English - An International Language
英语 - 一种国际通用的语言
在近百年里，美国在很多地方是世界的中心。而在十九世纪末和二十世纪初，美国迎接了成千上万因为战争，贫困和饥荒而逃到美国的欧洲移民。这些劳动力使美国如虎添翼，在经济上突飞猛进。好莱坞的影片也吸引诸多的外籍演员，希望能 在好莱坞碰到好运气从而成名，因此美国的电影年复一年地如潮水般地涌入国际市场。在一九一九年，德国和联盟国之间签订了终止第一次世界大战的凡尔赛协议，虽然那时 的外交语言是使用法语，但是美国总统伍德罗·威尔逊成功地使那个协议 也用英文写成。 因为英文跃入外交语言的行列，因此也就渐渐地进入了与经济有关的领域，也逐渐地代替了媒体中的其他语言。
English is part of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European family of languages. It is spoken as a native language by around 377 million and as a second language by around 375 million speakers in the world. Speakers of English as a second language will soon outnumber those who speak it as a first language.
Around 750 million people are believed to speak English as a foreign language. English has an official or a special status in 75 countries with a total population of over 2 billion.
The domination of the English language globally is undeniable. English is the language of diplomacy and international communications, business, tourism, education, science, computer technology, media and Internet. Because English was used to develop communication, technology, programming, software, etc, it dominates the web. 70% of all information stored electronically is in English.
British colonialism in the 19th century and American capitalism and technological progress in the 20th century were undoubtedly the main causes for the spread of English throughout the world.
The English language came to British Isles from northern Europe in the fifth century. From the fifteenth century, the British began to sail all over the world and became explorers, colonists and imperialists. They took the English language to North America, Canada and the Caribbean, to South Africa, to Australia and New Zealand, to South Asia (especially India), to the British colonies in Africa, to South East Asia and the South Pacific.
The USA has played a leading role in most parts of the world for the last hundred years. At the end of the 19th century and first quarter of the 20th, it welcomed millions of European immigrants who had fled their countries ravaged by war, poverty or famine. This labor force strengthened American economy. The Hollywood film industry also attracted many foreign artists in quest of fame and fortune and the number of American films produced every year soon flooded the market. Before the Treaty of Versailles (1919), which ended the First World War between Germany and the Allies, diplomacy was conducted in French. However, President Woodrow Wilson succeeded in having the treaty in English as well. Since then, English started being used in diplomacy and gradually in economic relations and the media.
The future of English as a global language will depend very largely on the political, economical, demographic and cultural trends in the world. The beginning of the 21st century is a time of global transition. According to some experts, faster economic globalization is going hand in hand with the growing use of English. More and more people are being encouraged to use English rather than their own language. On the other hand, the period of most rapid change can be expected to be an uncomfortable and at times traumatic experience for many people around the world. Hence, the opposite view, that the next 20 years or so will be a critical time for the English language and for those who depend upon it. The patterns of usage and public attitudes to English which develop during this period will have long-term effects for its future in the world.
The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, Cambridge University Press, 1995.
English as a global language, Cambridge University Press, 1997.
The Future of English?, London The British Council, 1997
1. Why are you learning to speak English?
2. Do you agree that English is an international language?
3. What other languages do you think is an international language?
4. Are there other languages you would like to learn besides English?