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"English as a Global Language"

Sander Jacobsen

English as a Global Language

History

Five hundred years ago, English was only common spoken in the UK with around five to seven million speakers. Today, anywhere up to 1,8 billion people around the world speak English. Pilgrims, sailors, soldiers, missionaries and traders took English around the world, all from the British Empire.

When the English settlers, first arrived in North America. American- and British English developed in different directions. Pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary became different. Because the settlers established themselves, that’s why different accents developed across North America. Today there are less varieties in the English spoken in Canada and USA than the British Isles. But you can hear a clear difference from an African Accent and a New York accent. Canadian English and American English sound unique to us, but to Canadians there is a distinct difference. The main reason is because it got influence from French and UK English.

Europeans also colonized the sugar-rich Caribbean islands. The language here is called Caribbean English, and there is a great variation in the way its spoken. This has resulted in two languages in Jamaica who speak Jamaican English and Jamaican Creole. The government and newspaper use the Jamaican English and the Creole is used as an day-to-day language.

Also Africa, Asia, Oceania and Caribbean have got English-speaking countries because of the colonization. The colonization of Australia and New Zealand started much later. Many if those who travelled to Australia and New Zealand were originally from London and Ireland and therefore their language sounds similar to UK English. English is also widening spoken in the former colonies in Asia like India and Pakistan. English is an official language in many African countries as well, such as South Africa, Laos, Nigeria and Kenya. All these countries have developed their own versions of English.

The fact that Britain controlled nearly 30% of the Africa’s population around 1900 makes English function as the lingua franca, at least for the educated people. The overview of the different “Englishes” around the world makes it clear that the power of British Colonies brought the English language around the world. The fact that USA is the superpower of the world makes a English more natural as a global language.

Today, around 60 countries have English as their official language, either primary or secondary. Which means that you can talk English in almost 1/3 of the countries in the world with the citizens living there. (...)