Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The spread of English across the Globe: Social, Political and Cultural factors

From the seventeenth century onwards, the English
began to extend their language over the world. It is due to so important
factors as the power of the British Empire, the importance in the Industrial
revolution taking place in England for the first time or the supremacy of
America in all over the world. Moreover, we all know that English has become a
global language in the last fifty years, being the official language of the
international and multinational companies and industries, and the language of

It is important to have in mind how and why English
has spread across the globe the way it has: 

17th and 18th centuries
English spread as a result of British colonialism
18th and 19th centuries
English spread as the language of British leadership in the Industrial
Late 19th and early 20th c.
English spread as the language of American economic superiority and
political leadership.
Second half of 2th c.
English spread as a consequence of American technological domination.

a) British Colonialism

We all know that long before this expansion of English
as a global language, there were other minor spreads of the language, as for
instance the spread of English to Scotland because of the military escapades of
William the Conqueror (11th century) or to Ireland with the
Anglo-Norman troops sent by Henry II.

But in global terms, the spread of English began in 16th
century, when the language became a tool of imperial expansion, and end up by
gaining a special place in the history of a significant number of countries.
This was what happened in USA, but also in other colonial areas. You have here
a table in which you can find how English spread took place in different
territories conquered by the English. 

French were present in Canada from 1530, and vied with Britain for
domination. Finally, French defeated by Britain. French and English languages
there, but French-speakers remained in the East when process of English
colonization began. English in contact with native languages, but the former
predominated. However, the French of Quebec remained.
The Caribbean
The most spoken language is Spanish, but there are also other European
languages (complex colonial history). African slaves in this area, they developed
creoles as a means of communicating among themselves. It gained societal
status. However, no creole has gained enough status to be accepted as a
national language. Nowadays, English and Spanish are the official languages.
Discovered by Captain James Cook in 1770, it served as the first penal
colony. British prisons were overcrowded and convicts were sent to Australia.
By 1900 it had 4 million inhabitants from British Isles. Contact between
indigenous and colonizers led to borrowing items. English as the official
language. There has been American English influence, and vocabulary has been
New Zealand
No convicts in New Zealand, and slow settlement. It became an official
colony in 1840. By 1900, it has a quarter of million people. People there are
more inclusive of the indigenous population and it is one reason why the
language contains a large number of Maori words, in contrast to Australian
English. They reject American English in favor of British English.
South Africa
British control in 1806, and settlement from 1820 onwards, when
Englishmen got lands there. English became the official language of the
region in 1822 and by the end of 19th c., there were half a
million immigrants there, most of them spoken English. Afrikaans-speakers
used English as a second language, and nowadays English is one of the 11
official languages in South Africa.
South Asia
About 40 million users of English, the 3rd-larger English
using area after USA and Great Britain. English developed as a medium of
control –administration, education, etc.- 
in the period of the British Raj (1765-1947), creating an
English-based subculture in the subcontinent. The basis for the subculture
was the English language –as language is equated with power.
Former Colonial Africa: West Africa
Bu the 19th c., the increase in trade and activities in
opposition to slave trade brought English to the entire West African coast,
and several English-based pidgins and creoles developed. English is still
taught and used, being an official language there. British varieties of
English develop in 6 particular countries, which have English as an official
language: Sierra Leone, Ghana, The Gambia, Nigeria, Cameroon and Liberia.
East Africa
Visited by English in the 16th century, it was not explored
until 1850s. The Imperial East Africa Company was founded in 1888, and a
series of colonial protectorates was established. There are 6 main states
with a history of British rule that gave English official status when they gained
their independence: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
South-East India and South Pacific
There is a mixture of English and Australian English, and American
influence increased in the 1940s. The British influence there began with Captain
James Cook and English become rapidly an influential language in the British
territories of South Pacific. And because of the very different cultural
circumstances in different parts of the region, no one South Asian English
variety has emerged.

b) Industrial Revolution    

As we can imagine, British colonialism was the first
step of the expansion of English across the world. But it is also very
important the Industrial Revolution in terms of the spread of English. Britain
was the leader of the Industrial Revolution, and large-scale manufacturing and
production machinery were just some of the major technological advancements
being pioneered there. Countries which needed this new industrial knowledge
could access it via the medium of English, something which made powerful again
the language internationally.

And the development of technology was side by side
with the spread of English. For instance, English was the language in which the
system of telegraph was developed, and English became the international
language of all telegraph operators. 

c) American Economic superiority and Political

Although Britain had been the greatest political,
economic and industrial power in the world in the 18th century, by
the end of the 19th and the early 20th centuries USA
emerged as an economic and political superpower. During this time, the
countries if the world began to came together in international organizations,
and they need to be able to communicate. However, it was very expensive to run
multilingual operations, so they decided that English would be the language
used in their international interactions. Moreover, The League of Nations was
created after the World War I, but then it was replaced by the United Nations,
which ends up in New York. Thus, the world´s focus shifted to the United

The influence of United States combined then the
economic and political factors and the huge seize of its population: The United
States has 70 per cent of all native speakers of English in the world. 

d) American Technology Leadership.

After the World War II and particularly in the 1980s
and 1990s, the computer revolution began all over the world. It was due to the
American technology and the American know-how. So, it is logic that the
language of the computers is English. The main reason why it is like this is
the fact that, although it could be designed with languages of one own country,
this process it very expensive. 

e) Other factors. 

During the 19th century the use of
advertisements in publication increased, especially in more industrialized
countries, due to the fact that there was more money and also more people
interesting on them. In USA, however, they realized that if they put
advertisements in their magazines, they could put lower the price of their
magazines, something which led them to sell more and more of them. And as the
international market grew, the media spread to all parts of the world, and
became one of the most noticeable global manifestations of English language
use. American English ruled.

- Broadcasting:
As it has been already mentioned, the invention and use of telegraph supposed a
very great impulse to English language. Britain was the pioneer in the use of
telegraph, and all communications were made in English, having being necessary
that all telegraph operators spoke English. So, it was one of the most
important fact in the spread of English though the world.

- Motion
: The new technologies altered the way of public entertainment, and
it also serves as a thrust of the English language. The development of the
cinema was made initially by France and England, but the years during the World
War I supposed a kind of blockage of cinema, and then American began to
dominate it. Moreover, when the sound was added to the films, it was the spoken
English which came to the movies. And although the film industry was developed
also in other countries, it is still English language the dominant medium,
maybe because the main studio, Hollywood, is in an English-spoken area.

- Popular music:
The other important entertainment technology was the recording industry, and
also here the English language had the dominance. All the major recording
companies in popular music had English-language origins, and when popular music
arrived, it was in English scene mostly. The pop groups of English-speaking
nations dominated the recording world: Elvis Presley in USA or the Beatles and
the Rolling Stones in UK. No other single source has spread English around the
world so rapidly.

- International
travel and safety
The medium in transportation and accommodation is
English. Equally, English instructions about safety on international flights
and sailings and indications about emergency procedures are in English. English
then has become the international language. “Airspeak”, the language of
international aircraft control, emerged after the Second War World, and it was
decided that English would be the international language of aviation.

- Education: Internationally, areas as science and
technology have the medium of English language to spread over the world their
ideas. It is the main reason why many countries have adopted English as the
chief foreign languages in schools. It is obvious that people all over the
world have to know English if they are students, as most of the important words
in the field of education are written in English.

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