Final question 8

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Post  Nadeau on Thu Apr 21, 2011 11:23 am

The use of the English language has spread world-wide over the past few centuries; many factors contributed to this. Previously, we have seen that colonialism and commerce have been key aspects in the first phase in this direction. On a more recent level, we can obviously talk about how technology has contributed to the spread of the English language. We will see the major events concerning the evolution of technology and its impact the internalization of English. We will also discover that a lot of this has to do with world economy. Lastly, we will see how this affected English itself and other languages.

Indeed, the British leadership in the Industrial Revolution has helped spread the English language in the 18th and 19th centuries. Britain was the leading country for bridge building, large-scale manufacturing and production machinery. But most importantly, they were the pioneers for steam-engines. So any country that needed any of these products had to buy them via the medium of English. Moreover, wherever a railroad was built, there was a telegraph system built along these railroads and because the system was developed in England, the international language of all telegraph operators was English, even between operators whose first language was not English. And this was just the beginning of the trend making English the international language for telecommunications (1, p.256).

Then by the beginning of the 20th century, the United States started to gain leadership in politics and became very powerful economically. After the two world wars, many countries felt the need to group together. Thus, we saw the creation of the United Nations. They first wanted to communicate in several languages but this was a waste o time and money. So they needed to decide on one language to be used and because they settled in New York, English was chosen. This is just one example of the way English was spreading during that period (1, p. 257).

But it’s only from the 1980’s that we can really talk about the technological domination impact of the Americans on language. The computer was mostly developed in America, so the language of computers has always been English. Even if some famous software were firstly designed by people of other languages, English was so dominant that it was only viable economically to develop them in English (the larger volume meant increased sales). And even if it would be economically feasible to develop them in other languages nowadays, English is already the lingua franca in the computer world, and that it is likely to remain this way. The same sort of phenomenon happened to the aircraft industries, therefore in the international aviation communication as well. It also applies to the international shipping business (1, p. 257-258).
This dominance of English in all economical fields created the need to learn English to anyone in any country who wanted to do international business. This is why some of us go teach English in strange places like Japan, for example. These Japanese «salary men» need to learn English so they can sell us their Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi or Suzuki cars. Besides, all technical terms about cars in Japanese are English terms (pronounced the Japanese way). They also know their children need to learn English as well. The same thing happened with people in India at Tata motors, and so on and so forth.

This idea of an international language can please many people, but can frustrate others. To avoid having to cope with English, there were many attempts that were made to create an artificial international language. The most common language developed is Esperanto, but we realized that planning such an artificial language is so much more difficult than we thought. There are very complex aspects that would still need to be standardized, but according to what standard (1, p.260)?

English is often also accused of causing the death of other languages. To be successful economically and as a result improving one’s quality of life, it is so important to be able to use English that many languages stop being used. For example, English has caused the reduction of the number of local languages used in America to about 200 since English speakers first established. The same type of phenomenon happened in Australia (and to so many other places in the world). And this trend seems to be far from over (1, p.260).

And the spread of English can also harm standardized English itself. Communities use English for many reasons but they adapt it to their local needs. This leads to the idea of ‘’new Englishes’’. In Singapore, for instance, English has come into contact with other languages (Chinese) and has formed ‘’Singlish’’. In some cases, even within the same country, we can have several dialects that come into contact with English, creating many new dialects. Nigeria is a good example of this. In other words, we can find many variations of what we can call «Nigerian English» (2, p.395).

Computers and the Internet also have their downsides towards the English language. We all know that we can now chat or blog with friends, send them text messages or e-mails anytime of the day, wherever they are in the world. The Internet provides a readily available platform for (English) writing. And because we live in a fast paced world which wants to always faster, people want to save time, which leads to simplifying the language. For example, we see things like TTYL (Talk To You Later) instead of «I will talk to you later», or LOL which means «laughing out loud», etc. We lose the true sense of what acronyms really mean. Although when you think of it, scuba is an acronym (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus), but very few people know that now. Also, because we can copy and paste any length of text in the blink of an eye, people become lazy and omit to care for spelling. All this can be some of the arguments that go against standardization.

As we have seen, the emergence of technology in Britain and in America has helped spread the English language in a worldwide manner; thanks also to their leading roles economically and politically. This spread of the English language is clearly the greatest spread of any language in history (of course, much bigger than Latin in other eras). We can say that this frustrates or scares native speakers of other language. They are reasonably afraid to lose their mother tongue. However, this spreading of English has happened absolutely naturally and it has had positive effects on the quality of life of many people in many countries. To conclude on an interesting note, let’s realize that ironically, the first phase of technology (the printing press) has helped its standardization, whereas the most recent phase (the computers and the Internet) has contributed to a loss of importance in learning how to spell; so it has harmed its standardization.
1) Fennell, B.A. A History of English: A Sociolinguistic Approach
2) The Oxford History of English


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Post  captn_lee on Thu Apr 21, 2011 11:37 am

We have seen how the language was exported overseas through colonisation and commerce. Here, explain how technology has helped to spread the language even more over the past century.
The computer revolution that took over the world in the period after World War II and particularly in the 1980s and 1990s was spearheaded by American technology and American Know-how. Consequently, the language of computers is English.( Fennell p.257)
Another case in point is the airline industry. In the early decades of commercial flight, American aircraft production proved to be dominant throughout much of the world. Practically all of the technology connected to this industry was English-based, and most of ir American. The most visible symbol of this phenomenon is the universal use of English in all communications between aircraft and control towers today: more often than not, it takes place between non-English speakers, at both ends. (Fennell 258).
The ensuing language loss is just one part of the process of globalization, a process by which people throughout the world become more interdependent culturally, economically and politically. Graddol points out that the development of the radio telegraph was the first step in the globalization of communications. The majority of the world’s telegraph station operators came to use English, and by the 1930s, only French and German competed with English in the telegraph service, and even German fell out use by the 1950s. And because English was the language of the telegraph, it became established as the language of these international activities. American eventually took the lead in telephone technology and although other countries developed considerable telephone and electronic communications systems, American continued to dominated this industry and does so still today. If English is to be seen as a Killer language, communication technology must be interpreted as one of its major weapons. (Fennell p.267)


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Post  natacha on Mon Apr 25, 2011 10:34 am

Fennell, B. (2001) The history of English: A sociolinguistic approach, Blackwell, p.256 – 257

• British Colonialism set the stage at the first phase of the expansion of English
• English-medium instruction was a major tool in spreading the language
• Some of the technological achievement of that time (industrial revolution):
 Steam engines
 Bridge building
 Large scale manufacturing
 Production of machinery

• Access technology via English medium = international language
• Development of technology  side by side with the spread of English
 Railway tracks + telegraph cables
 Language in which the telegraph was developed is English
 English was used in international communications  it paved the way for English to be used in radio and telecommunication


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