The globalisation of English

I grew up in Scandinavia and in this part of the world, it’s taken for granted that you speak good English, for example when applying for university or a job.

We start learning English in school from an early age, films and programmes on TV are subtitled instead of synchronised, lots of Scandinavians are fortunate enough to be able to travel, and in the bigger towns and cities English is often used to communicate with people across different nationalities and cultures.

Now, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are small languages, only really spoken in northern Europe, so it’s completely understandable that we learn another major language from an early age. And we’re lucky that English is the second language we learn because of its importance within many areas in today’s world. The number of Mandarin speakers is growing, French and, especially, Spanish are widely spoken on more continents, it is increaingly popular learning languages like Japanese and Arabic, but English remains the main language of among others science and education. The top-ranked universities are located mainly in the UK and the US and the number one language for the majority of academic research is English.

Imagine all the people who don’t speak much English. It becomes a barrier and limitation for their future career if they would want to study at an attractive “western” university or apply for a job in large parts of Europe, northern America, Australia and New Zeeland etc. You won’t get far in Scandinavia without good English knowledge, even though it’s not our first language.

Having a global language for communication in the world is a necessity, I believe, but it’s sad that it creates limits for many. I’m also thinking about migrants coming to Europe and the difficulties that many experience obtaining jobs and achieving credit for education in their home country. Lacking English skills are, of course, just one reason for not getting a job in Europe, there is also the issue of a high unemployment rate, cultural or religious discrimination etc. But there are people with degrees and years of experience in medicine, biology, mathematics, engineering - you name it - who have to go through years of language training and low-paid jobs until maybe eventually they will get a job within their field. And think about those coming from very poor living conditions who haven’t had the resources for education in life, or others who have simply chosen a different path and worked all their lives. For them, it must be a huge challenge to learn a new language. For those who never really learn English a lot of knowledge could in this way be lost.

I love languages and even though it’s very convenient with a global language, then for me, it never beats speaking or reading in my mother tongue Danish. It's very sad hearing about languages dying out and I really hope we can preserve the majority of the existing ones because diversity is fantastic and very important.

#diversity #English #education #science #languages

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