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Globalization and Language Essay Example Paper

Words: 1815, Paragraphs: 2, Pages: 7

Paper type: Essay , Subject: Globalization

Categories: Globalization

Globalization and Language Essay Introduction

Globalization is the process of something becoming global, being transformed from a local or regional phenomena into a global one. With globalization, there is a movement of people coming together, unifying into a single society and functioning together. This process is not only an economic one, but also affects the technologies, politics, and cultures of the entire world. It is facilitated by the media of communications. Through radio and satellite information, we can reach the entire globe almost instantly; important events, or those deemed important by the people controlling the media, are broadcast around the world. This rapid flow of information around the earth is the globalization of knowledge, which is generally a good thing. However, with globalization there is the fear of homogenization when it comes to local cultures and customs. With popular culture being broadcast everywhere and imitated, the entire world is slowly starting to look, sound, smell, and even taste the same, no matter where you travel. This effect of globalization is commonly seen as a negative consequence of the modern world. Since the sharing of information is an integral part of globalization, the language or languages this information is transmitted in is fundamental to the process. Currently, experts believe there are around 6,500 languages in use today. Out of those, however, only 11 languages account for more than half of what the world’s population speaks daily. Those languages include Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Hindi, French, Bengali, Portuguese, Russian, German, Japanese, Arabic, and English.

Globalization and Language Essay Body Paragraphs

On the flip side, it is believed that more than half of the world’s languages have fewer than 5,000 people currently speaking it, and on average one language is lost every two weeks. Since language is one of the major signifiers and connecting factors of a culture, it can be inferred by just looking at these statistics that so many languages being lost and barely used is an indicator of the loss of those cultures as well. It is easy to see that with globalization, imported cultures can push out the indigenous ones- wiping out the smaller cultures and languages while homogenizing the local linguistic varieties. A good example of this is Canada. When the area was first colonized in the early 1600s, there were over 60 active languages being spoken. Now however, apart from the domination of English and French, only one native language has succeeded somewhat in staying alive: Inuktitut, spoken in the Northern regions of Canada by approximately 35,000 Inuits. Extreme examples such as this, however, are due to a very forced kind of globalization whereby the new culture has taken over and, in many cases, purposely wiped out the native customs. Left to its own devices, though, similar results will occur, just over a longer period of time. There is evidence, on the other hand, that this theory of linguistic homogenization may not be the case. Recently, steps have been taken to help preserve those minority languages that are at risk of being lost like so many already have. The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML), for example, is a treaty adopted in 1992 under the Council of Europe to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe, applying only to those languages traditionally used by the nationals of the specific country, thereby excluding languages used by recent immigrants. These protected languages cannot be merely local dialects of the official or majority languages, though, and must either have a territorial basis, traditionally spoken by populations of regions within the State, or be used by linguistic minorities within the State as a whole, thus including languages such as Yiddish and Romani which are used over a large geographic area including multiple countries. The treaty sets out a number of specific measures to promote minority languages over all fields of public life, of which the country must choose at least 35 to enact. This charter has been used by more than 20 European countries, most notably in Spain where Basque, Catalan, and Galician have all won co-official status, in order to maintain and develop Europe’s cultural traditions and heritage, but also to respect the right to use a minority language in private and public life. The fact that this treaty was made and the reasoning behind it illustrates the importance languages have to our cultures and the growing concern over their possible extinction. Due to the way globalization works, it would make sense that the most widely spoken language would also be the dominating culture, but this isn’t quite true. Chinese is the language with the most number of speakers, with estimates of well over 1 billion people currently using it. English has only over half the number of speakers Chinese does, but is listed as the official or co-official language of over 45 countries. This makes more sense when you see that China’s population is around 1. billion, while the combined populations of the United States and the UK don’t quite reach 400 million. However, nearly 2 billion people are currently learning English and it is the de facto language of science, aviation, computing, diplomacy, and tourism. Also, over half of all Internet websites are written in English, and it is still the most commonly used language between people of different linguistic backgrounds. With such a large chunk of the world speaking Chinese, however, you would think that English would not dominate the world so heavily. There are quite a few reasons why English has won out in the past, though. First and foremost, because it was the official language of the British Empire, which comprised of the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled by the United Kingdom that had originated with the colonies and trading posts established in the 16th and 17th centuries. This was the beginning of the spread of English and globalization as a whole. By the 1920s, the British Empire covered nearly a quarter of the earth’s landmass and ruled about a quarter of the world’s population, all of which was governed by the English language. What’s interesting to note is that some of these previously colonized nations have chosen to keep English as their official language. This can be seen in India, where in 1950, the freed government decided to name Hindi as the official language and planned to phase out all use of English by 1965. However, since India has so many linguistic and ethnic minorities contained in it’s territory with more than 400 native languages, it was decided that having English as its official language, and Hindi as co-official, would be a more ‘ethnically neutral’ option. This decision to use English because of its neutrality can be seen in other places as well. In Iraq, the Kurdish officials refuse to do business with the central government in Arabic, instead choosing English. Because they know that the government will not nderstand their own native tongue, they use English as a symbol of resistance to the cultural and political hegemony of the Arabic-speaking majority. Also, in some former French colonies where French is the ethnically neutral lingua franca, people are starting to see English as a better option not only for its versatility in the world, but also because promoting English rather than French can be a kind of resistance to neo-colonialism in their country. Currently, English still thrives as the most popular language because it has become a business tool. With much of the world’s economy tied up in English-speaking countries, such as the United States, and a common language needed to be able to communicate, it only makes sense that the major power would determine what language will dominate the world market. This choice of English is incidental, many believe, and subject to change. “If the dollar continues to drop,” says Josh Hayden, president of a social networking site for English learners around the world, “the most viable option could shift. Mexico and Korea don’t need English to communicate if Korea begins to find it profitable to learn Spanish. ” (Dubner) English has also been able to survive as a dominating language because of its inherent linguistic properties. It is a very adaptable, quickly-evolving language which easily incorporates loan words from other languages, keeping it alive and growing. It’s also a fairly simple language, grammatically, since it lack grammatical gender, adjectival agreement, and contains minimal inflection, unlike most other Indo-European languages. Unlike Chinese, it is a-tonal, thus making it much easier to pronounce, and though there are many exceptions to the rules in English, it is a language very forgiving to accents, mispronunciations, and mistakes, making it one of the easiest languages for non-native speakers to learn and express themselves in. With this wide spread of English that is being co-opted and modified by so many non-native speakers, many believe that there will be a proliferation of ‘glocal’ Englishes- languages mixing English with their local dialect. This effect can already be seen in the many pidgin and creole dialects, simplified languages formed from two or more separate dialects, found in places around the world. So while English may be wiping out many languages, it can be argued that at the same time, it is giving birth to new ones. An interesting substitute for English as the global language I found during my research is a language called Esperanto. Esperanto, which means ‘one who hopes’ in the language, is the most widely spoken constructed international language in the world, with estimates of nearly 2 million fluent speakers. It was developed in 1887 by L. L. Zamenhof as a universal second language to foster peace between countries and international understanding. Today, it is used in things like world travel, cultural exchange conventions, radio broadcasting, and is the working language of several non-profit international organizations. The language itself is a kind of pidgin, employing grammar and semantics from Indo-European languages, phonemics from Slavic languages, and vocabulary mostly from Romance languages, and is growing in popularity around the world. As it advances, globalization seems to be picking up speed, and soon we may be hearing about language learning and language conservation as more debatable political issues. It is no longer sensible to associate certain languages with certain places; nobody owns language any more and this may prove to be especially troubling to those whose language is popularly used by non-native speakers. Whether or not languages homogenize or English stays as the dominating language are very disputable issues that have yet to be seen, but what’s obvious is that globalization is an integral driving force in the transformation of our world, breaking down territories and dividing lines and opening up information available to everyone. Works Cited Amaladoss, Michael. “Global Homogenization” . Dubner, Stephen J. “What Will Globalization Do to Languages? ” The New York Times, May 28, 2008. Hoelzgen, Joachim. “Language Nerds to Tackle Globalization” Spiegel Online, June 4, 2008.

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