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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 Spanish are widely spoken on more continents, and it's increasingly 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 U.K. and the US, and the number one language for the majority of academic research is English.

Issues with such a globalisation of English

There's a backside to the joy of having one shared main language - and that's, of course, all the people who don’t speak it. A language barrier can mean limitations in finding work and making a career in, for example, large parts of Europe, northern America, Australia, and New Zealand. 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 we should always be aware of the limitations that the globalisation of English brings for many. We hear about migrants coming to Europe experiencing difficulties obtaining jobs and achieving credit for education in their home country. Lacking English skills is, of course, just one reason for not getting a job in Europe, there is also the issue of high unemployment in a country, cultural or religious discrimination, and so on. 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. Lacking perfect English skills means lots of knowledge being lost, I'm sure.

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 to hear about languages dying out, and I hope we can preserve the majority of the existing ones because diversity is fantastic and very important.

The globalisation of English is real


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