Why English Should Not Be The International Language Of The World

When I was younger I didn’t like languages. In school, I hated Irish and thought it was a complete waste of time. Why bother learning it when everyone spoke English? In fact what’s the use of any other language when it’s obvious that English is the international language? This view is very common among English native speakers and to a certain extent it’s true. English is one of the most spoken languages in the world and is by far the most common second language in the world. No matter where you travel in the world, you have a decent chance of finding an English speaker. International conferences almost always are held in English and over 90% of academic articles are published in English. So it seems like case closed, English is the global language, everyone speaks it and I should be thankful that I happen to be a native speaker.

Except recently I’ve been having doubts. I began to reconsider my views when I went travelling through Europe. I was impressed at how many people could speak English, but I felt guilty that they had spent years learning my language, yet I couldn’t speak a word of theirs. Learning a language isn’t easy, it involves months of hard work just to become conversational and years to become fluent. It is costs time, money and can be deeply frustrating. Up until that point, I had taken English for granted, I never realised how much work the rest of the world goes through. It’s not as though English is an easy language to learn, it’s incredibly irregular and outright random (especially the spelling and grammar).

Nor did I pay much attention to what happens if you don’t speak English. The vast majority of academic papers are published in English and it is a requirement in most of the top universities and businesses. English is a privilege, if you have it; you get access to an elite club of the rich and famous. If you don’t, you’re left out in the cold.

Language isn’t just a tool to communicate; it is also a huge part of our identity. It’s how we think and how we view the world. So when English speakers expect the rest of the world to learn our language, we are actually asking a lot. English speakers often treat not knowing English as primitive as not have electricity, but we don’t think about what people give up to learn our language. Languages carry a lot of cultural and historical baggage, both good and bad. The only reason I (and many others) speak English is because centuries ago my country was invaded, colonised and the native language suppressed. It wasn’t for linguistic reasons that English dominated, but political.

To put it in perspective imagine if you had to speak Spanish (presuming you don’t already). You still live and work in the same place, but for reasons beyond your control it has been decided that more people speak Spanish than English so therefore this is the new international language through which you will have to work. Most people would be horrified at the prospect. I’m sure plenty of people in England and America would rather die than do so. It would feel like surrendering our culture, our traditions. Yet this is the very thing that many English speakers expect the rest of the world to do. If we aren’t willing to learn even the basics of another language, why should we expect the rest of the world to make such an effort just to suit ourselves?

Imagine if a law was introduced putting major barriers in front of women’s careers in the world of business and science. They could still attend university and get good jobs but beforehand they had to undergo years of work to get an additional qualification. Men could go straight to the top, but women were sidetracked by years of extra work. Sure they could still continue their careers but with a serious handicap. Most people would be rightly horrified. It would be deeply unfair and severely damaging as we would lose all they have to contribute to society. Placing extra burdens on some people just to the luck of birth offends our sense of justice. Imagine still, if the barriers were erected in front of all non-whites in the world. This is even worse. Society would be dominated by a small handful, who didn’t earn their place, but only got there based on who they were born to. No one could in any good conscience support such an unjust system.

But this is exactly what expecting everyone to speak English does. It enforces barriers to three quarters of the world that are difficult to cross and exclude the rest. It is similar to erecting barriers to success based on arbitrary classes like race, which like language mostly comes from your parents. Sure many overcome this barrier and become successful in the world of science and business, but many do not. Even those that do, have to spend years learning English that could have been put to better use in their research or at their job. It is the equivalent of a tax on everyone who had the misfortune to be born to parents who didn’t speak English. It is the same as asking people to complete and extra qualification before they can make it into the upper levels of business and science (considering how research is almost solely published and business so heavily conducted in English).

A world where everyone speaks English and only English would have advantages (I’m deeply aware that this blog would only have a tiny fraction of the number of its views if I blogged in any other language) but also major disadvantages. It would be a duller blander world where we all had the same conversations, watched the same movies and listened to the same music. We would lose a huge amount of the diversity in the world, a huge part of what makes us unique, what makes us who we are.

Restricting the conversation only to English greatly reduces the quality of the conversation. Having only similar people with the same language leads to groupthink and blinds us to major problems. For example, economics has a huge American bias. Most of the Nobel Prize winners have been from there (or moved there), the main bloggers, economists, institutions and books are in/about America (and of course in English). This means the discourse is heavily skewed by US issues and viewpoints, to the point that it often feels that they’ve forgotten a world exists outside America. The healthcare debate is a good example. The debate was limited to whether America should have a private system with some government influence at the margins or one with none at all. None seemed to be aware that there are countries that exist where the government provides insurance or even universal healthcare. Likewise the gun debate is limited to those who want some guns and those who want a lot, unaware of the fact that there are many countries where having almost no guns is the norm. Limiting the conversation only to English speakers prevents us from hearing other opinions and ideas that we never would have considered.

So what can we do about it? We could ignore it and hope it sorts itself out. This option has the least going for it and the most support. The idea that they should have to learn another language is a thought that rarely crosses the mind of an English speaker (unless they’re moving abroad). The English language advances like the tide, slowly and without fanfare or any coordinated effort so people don’t notice until it’s up to their waist.

The second option is to promote polyglotism and other languages. Scientific journals could accept other languages with or without translations, business conferences needn’t have to be in English. After all, German used to be the language of science and French the language of culture. While encouraging other languages and helping people take pride in their languages certainly has many positives, I’m doubtful of how much of a long term strategy this is. There are huge economies of scale in languages, so large that they naturally push towards monopoly. There will always be pressure for conferences to be in one language and given the economic might and stubbornness of English speakers, this will more than likely lead to English being used slowly. Even if French, Spanish or German launched a delaying attack, this offers little for other smaller languages. Irish, Dutch or Danish are never going to be major international languages so learning French or Spanish is no different to learning English for these people.

The third option is Esperanto. Unlike English or any other language, it is neutral and thereby avoids all the problems I’ve listed above. There is no cultural baggage or legacy of colonialism; it was never spread at the point of a sword or gun. As there are almost no native speakers, no one has an advantage due to the luck of birth; everyone is on an equal level playing field. It also has the crucial advantage of being incredibly easy to learn. It has no irregular grammar at all and resembles building blocks in that small simple words are combined to create more complicated ideas that are easy to learn while still allowing people to fully express themselves.

This seems like the best and most efficient compromise. Everyone would still speak their native language but when they submitted their research to scientific and economic journals, it would be in Esperanto so that everyone could read it. Instead fields being dominated by native English speakers due to their unfair advantage, people would be able to contribute from all over the world and have an equal chance of being published. News, ideas and opinions could flow from all over the globe, instead of just a few corners as at present. Businesses would be open to using the talent from everyone, not just those lucky enough have English speaking parents or good tutors. People would still have to go to the effort of learning another language, but it takes only a small fraction of the time to learn Esperanto as it does any other language.

Now some readers might dismiss Esperanto as something that can’t possibly succeed. I admit it’s certainly a long shot (but then again, I’m blogging this from my bedroom so my chances of changing the world are all long shots), but the alternatives aren’t much better. Sliding into an English dominated world who be great for people like me, but impose a heavy burden on everyone else. I believe everyone has as much right to be heard in this world as I do and we shouldn’t shut out the majority of the world. The chances of another language replacing or even challenging English are slim (it would probably require a major war) so French, Spanish, German etc can slow the march of English, but can’t stop it. Esperanto is the only option that offers us the hope of a fair and equal world without any one language or culture dominating. It’s an idealistic dream, but one worth having.

Advertisements

66 thoughts on “Why English Should Not Be The International Language Of The World”

  1. “It would be a duller blander world where we all had the same conversations, watched the same movies and listened to the same music. We would lose a huge amount of the diversity in the world”

    I know this is a common fear, but I think it’s unfounded. Consider what has happened as English spread to Australia, Jamaica, and South Africa. Did those places suddenly all start to read the same novels, and listen to the same music? Of course not. Sure they shared media, but they remain distinct cultures. And these dialects of English have only diversified over time. Some varieties of Irish English are totally incomprehensible to American ears.

    Even if magically everyone suddenly became fluent in, say, Standard American English today, it would only be a matter of a few generations before dialects started to emerge, and eventually those dialects will become mutually unintelligible, and new languages will be born.

    Of course, spreading English has definitely contributed to the death of smaller linguistic groups. I don’t wish to minimize the damage. But the future may be a little bit less boring than you think.

    1. I’m not sure. From my personal experience, there has been a convergence in accents and dialects of English. The English spoken by people in Ireland has gotten a lot more Americanised in the last generation or two, to the point that the South Dublin accent is indistinguishable from an American one. It seems like that this trend will continue across the country due to the influence of American media. Of course, this is all anecdotal evidence and I don’t know what the linguistic evidence says.

      1. I can’t remember the book, but I read one looking at English around the world and it found that in much of Asia and the Middle East it mutates into Chinglish (Chinese/English), Singlist (Singapore/English) and others, or Spanglish in parts of the US.
        I honestly can’t see people actually embracing Esperanto in larger numbers than they do now. It still requires everyone who now learns English to learn another language; knowing that English speakers have to learn it too is unlikely to spark any interest.
        You might like “Spoken Here” which is a book about efforts to preserve various small languages around the world–some Native American tongues, Provencal, Gaelic, Australian native languages and Hebrew (which in Israel has been the big success story).

        1. Esperanto is definitely a long shot, but I’m an idealist, my sympathies are always with the underdogs, long shots and ideas outside the mainstream.

          Spoken Here looks interesting and I’ll keep an eye out for it.

          1. I am an Englishman who was dismayed by when English became international language. If it hadn´t been for England´s prime minister Margaret Thatcher we would be speaking Esperanto.

            I agree with the points made but would like to add one of my own. I´m thinking about people moving from England, USA; Australia, New Zealand or South Africa. Yes, so isn´t that a huge advantage that they can move to a country where 70-80% of people can speak their language? There are indeed some who get by with English.

            Most people who can speak English either as native or fluent second languge want and need to learn the language of the country. As well as out of respect. For us it can be very frustrating trying to practise speaking with those who want to practise English. It creates a conflict of intrests and therefore a conflict inside our minds. Anybody who has spent a lot of time, effort and money on becoming somewhat understood will know how it feels when others insist on replying in English.

      2. I would agree that there’s been a lot of transfer between dialects, but they definitely remaining distinct. For example, The Ethnologue, which is the standard classification of languages used in linguistics, has recently classified Scots English to be a different language from other varieties of English. There are also numerous sound changes documented for a single dialect but not others, e.g NZ English is losing the distinction between the vowels in “pin” and “pet”. Canadian English merged the vowels in “cot” with “caught” a long time ago but this didn’t happen in New Jersey.

  2. I’ve been watching Wolf Hall and it turns out that Thomas Cromwell spoke a number of languages. Apparently, in those days, the likes of Cromwell had to. Alan Turing was multilingual as well, I believe, although I can’t see that he would have had to have been.

    You’re right, it is basically chauvinistic to expect everyone to know English in order to do business or have an academic career, but I’m not massively worried … ideas and languages just seem to have a way of spreading. Isn’t George Osborne having his child(ren) learn Chinese?

    I remember getting a couple of mates to watch Let the Right One In in Swedish. That was an effort and I’m not sure they entirely appreciated it. What’s so difficult about reading subtitles?

    That said, if a film is popular enough, or an economy is doing well enough, or an invading army is powerful enough … people can be, er, shall we say, made more receptive to foreign languages. I know a little bit of a couple of other languages and all I can say is that people don’t know what they’re missing out on. Times change, though. People will come around to it eventually.

  3. I am not sure as to why the English language should not be a second or world language? the question has not been answered by Nielsen, what is a problem with this language is the hidden use that defines a class system, of repression, and if you do get this as someone trying to get the English language, is its hypocrisy of being undemocratic.

  4. Reblogged this on Lagrangian Republican Association and commented:
    Interesting article. The arguments presented by Nielsen also explain why we oppose English as the official language of space settlements. As we want to establish a new society, a new culture, a new civilization, we need to have a new language. Though we will not go for Esperanto, Ido is more of our liking, as that language as already some reputation.

    1. Glad you liked the post. I very curious as to why you prefer Ido over Esperanto? I was under the impression that Ido had more or less died out with only a handful of speakers left. I thought that Esperanto had a much larger and more developed community. In what sense do you feels Ido has a better reputation?

      1. My preference for Ido is primarily a matter of aesthetics. True, Ido has not have much following at any time. But that is not the result of any structural problems with the language itself – Esperanto is more known and more popular. It’s not that I think Ido has a better reputation than Esperanto, but for my purpose – the creation of a new national language – the relative obscurity of Ido, it suits better. Don’t forget that Esperanto has to deal with a negative image among some parts of the population.

        1. That’s an interesting perspective. Personally, I like the Slavic elements of Esperanto that Ido removes, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Sure there are people who dismiss Esperanto, but mainly because it is a constructed language and these people would have just as much of a problem with Ido. Still its good to see another person with an interest in constructed languages.

          1. >>Sure there are people who dismiss Esperanto…

            I am not saying that the critics of Esperanto are right.

            >>but mainly because it is a constructed language

            The opposition of conlangs does not have IMO a rational base. I think it’s more a type of reflex against everything “not natural”. Also it might be that certain people will be just unwilling to learn another language.

      1. Esperanto has verbs ‘esti’, ‘havi’, ‘igi’, ‘ig^i’, adjectives, the article ‘la’, dative, accusative, instrumental cases, most of its words are taken from French… it is as Westernly biased as the English is.

  5. A basic truth is that we would all be better off if we all spoke the same language. That we do not is unfortunate, not a gift, or curse from Yahweh. I think English is quite a lovely language with a lovely history and a huge set of flaws. maybe if we all spoke and wrote it we could start correcting some of those.

  6. English is hardly zero-cost for anyone, including native speakers. Maybe some just don’t remember all the time wasted on studying spelling lists, taking spelling tests, participating in mandatory spelling bees, etc. The world would have been so much better off if the Medieval British peasants didn’t continue using English when Latin and French were the languages of the elites.

    1. Well contrary to what you might expect Esperanto promotes rather than reduces linguistic diversity. No one wants Esperanto to replace native languages, it only aims to be used in international situations where some common language must be used. Esperanto events greatly encourage native languages, particularly smaller ones.

      Esperanto isn’t associated with any one nation or people, it belongs to everyone. It has none of the historical or cultural baggage that English does, so it is not imperialistic but co-operativist and egalitarian.

      1. English is not going to replace the native languages either. And how Esperanto is ‘egalitarian’?
        And English is suddenly ‘associated with one nation or people’? Which one?

                1. The weakness in education as in universities, is the specialist training in the study of what is being studies, this often entails years of intensive study, the educated then works as a guild those who are the insiders and those who are the outsiders, the insiders sense they are being usurped and resort to technical terminology as a defense against those who use idea’s and concepts that are not correct as grammatical perfection, or at least close to this ideology, some call this the class system, what has happened to language is those who are the elite or presume they are the elite, it became important that the educated worked as a oppressive regime, as the lower classes could threaten the upper class system.
                  Notable the monarchy to some extent lead the way in this doctrine, where you see problems within the monarchy is where they court people such as Jimmy Saville, and also the Australian, Rolf Harris, this is because they are unable to distinguish who is who, and lose their moral integrity, such is the concern of those who are apparently the bastion of correct speech.

  7. I’m in Russia now, where English is definitely overused, with even village airports having accommodations for English-speakers and something like a third of products in stores having English-language labeling, despite only about a tenth or a twentieth of the population actually knowing the language. I’d hate to have grown up in Russia without any real knowledge of English. A multi-lingual world would provide the least total social benefit, while the present world provides more, but with a much heavier implicit penalty imposed on non-English speakers. A world in which Esperanto became the lingua franca would just impose the same heavy implicit penalty imposed presently on non-English speakers to English speakers. Seems to add more evidence for my view the Left generally favors equal misery over unequally distributed pleasure, even if no one is as miserable in the latter as everybody is in the former. A world in which everyone spoke English alone would probably provide the most total social benefit, but it would have the negative effect of every other language becoming the equivalent of Sumerian.
    Also,
    “None seemed to be aware that there are countries that exist where the government provides insurance or even universal healthcare.”
    is definitely false. I knew full well there was such a country less than fifty miles away while living in the northern U.S.

    1. “A world in which Esperanto became the lingua franca would just impose the same heavy implicit penalty imposed presently on non-English speakers to English speakers.”

      How? It is 5 to 10 times easier to learn and does not given anyone a cultural dominance. Switching from English to Esperanto is not just switching rulers, but fundamentally changing systems.

      “Seems to add more evidence for my view the Left generally favors equal misery over unequally distributed pleasure, even if no one is as miserable in the latter as everybody is in the former.”

      Again, I don’t follow. Why would speaking Esperanto create misery? It would be the equivalent of replacing aristocracy (where the luck of birth favours some with enormous privileges) with democracy (where all have an equal chance). I don’t see anything miserable about that.

      “is definitely false. I knew full well there was such a country less than fifty miles away while living in the northern U.S.”

      But the idea of a public option in Obamacare was never even considered as though it was unrealistic fantasy, not the norm in Europe. There is remarkably little consideration of European issues in american discourse, to the point that even mentioning Canada is a large step forward.

      1. “It is 5 to 10 times easier to learn” requires some sort of citation. Requiring people to change systems in order to participate in international scholarly dialogue increases the misery of those finding it very difficult to change. I don’t have a problem with cultural dominance unless people have problems adjusting to it. By pointing to relatives rather than absolutes, you just add more support to my point. There is a difference between equal poverty and equal prosperity, Robert! The quality of medical care in Canada was a big issue in the U.S. during debates leading up to the passage of Obamacare.
        https://www.google.ru/search?q=canada+care&safe=off&biw=917&bih=464&source=lnt&tbs=cdr%3A1%2Ccd_min%3A%2Ccd_max%3A03%2F03%2F2010&tbm=vid
        Also, what may be politically feasible in Europe may not be politically feasible in the U.S., even with perfect information.

        1. “Requiring people to change systems in order to participate in international scholarly dialogue increases the misery of those finding it very difficult to change.”

          But under the current system, people are expected to change by learning English. Are you concerned about the “misery” of those who find it difficult to change by learning English?

          “By pointing to relatives rather than absolutes, you just add more support to my point.”

          To be honest, I don’t really know what your point is.

          1. If you don’t know what his point is, maybe you should go away for a while and think. Same goes for bitcoin and a host of other topics. Come back and blog when you have opinions based on expertise, facts, etc., instead of based on nothing.

            1. Alright Einstein, please enlighten me. I am just too ignorant, but you are obviously much smarter so please provide the facts I am so sorely missing. Or perhaps you’re just another eejet on the internet who finds it easier to insult than actually contribute to the debate.

      2. Your post is a great post overall. You might like the writings of Claude Piron on this issue:
        http://claudepiron.free.fr/articlesenanglais/power.htm
        http://claudepiron.free.fr/articlesenanglais/whyesperanto.htm
        And various issues:
        http://claudepiron.free.fr/articlesenanglais/whyesperanto.htm

        As an American, I have to point out that your comments on health care and gun control don’t make sense given that three major counterexample countries are english-speaking countries that come up frequently in both debates: England, Canada and Australia. I know that from a European perspective it seems like the American positions on these issues could only stem from ignorance, but let me tell you that this is not the case. Lots of highly educated and cosmopolitan Americans are fully aware how these issues play out in England, Canada and Australia but they still give reasons why they think the US should not follow those examples.

        To clarify my point: I actually agree that the US should follow the example set by these other countries. My problem is with the specific point you made; I know it’s hard for you to believe that a large chunk of the American electorate would choose against health care and gun control while knowing how these things work in other countries. But you should believe it, because it is the case. Linguistic barriers have nothing to do with it. The difference is cultural, ideological, and mostly based on the fact that both the US government and public opinion are the owned property of a few rich people and organizations. Your comments on this really clash with the rest of the good points in the post.

        You said: “But the idea of a public option in Obamacare was never even considered as though it was unrealistic fantasy, not the norm in Europe. There is remarkably little consideration of European issues in american discourse, to the point that even mentioning Canada is a large step forward.”

        First – this is a non-sequitur. You said the problem was the English language. Given Canada, England, and Australia, the problem cannot possibly be the English language, but rather the way that language is used by 24-news networks to manipulate voters and convince them that we should not follow Canada’s example. Canada is mentioned all the time in the health care debate, as well as England.

        And I’m sorry, but I don’t think you followed the issue of the public option closely enough: not only was the public option considered, but Obamacare almost did not pass because Senator Kucinich would not vote yes without the public option. Obama convinced him to change his mind, presumably by pointing out that the public option could be added later. Trust me – more than half of the US wants the public option, and we will likely have it by 2025. Obamacare was a key strategic move in that direction (and Medicaid expansion picks up some of the slack in the meantime).

        Still, I think your post deals with an important subject that I was oblivious to until I started learning Esperanto a few months ago.

  8. Since English is a composite language of German,French, Latin and Greek I don’t see a problem. It should be easy to learn. But I’m English born. and bred in London. So all you forriners should learn to talk it like wot I does

    1. Once I saw a computer with inscription: “It should work with net-ware”. Well, it didn’t. So this “should” should be proven first. English is a very difficult language: its writing system is not phonetic, so one has to learn two languages: one written and one spoken. many concepts have two or more terms: freedom – liberty, deep -profound, read – peruse… So one has to learn a big, irregular vocabulary (learn – school – scholar; moon – lunar; year – annual, city – urban…), at least twice as big (huge?) as in other languages. English is very idiomatic, has more than thousand phrasal verbs:
      look for
      look up
      look in
      look out

      All this stuff makes it one of the harder languages to acquire. Not mentioning the wired pronunciation with sounds lacking in 80% of world languages. No. English is not easy to learn. The easy one is Esperanto.

      1. Esperanto never really had a chance! We are still quite lucky that we ended up with English. Unlike most other European languages, it does not have grammatical gender, noun cases, adjective agreement, nor dozens of verb forms. As for the spelling, compare it to the French, or Chinese characters! Suddenly it seems quite nice doesn’t it? The redundant vocabulary really is a problem, but one that CAN BE FIXED, unlike a complicated irregular grammar. Just fire all those snobs writers who think they seem smart if they use words you have to look up, like “credulous” instead of just “too trusting” or “naive”. As for the phrasal verbs; I am not native, and I never even noticed them!

        1. I have to disagree. The irregularities of English makes it a disordered mess and very difficult for learners to figure out the rules of the language. The spelling is also a mess and as bad, if not worse than French.

          1. Compared to Esperanto, sure, but compared to most other natural languages?
            The grammar is fairly simple and regular for the reasons foobar mentioned. There are simpler, such as Japanese, but most are far more complex.
            The writing is an issue though, no argument there.

          2. At the very core, I agree, and understand your frustration. It really would be nice to have a simpler to learn lingua franca. But I just feel that we are lucky that French or Russian or German did not become that, since they are more complex and difficult to learn.

            Conscious grammar rule learning/use is a bad idea in the first place! One should practice the language from the beginning in a trial and error fashion and smooth out mistakes over time. That is roughly what most polyglots on the web are recommending.

            Yes there are many irregularities, but since you only have 3 or 4 (I do not know specifically) verb forms and no cases and no inflected articles and genders, the number of possible word forms, and the number of irregularities is still low compared to German French Spanish Russian ….
            I admit I do not have a specific count/statistics/study. Please link if you can find one of good quality!

            The spelling is better than French, in my experience, since the words I most often trip up (mistake or wasted thinking/lookup time) in English are the ones of French origin!!! You know the ones with “ouo” or “uou”, or whatever, at the end.

            It is somewhat unfair to compare it to Esperanto. When starting from scratch, which few are willing, then we could do even better than Esperanto, since it still has, at least one redundant complexity, as for learning difficulty, namely its noun cases!

  9. The main reason why people speak English is that it is the simplest living language in the world.
    There’s only 26 letters in it, all nouns and verbs are declined in a single pattern, you build phrases from several simple and unchangeable words instead of learning huge sheets of morphology patterns, etc. That means everyone can learn it, not only the rich and educated as it was in the last century.
    But what is most important, is that English is spoken daily by millions of people of all occupations and backgrounds belonging to a high technical and social level civilization. That means there is an authoritative source of words, phrases and means of expression in every register, for every thought or emotion, on every difficulty level. That is an advantage of a living language.
    In short, there was no chance for English not to be the international language. And similarly, the language Esperanto, existing not in hearts or minds, but only in huge dusty dictionaries can never be the one.

        1. “The main reason why people speak English is that it is the simplest living language in the world.” It is not. It takes up to 10 years to learn up to any decent level. Esperanto requires only 1 year or less.
          “There’s only 26 letters in it”. But the writing system is not phonetic and it takes up to 3-4 years to master. Over 70% of the English can’t write properly without errors. Esperanto is 100% phonetic and the rules can be acquired in just 10 minutes or so. So where is the advantage?
          ” all nouns and verbs are declined in a single pattern”. Not true. More than 180 verbs are not regular. It takes years to learn them. Esperanto has no irregular verbs or nouns.
          “That means everyone can learn it”. Not true. Only the elite can learn it to the level of a native. All the other use it as a 5-year old child (myself included).
          “But what is most important, is that English is spoken daily by millions of people of all occupations and backgrounds belonging to a high technical and social level civilization”. Yes, and that is the excuse to oppress the whole world. Only 5% of the world population speak English as natives. That means 95% must learn it.
          “In short, there was no chance for English not to be the international language.” Not true. The same can be said of French, Chinese, Russian and other languages of the world.

          1. “It takes up to 10 years to learn up to any decent level. Esperanto requires only 1 year or less.” Both these numbers, according to whom?
            “the writing system is not phonetic and it takes up to 3-4 years to master.” As a learner of English you don’t have to master anything: you already have a visual component for the words you learn, so English spelling is trivial to foreigners.
            “Esperanto is 100% phonetic and the rules can be acquired in just 10 minutes or so.” It does not matter, you learn words as they are written anyway.
            “More than 180 verbs are not regular. It takes years to learn them.” It take ‘years’ to learn (a max of) two additional forms for a hundred or so verbs? That’s absurd. Also, verbs like ‘find’ and ‘assign’ are conjugated in similar manner: I find, assign; he finds, assigns.
            “Only the elite can learn it to the level of a native.” Why should they learn it ‘to the level of native’? Do they need that, at the first place? Can Esperanto be learned to the level of native? Hint: it cannot.
            “Only 5% of the world population speak English as natives.” It doesn’t matter. English is the most widespread language, so its native speakers are not of much concern.
            “French, Chinese, Russian and other languages of the world.” Seriously? French with its atrocious orthography, Chinese with its lack of writing system, Russian, where each verb declines individually, how many years will it take to learn them? English can learned in few months with no tutor, French take years of study, Russian and Chinese cannot be learned past B1-B2 stage at all unless you choose them as your profession. There was a fat zero chance for them to become the lingua franca of the world after industrial revolution and developing libertarianism.

    1. Don’t bother replying to Elhana, he’s a known troll who spends a surprising amount of time spreading lies about Esperanto and bullshit about languages in general.

  10. “Sliding into an English dominated world who be great for people like me”

    Why? What benefits it brings to you? Do you shag with more gorgeous chicken than the men whose mother tongues are not English? Really! But f…ingly unfair, man!

    1. Polish and Russian girls are much more beautiful than American or English (on average of course). And by using English, US steals the technology from all the world. That is the fact.

  11. The dominance of English also brings about less widely realized side-effects. One I have noticed is that people are less inclined to learn other foreign languages, even when they have moved to a foreign country.

    Let’s take an example: 30 years ago, if a Greek moved to Germany, there was no way they could get around without learning German. Nowadays, however, they are quite likely to try and get around by using their (bad) English, especially if they only spend a few years in Germany. Even though not all Germans understand English, enough of them do to enable you to survive, especially in major cities.

    As a result the Greek will be able to get around, but they will miss out on the opportunity to learn German, learn much less about the local culture, and be unable to understand what goes on around them.

    Due to the ease of “surviving” in English in many of the world’s countries, foreigners who move there don’t even try to learn the local language anymore. It’s convenient at first, but in the long run it’s a pity and it actually makes your life more difficult not to learn the local language.

  12. “I was impressed at how many people could speak English, but I felt guilty that they had spent years learning my language, yet I couldn’t speak a word of theirs.”
    They rarely speak a word of each other’s languages either. This is the goal of a universal second language, so everyone only has to learn one extra language for worldwide communication. We know this! No reason to feel guilty! 😀

    “It’s not as though English is an easy language to learn, it’s incredibly irregular and outright random (especially the spelling and grammar).”
    It’s not bad. The spelling is bad and articles are a pain, but with limited verb conjugation and no case system, it’s fast to get started with. It has some other advantages too, but mostly though, media and conversation for it is, ah, ubiquitous, which is a big deal. Probably the biggest deal.

    “So when English speakers expect the rest of the world to learn our language, we are actually asking a lot. ”
    Don’t be so arrogant! 😀 There are far more non-native speakers of English than natives. It’s not ‘our’ language any more and an ‘Academy of English’ has never existed. It’s an international language, like it as not, used to facilitate international communication, not just communication with English natives.

    Science and business are increasingly multinational affairs, so an international language is a must. It could have been another language if history had gone differently, but there had to have been one. Personally of course, I would’ve preferred Esperanto, but hey, I don’t decide for the world.

    “Imagine if a law was introduced putting major barriers in front of women’s careers in the world of business and science…”
    Nonsense! 😀 I would find it hard to change my sex, but learning a conversational level of English so I can get through a business meeting or learn the particular jargon for my industry? Even with part-time study we’re talking a few years.

    By making “English” sound like a burden imperialists have placed upon the world, or as a contagion that is spreading up to your waist, you demean the choices of every student who freely chose to learn it. As if they were too weak or stupid to choose differently. Most people weren’t tricked; most folks just want to, say, work in Berlin and watch Friends and chat crap on internet forums about politics, or read blog posts from Irish people who feel guilty. And they honestly don’t care about history. 😀

    Here in Poland, the most common languages to learn (after English) are German and Russian. Was Poland the victim of history here? Absolutely! But modern learners learn ’em for the same reasons they learn English; to travel and to do business, and sometimes just for the aesthetics.

    “Limiting the conversation only to English speakers prevents us from hearing other opinions and ideas that we never would have considered.”
    False. The opposite of true, in fact. The only reason I can listen to and understand, say, an Indian person’s attitude to climate change is because we have a language in common. I know you know that this is the point of a universal second language. Just because it’s English doesn’t invalidate that.

    If history had gone differently, and the la Fina Venko okazis, I’m sure an alternate reality Roberto could have made many of the same criticisms of Esperanto.

    But, as it turns out, difficulty and cultural neutrality aren’t that important to people when second language learning. It’s mostly about: “What’s everyone else already speaking?”

    1. “Don’t be so arrogant! 😀 There are far more non-native speakers of English than natives. It’s not ‘our’ language any more and an ‘Academy of English’ has never existed. It’s an international language, like it as not, used to facilitate international communication, not just communication with English natives.”

      That’s all quite untrue. The standard for English is still set by the countries where it is spoken all the time. Poles don’t go to Italy to learn English, or look for a Greek teacher of English. They go to Britain, and learn from native speakers. Apart from native speakers, most people in the world struggle with English. It’s always harder to express yourself clearly in English than in your mother tongue.

      “Nonsense! 😀 I would find it hard to change my sex, but learning a conversational level of English so I can get through a business meeting or learn the particular jargon for my industry? Even with part-time study we’re talking a few years.”

      That might be true for Poles. It’s not true for the Chinese or Japanese. And quite frankly, I don’t even believe it for Poles. A few years of part time study are insufficient for most people to speak English without making lots of mistakes and sounding pretty terrible.

      I remember this Egyptian student I used to know, who pronounced the word “youth” as “yos”. I only understood him when he spelled it out for me. And god knows how many years he had been learning English….

      “By making “English” sound like a burden imperialists have placed upon the world, or as a contagion that is spreading up to your waist, you demean the choices of every student who freely chose to learn it. As if they were too weak or stupid to choose differently.”

      But people don’t have a choice. That’s the most important foreign language to learn, whether you like it or not.

      “But, as it turns out, difficulty and cultural neutrality aren’t that important to people when second language learning. It’s mostly about: “What’s everyone else already speaking?”

      People may not choose on the basis of difficulty or neutrality, but a difficult and non-neutral language remains difficult and non-neutral all the same.

      1. “That’s all quite untrue. The standard for English is still set by the countries where it is spoken all the time. Poles don’t go to Italy to learn English, or look for a Greek teacher of English. They go to Britain, and learn from native speakers.”
        This is true to a degree, but there are other factors. Most of the innovation in English comes from immigrant groups; it’s not a one-way street. And most English tuition is also done by non-natives, and this proportion is only going to grow on a country by country basis. Scandinavia and Germany are fairly Brit-free because the general level among English language tutors is so high already. Poland is going that way too.

        “A few years of part time study are insufficient for most people to speak English without making lots of mistakes and sounding pretty terrible.”
        Being mistake-free is not even nearly the same as getting through a business meeting. My proficiency students still make mistakes, but many of my pre-intermediate students can get through a meeting just fine.
        Exactly how easy that is does depend on the first language, of course.

        “But people don’t have a choice. That’s the most important foreign language to learn, whether you like it or not. ”
        It is! Undeniably. If you want to do anything that’s international, you need to use the international auxiliary language. Just the same way if you want to work in science you need to study science; in that sense, certainly people don’t have a choice.

        “People may not choose on the basis of difficulty or neutrality, but a difficult and non-neutral language remains difficult and non-neutral all the same.”
        Complete agreement. But my and your preferences don’t dictate to the world. And I would love if we were having this conversation in Esperanto right now. Do, kial ne? ^_^

        1. “And most English tuition is also done by non-natives, and this proportion is only going to grow on a country by country basis. Scandinavia and Germany are fairly Brit-free because the general level among English language tutors is so high already. Poland is going that way too.”

          You’re right about places like Scandinavia and Germany. They are helped by the proximity of their languages and cultures with the English-speaking world. I doubt this is achievable for most of the world however, at least not without seriously compromising people’s fluency in their own local language.

          In Dubai a lot of the local youths no longer speak Arabic properly. Living in a highly multicultural society, they grow up having to communicate in English with their own nannies, shopkeepers and most people on the street. Much of the media they get is also in English. The problem is they don’t speak English perfectly by any means either. They no longer have any language which they completely posses. This is hardly an ideal situation.

          Italians, on the other hand, appear to be structurally incapable of speaking English really well. Even Italians who go to international schools never speak English perfectly. It’s quite a contrast with the Dutch or the Swedish who seem to learn English so effortlessly. Perhaps Italian language and culture are just too far removed from the English-speaking countries? I think it may be impossible for everyone in the world to speak English really well without endangering their ability to speak their own languages. In fact,
          if everyone in the world spoke English, it might be the beginning of the death of all other languages. That is not a thought to be taken lightly.

          I do believe Esperanto would be a better, less destructive alternative for international communication, but unfortunately it is not to be for the present. Kiel malbonsxance!

    1. Michael,
      There was someone who wrote that Dutch don’t have to do an effort to learn English. That is not true!!! I think English and many Dutch with me that the English grammar and pronunciation are very difficult. Many Dutch don’t know the pronunciation of each word. But teachers in front of the class always say that English is the easiest language of the world. I think the French grammar is easier because it is more systematic.

      Esperanto is good as an auxiliary language but it is not suitable as an world language because of its pronunciation.

  13. Very interesting article. It is no surprise that it may be a bit controversial. Our language is our true homeland, and many people often dislike this kind of discussions.

    I was born in Colombia, where we speak Spanish. I like English. I can write, read and speak it with very little difficulty. I also learnt French while in the university, and would like to learn even more languages. But that is my choice.

    I noticed throughout my life and my time in the university that English is kind of forced upon everyone who wants to “be successful”. And that is no lie, at least in my country. I got my International Business Professional degree 2 years ago, and I can say that 80% of my classes were in English. “If you don’t speak English, your career will be slowed down”, is what many of my teachers said to us.
    I my country, English is being kind of forced upon the young ones, since kindergarten, and they have not even learnt their native language properly. This is happening more often every year, and I can’t help but feel that we are slowly losing our identity (not completely, but a loss anyway).

    I work for an US based company. I have contact with native English speakers most of days and sometimes I can’t help but feel a bit offended by some of them, although that might not be their intention. I have no problems speaking English, but I have a certain accent that I can’t (and won’t) get rid of, it is attached to my culture. I feel it helps me keep my identity while speaking in a foreign language. However, some of the people I speak with, seem to dislike my accent and I have even been asked to “learn proper English” and then call back or have been asked if I really understand what I am being told. I take it as a part of my job, but still it sometimes stings…

    Learning a new language does take time and resources not everyone has, even more if you want to speak it fluently. It is a privilege. I see learning a foreign language as a sign of respect, so English speakers should not take anything for granted.

    Maybe I went a bit off topic here, but it all leads to a reality about the power of a language… and it should not be taken lightly.

  14. I predict that automated translation, once it becomes good enough, will be the only real challenge to English as a world language.

  15. Interesting post. I’ve tried more than once to explain to native English speakers that to “use” and to “love” are two different things. I use my car, I take good care of it, I try not to cause it any damage, I’ve invested money and hard work in it, I appreciate it’s a very effective tool, it makes my life easier, I’m glad I own it, but …. I don’t love it. I love my mother and my sister, I don’t love my car. My family is part of who I am, not my car. If my mother or my sister passes say, I’ll be devastated, if a truck falls on my parked car and breaks it to pieces, I’ll certainly be upset, miserable, even depressed for a while, and obviously poorer, but not suicidal. My point? How could anyone be expected to swap their beloved mother tongue for any other, international, major, expanding, or what have you, language in the world? How could anyone reject the vehicle of their soul for someone else’s code of communication? How could they stop expressing any kind of emotions in the only words that make sense to them and instead use meaningless sounds? And yet, there are some native English speakers who would honestly believe I’m just being impractical. Life would be so much easier if we all spoke English. As far as I am concerned, they can sleep on.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s