets because they do not have to employ expatriates who are normally very expensive to retain.
A good example is the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) that is located in Kenya, Africa. The local citizens here speak English as the second language, and are competent in its use. (Martinez Cobo 1984). The organization has not had any problem in recruiting locally thereby saving a lot in the payroll budget. Fostering global peace The ability of many United Nations mediators to communicate in English coupled with the increased usage of English in many states of the world has enabled conflicts that arise between various states to be solved efficiently.
In addition, many English speaking nations especially the members of the Common Wealth are able to establish strong diplomatic relationships with ease since language has not been a barrier. (Maurais J. & Morris, M. A. 2003) Facilitating international business English as an international business language has facilitated commercial transactions among the member states of European Union, Common Wealth, and Association Of South East Asian Countries. This is more evident in the software market whereby many soft wares have been produced in English language.
(Rudby, R. & Saraceni, M. 2006) A good example of a country that can attest to the advantages of knowing how to speak in English is India. It has reaped enormous benefits in the global market from its citizen’s competence on spoken English. According to Rudby and Saraceni this has prompted nations like China to encourage its citizens to learn English language. Currently China has the largest number of people studying English and has made English compulsory from third grade. (Rudby, R.
& Saraceni, M. 2006) Sharing of information and ideas It is a requirement for scientists from different parts of the world to publish their findings in English language and thereby enabling any English speakers to be able to access a wide range of information from various experts and from different part of then world. Some scientists are also able to use these published reports as valuable inputs to their researches. Empowers the United Nations to address various problems in the world
Enhanced communication resulting from the common usage of English by many countries of united nation has enabled such countries to put across their valuable contribution in solving current global issues like terrorism, famine and diseases. (Rudby R. & Saraceni, M. 2006) Pre- dominance of English in Common Wealth countries enable the member countries to adopt policies geared towards ensuring efficient delivery of aid and other humanitarian services across the globe. (Rudby R. & Saraceni, M. 2006) Negative effects of English dominance It has contributed to conflicts in the European Union
Having a single language seems to be the most ideal and efficient solutions for the European Union but many members who do not come from Anglophone communities find such arrangement unacceptable. Current the language policy in the European Union grants every language an equal status whereby any language can be used to conduct meetings and translations are provided for other language speakers. (Robert P) However there is a provision to the extent that “the institution especially the preparatory committee of European Union may stipulate in their own rules of procedure which of the language to be used in each specific cases.
” (Robert P) This has served to encourage some languages to become more dominant than others especially English which is frequently chosen in such situations. This has led members of major language speakers like French and German to fiercely protest fearing that their international status of their languages may be lowered. (Martinez Cobo 1984). There is also a growing concern among the non -English members of the European Union that English dominance is crossing over the boundaries of international organization to entrench itself to education and other sectors of the other countries.
(Mary K. Flynn). Germany has been the most affected whereby English has became a general subject in primary schools of many states and has grown into official language of many companies and firms together with Germany. This has consequently resulted to a diminished status of the German language and criticism that imposing English as the first language to all pupils is against the concept of promoting cultural diversity in them. (Mary K. Flynn).