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Is the world really becoming a “global village”
The modern pace of progress of our civilization has culminated in a belief that we live in a global village. Some people attribute this state of things to the globalization of business. Others are convinced that mass media have a great deal to do with it. Some point their finger in the direction of the Internet. Still others shift the focus to the expansionist policy of the USA.
All of these things must, of course, be taken into account when we speak about the global village, but the driving force behind it is the English language. This factor combines all things mentioned above into a coherent whole: English is the dominant language of science and technology, international organizations and mass media, business, the Internet and the most powerful nation – the USA.
“It is everywhere. Some 380m people speak it as their first language and perhaps two-thirds as many again as their second. A billion are learning it, about a third of the world’s population are in some sense exposed to it and by 2050, it is predicted, half the world will be more or less proficient in it. It is the language or globalization - of international business, politics and diplomacy. It is the language of computers and the Internet. You’ll see it on posters in Cote d`lvoire, you`ll hear it in pop songs in Tokyo, you`ll read it in official documents in Phnom Penh. Deutsche Welle broadcasts in it. Bjork, an Icelander, sings in it. French business schools teach in it. It is the medium of expression in cabinet meetings in Bolivia”
Many years ago Makar Nagulnov, the charismatic hero of Sholokhov’s “Virgin Soil Upturned” dreamt about people marrying foreign blood and producing children with “nice olive-coloured faces”. What seems to have been a utopian idea has emerged now as a reality. And the English language is to praise or to blame for it. The glaring evidence to it is the appearance of a generation of children whose parents of various ethnic backgrounds forged their marriages with the help of English: a German marrying a Swede etc., all of them using English as an instrument of communication. The linguists have long been aware of the situation and claim that the number of non-native speakers adjusting English to their settings and needs is greater than the number of native speakers of English: “We are faced with notion of foreign language (or second language). English as a mother tongue… English (is) being pulled in the direction of these foreign language patterns… There is a real need for empirical research into these hybrid language situations”.
Some nations seem to be firmly determined to keep the English language at bay. However, it is a pointless and hopeless stance: “In France itself, the march of English is remorseless. Alcatel, the formerly state-owned telecoms giant, uses English as its internal language. Scientists know that they must either “publish in English or perish in French”. And though one minister of “culture and the French language” Jacques Toubon, did his utmost to banish foreign expression from French in the mid-1990s, a subsequent minister of education. Claude Allegre, declared in 1998 that “English should no longer be considered a foreign language… In future it will be as basic [in France] as reading, writing and arithmetic”.
The pace of hybridization is enormous. Irrespective whether the government movers and shakers notice it and back it up with legislation, or overlook the phenomenon of the global village, the process goes on. The explanation is simple.
The world of languages gives a glaring demonstration of inequality. Some languages give better opportunities to success and enrichment than others. Every language has a certain investment appeal: some languages are more attractive and some less. According to some estimates 90% of the current some 6000 languages will have died out by the end of the century. In terms of culture it would be a tremendous loss. However one must be a realist and face up to the inevitable. We may like or dislike English, but we must recognize the fact that English has already ensured a future for itself. How right was Kipling when he wrote:
“But first you must master their language.
Their dialects, proverbs and songs.
Don’t trust any clerk to interpret
When they come with the tale of their wrongs”.
The global village is certainly going to look more English than some people are prepared to accept.
Politicians may be forcing people to speak the language with a poor investment potential, they may even declare the language to be the only state language, but what they prove by it is their poor educational backgrounds and deplorable reading habits. Life does not obey political slogans. It has its own laws. Among these is our global village. We have to adjust ourselves to the realities of life in this village. The only laissez-passer to village is English. English is certainly bound to survive and flourish. And the global village as well.
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