Why Must we all speak Englisch?

Aug 15th, 2000, 06:18 AM
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All this talk about the "number 1, 2 or 3 World Superpower" doesn't make much sense anyway. With Europeans living and working in Japan, British, Japanese and Dutch owning half of corporate America (I know, I am exaggerating, but only a bit), and hundreds of thousands of Americans living and working abroad, we all live in a global economy. Which also means that our economies move "up and down" together.
Aug 15th, 2000, 07:09 AM
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English is a good choice for Europe, linguistically speaking, not because it has an "easy" grammar (if you think it does, you've never read compositions written by foreign students!!) but because it has a Germanic base and has borrowed heavily from French for much of its vocabulary. Practically speaking, if Europe wants a language for business/government purposes, it only makes sense to pick a language that the rest of the world has some experience with. German is spoken by a large number of people, but consider the political reasons that speak against it as a common tongue for Europe; if your country had been occupied and terrorized by Germany a mere 55 years back, how eager would you be to adopt the linguistic symbol of such imperialism when you have the language of your liberators at your disposal?
Aug 15th, 2000, 07:13 AM
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Joel: I think that the GDP of China is larger than that of Japan and Germany. Still Japan is normally put at two and Germany at three. Don't ask me why.

Otherwise the german government has made it several times clear that Germany doesn't consider itself to be a world power nor that it has any aspiration to become one.
Aug 15th, 2000, 10:44 AM
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Hmm, I guess I haven't seen the GDP figures recently... Regardless, it makes more sense to think of the economies in terms of the U.S., EU, and Japan, as how they're the large players. Germany has half of the economy of the EU, of course, but it act as a part of the EU, and not independently (or so it appears to me).

And maybe I'm alone, but I'm not particularly worried about Germany emerging as a global power. Has Germany really done anything deserving of reproach in the last 55 years, at least in the foreign affairs arena. I guess what I'm trying to say is that Germany doesn't seem to be caught up in a genocidal or nationalistic past, and actually seems to emerge as a true member of the international community.
Aug 15th, 2000, 11:55 AM
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Joel: Germany has far less than 50% of the economy of the EU. The EU has 375 million people, Germany has 80 million. The Germans are a bit richer than average in the EU, so they probably have about 25% of the EU economy.
Aug 15th, 2000, 01:06 PM
Neal Sanders
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I think Joel is on the right track… English is classified as a Germanic language, but it is also very strongly rooted in the Romance group (Latin, French, Italian, Spanish, etc.). The British Isles may have started off speaking Celtic, but between invasions by the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes, Romans, et. al., something happened. The “something” was that the island’s language evolved into the first polyglot; absorbing words, phrases, and even grammatical rules from whomever was overrunning Britain that century.

The result is a language that has something for – and from – everyone. I have a good friend who emigrated to the U.S. as an adult, speaking fluent German, Italian, and Portuguese (she came from southern Brazil), but not a word of English – or so she thought. What she discovered was that virtually every noun and verb in English has a synonym, and that reaching for the nearest “foreign” word she knew invariably worked. Some weeks ago, I lunched with a co-worker whose native language is Mandarin. For him, spoken English turned out to be “amazingly easy,” (his words, not mine). “No tones, and the sentence structure is logical.” For a former co-worker from Russia, English’s lone bane was “those damn articles.” My parting gift to her was a box full of scraps of paper with “a,” “an,” and “the” printed on them. I am told that written English is especially easy… 26 letters and no curveballs. Apart from a couple of hundred words with multiple meanings, plowing through an English-language sentence is a very straightforward affair.

When I was in college, Russian was the language of physics and German the language of chemistry. To advance in either course of study required a working knowledge of those languages; written to keep up with the technical journals, spoken to attend conferences. In the intervening years, engineering and computer science have come to be the “hot” areas, and these are “American” specialties, hence the need for spoken and written English for those pursuing careers in those subjects.

Great Britain and World War II are largely responsible for the spread of English in the 20th Century. Wherever Britain had colonies, it left behind English as a legacy. Present or former Commonwealth countries comprise something on the order of 40% of the world’s population. In the years following World War II, the United States maintained military bases around the world, leading to widespread fluency in English via Armed Forces Radio and Television. I cannot tell you the number of people in Greece, Germany, and Japan who attribute their proficiency in English to AFRTS.

English has become the language of business for a number of reasons. First and perhaps foremost, the U.S. represents something like 35% of the world GDP (that’s down from 50% in the 1960s). That’s a powerful rationale to learn a language. Moreover, a very high percentage of businessmen receive undergraduate or graduate degrees in the U.S. or Great Britain. Finally, businesses are increasingly transnational in nature; with Swiss working alongside Argentines, Canadians, and Japanese. There has to be a common language. The lingua franca has come to be English because much of the terminology of business is English-based. One of my lingering memories of my last trip to France was dining in a restaurant where two businessmen sat at a table speaking French to one another. A third joined them and then a fourth, and the conversation switched to English. From the accents, I would say the first two diners were French, the third was Italian and the fourth was German. English was their common tongue.
Aug 17th, 2000, 05:00 AM
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As an American working in Europe, I agree with you in a certain sense, for different reasons. If language helps identify cultural heritage, it seems to me that English is becoming something like McDonalds. I am losing some of my cultural heritage by people making English a common denominator language. You can find it anywhere. Here in Brussels, people speak three languages, Dutch, French and English. Having learned French in school, even that is too big for me. So I'm going to learn Dutch because nobody wants to learn it. So it's safe as a language with a protected cultural heritage. Not something watered down. I will still speak English in the business community but will always be able to find Belgian or Dutch speakers in a crowd with a friendly 'Dag'.

Aug 17th, 2000, 08:42 AM
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Alright, my ignorance is layed bare. I have spent a bit of time trying to find the GDP of all relevant countries, and have had very varied results. In the end, I chose to accept as Hoyle the CIA World Fact Book, if for not other reason that the CIA is infallible (well, of course, except with street maps and nuclear testing predictions and military coups and the such). And so yes, Germany looks to be about a quarter of the GDP of the EU. However, it makes up a bigger chunk of Euroland, but still not half. The largest is the US, the second is China, followed by Japan, and then Germany. Behind Germany comes France, then the UK. Not that this really matters...

One other reason for choosing the English language: Size. The English language has an incredible array of vocabulary, even if most of it is so obscure as to be academic at best. I don't have the comparitive size, but I remember it was a substantial size.
Feb 7th, 2001, 08:49 AM
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Feb 7th, 2001, 09:27 AM
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During the period, L.L. Zamenhof, an oculist in Warsaw, Poland (then Russia) developed the language now known as "Esperanto." (This word, which in Esperanto means "a person who is hoping", was adopted by Zamenhof as a pseudonym for his first book. It was gradually adopted in popular parlance as the name of the language itself.) Zamenhof, who grew up in a polyglot society, was convinced that a common language would be necessary to resolve many of the problems that lead to strife and conflict. He rejected the major languages of his day (French, German, English, Russian) because they were difficult to learn and would put their native speakers at an advantage in discussion with respect to those who did not speak them natively; and he rejected the two "dead" languages with which he was familiar, Latin and Greek, because they were even more complicated and unwieldy than the currently extant major languages. He began work on his planned language, which he would eventually call "Lingvo Internacia", as a junior in high school, and eventually published the first textbook of the language (for speakers of Russian) in the 1887, at the time of his marriage and early in his medical career.

Unfortunately, Esperanto never really caught on as a universal language as Zamenhof had hoped it would and it's my opinion that was, in large part, precisely because it was a language that was created -- even if it was easier to learn -- not one that evolved and already existed. And now, it seems as if English has essentially become -- for better or worse -- the world's "Esperanto."
Feb 7th, 2001, 04:47 PM
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I don't think that the proliferation of English reflects the relative 'importance' of a culture globally, either economically speaking or anything else. For whatever reason, English seems to have been chosen as the lingua franca - we'd have had to have chosen something, English just happened to be it. Most international airports around the world communicate with pilots in English, for example.

Having said that, the introduction of personal computers - largely from the USA - and the origin of the Internet in the same country has tended to cement English as the 'common' language.

This does NOT mean that anyone should feel that they 'must' speak English! Speaking for myself, a unlingual world would be as bad as listening to Musak....
Feb 8th, 2001, 06:10 AM
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Joel : ROFL...your novlang essay was hilaring

Apart from that :

AFAIK, french and english are only 2 of the official languages of the UN, amongst several others (too lazy to check it up, though)

If you had some problems with GDP figures, it's because there's two ways to calculate it :

-The traditionnal one : computing the GDP at local prices and in the local currency, then convert it in $ (problems : a)if the local currency lose value, for instance the euro recently, the GDP is reduced accordingly (and the reverse if it gains value)
b)if the local prices are very different from the the american ones, for instance the rice in Japan, the GDP is artificially modified.

-The more accurate but less commonly used one : each kind of production is given a fixed value in $. So, if two countries produce the same quantity of rice, for instance, their GDP will be the same, whatever could be the local price or the current exchange rates.

Of course, when a GDP is given, the method used is *never* stated. And there's *huge* differences (one method can give a GDP up to 4 or 5 times greater than the other). It's especially true for China, by the way.

China (according to second method at least) has indeed at least the 3rd GDP (I evend thought it was the 2nd...too lazy to check that, once again). However, it's still not considered as a major economical power since :

-It's still a develloping country. Its GDP reflect mainly its huge population.
-Its exchanges are proportionnaly very limited (as compared to western countries). Most of its production is consumed locally (and most of its consumption is produced locally), so its influence in the interenational trade is very limited.

(To give an example, an huge family of farmers with of lot of lands which would produce loads of corn, milk,vegetables, etc..but would eat most of its production and wouldn't have enough left to sell it and buy a car would be considered as poorer than their middle-class neighboor, even while their total production is greater than the income of the said neighboor, and would certainly not be rated as the 2nd or 3rd
richest family in the village)

Also, I don't think the US represent 35%
of the world GDP (at least with the second method. The $ being currently very high, it could be true with the first one). I believe it's more like 25%
(wich is already huge, with only 5% or so of the world population). And Germany
definitely represents much less than 50% of the GDP in the EU.
Feb 8th, 2001, 07:09 AM
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I had a chance to be in uk for 2 years, but one thing i can tell you was my best friend (flat mate) is a guy from Vienheim. I visited his family, and learnt some deutsche. I think it is hard to learn a new language at my age, but to read German, i think it is easier. I can tell you that German is chosen to be the second foreign language for students here in thailand.
Nein! spechen kein deutsche. Auf wiedersehen.
Feb 12th, 2001, 07:47 AM
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The answer to your question is very simple. German just may be the most ugly language spoken on earth. Also, nobody likes Germans.
Feb 12th, 2001, 03:06 PM
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Anklish iza derivashun ov da jermanic vulgait (lo, not hi jerman), and zum yeers ago Anklish vaz pronownced da ofishul langwag for sians (how ironik).

If you want a sample of how the antiquated English used by kings and gentry nearly sounded like, visit the Ozarks (Bill Shakespeare and the Globe theatre be darned).

Esperanto lives on. But if you ever want to hear it on TV, you'll probably have to watch specific episodes of Red Dwarf.
Feb 12th, 2001, 03:41 PM
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TO: Simple Answer

Granted German does not have the soothing rhymic vowels sounds of the romance languages, but that's a tad harsh calling it the "ugliest language in the world".

BTW, English is a GERMANIC language and to other ears we ain't the language of love either . . .
Feb 12th, 2001, 08:13 PM
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German IS the ugliest and harshest language. And given Germany's role in WWII I wouldn't mind if it sank into obscurity.
Feb 12th, 2001, 10:19 PM
Narrow Mind
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To Lora: Yes indeed, German IS as ugly and harsh as your name LORA.
Feb 14th, 2001, 09:31 AM
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Hi everyone,

One of the main reasons I think English is spoken so widely is that Britain ruled much of the world at one time. As the colonies regained independence they not only kept much of the British education system, government etc. but also the language. I know about this first-hand because I come from India (I've lived in the US for 17 years now) and its amazing how much of the British legacy is still left in India. There is a saying back home that "when the British left India the white Sahibs were replaced by the brown Sahibs".

As many of you probably know India has several languages, not just dialects. When you go from one part of the country to the other and you don't the local language, guess what you speak ? One of my friends once asked me what language we speak when a group of Indians get together and each one is from a different region. The answer - English.

I think one of the best legacies of the British was the English language. To me Enlish is like my mother-tongue. It made my transition to the US so easy. A lot of contract workers are being imported by companies from abroad in the software arena. And India rates the highest. Fluency in English is certainly one major reason.

I don't know about the language being a big influence in losing ones heritage. Some of us from India speak many languages, including English. We are truly multi-lingual in that we can switch from one to the other easily while conversing. We haven't lost that ability just because English is the main language. To me the scary thing is the way American culture or rather what is perceived as American culture is taking over India. Blue jeans, MTV, soap opera, Nike and Reeboks and materialism in general. Unfortunately today's teenagers ape all the superficial aspects of this culture while looking down on the traditional culture. I wonder sometimes if American culture as represented by McDonalds, Oprah and 'Who wants to become a Millionaire' will become the global culture someday ???

Feb 14th, 2001, 11:38 AM
Bil Cliton
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If we are truly to become a Global village, then we must share a common language and hell, Ah'm too much of a Rube to lern no German.

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