If you can speak English, you will probably be able to communicate with someone in just about any major country you could visit. While not everyone speaks this language, English is truly a dominant language spoken by millions across the globe. Experts state that around a third of the world’s population speaks English as their native language, and many more study it as a second language. What caused English to spread beyond the bounds of the British Isles and become such an important player in global communication? The answer begins with a look at the language’s original speakers, the English.
English Dominance in the 19th Century
In the 19th century the British Empire was truly a global empire. As some said at the time, “the sun never sets on the British Empire.” Great Britain held colonies on every continent, and the trade language in those areas was English. By the end of the 19th century, the British Empire’s reach was global, and the language was also becoming global. This influence continued into the 1900s, and by 1922 the British Empire had an influence over around 458 million people, close to a quarter of the world population of the time, which meant that knowing English was important.
The Rise of America as a Global Power
Even though it is a relatively young country in light of world history, the United States has become a global superpower, specifically after World War II. America has a hand in politics, economics, and culture around the world. As such, English is becoming more and more important as a global language. When you add the influence of America in today’s global economy to the historic and current influence of Great Britain, understanding English becomes almost essential to carrying out business in the current economic market.
English Is the Language of Technology and Science
As you browse the World Wide Web, you will find that most websites are in English or have an English translation available. This shows how influential English is in the world of technology. Since many of the technological devices created across the globe are marketed heavily in America, they are designed with English-speaking users in mind. You can see this in the design of the computer keyboard. Most standard keyboards contain the standard letters of the English alphabet, which is further proof that English is the language of technology.
In addition, English is the language of science. The Science Citation Index reports that over 95 percent of all of its documents are English documents, even though a majority of them are writing by non-native English speakers. The medical community also uses English as a unifying language, making it essential for doctors to learn if they wish to be able to read reports and journals about the latest medical breakthroughs.
English is the Language of International Organizations
When multiple countries come together, they must choose a language to speak. Often the language chosen is English. The official language of the United Nations, for instance, is English. The same is true for the International Olympic Committee. At the Olympics, announcements are made in the language of the host country and in English. English is also one of the official languages of the European Union.
Other Uses of English Cause It to Have Global Impact
English is the international language of many industries, including banking, computing, business, diplomacy, and even entertainment. An international treaty aimed at making communication easier made English the official language of aviation and maritime activities.
The list of industries or functions where English is one of the main languages spoken is truly never ending. The simple fact is that since the late 1800s, English has been spoken in more locations across the globe than any other language, and that fact, coupled with the economic and political power of the United States and Great Britain, means that English will continue to have massive impact on the global economy in the future.
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