The Future of English

In 1997 the British Council's English 2000 project published The Future of English? written by David Graddol. It has now developed an on-line course to develop and train a worldwide

network of ELT professionals able to share their own perspectives on English as a global language. The presenters described some of the more striking findings that have arisen in the project and encouraged participants to respond to these ideas referring to their own experiences. Several participants from the on-line courses shared their own views and the impact of the courses on their work.


The English language has become the world's most important

language and its rise to the status of global lingua franca must rank as one of the most significant facts in the cultural history of the twentieth century world. It is perhaps appropriate, as the new millennium approaches, that we should pause to reflect on how English reached this position, what might happen next, and what it all means, both for those who speak English and for the substantial proportion of the world's population who do not. Equally, we need to consider the implications of these changes on our own role as language teaching professionals.

David Crystal's book, English as a Global Language, (Crystal, 1997) concludes that English became the world language not because of any intrinsic linguistic qualities, but because at significant moments in history it happened to be 'in the right place at the right time'. 'The Future of English?' (Graddol, 1997) suggests that English is at a turning point in its development as an international language: it has become a global language at a time when the world itself is undergoing rapid change. Indeed, English is very much a part of the process of transformation, which is creating a more closely interconnected world in which people and machines talk easily to each other across vast spaces.

There are two key markers of this transition point in the

development of English. First, the number of people speaking

English as a second language will shortly outnumber those who

speak it as a first language. Second, it is clear that more and more people learning English as a foreign language do so in order to communicate with other non-native speakers of English. This marks a significant change in the nature and purpose of teaching and learning English around the world, which has hitherto been built on the idea of teaching a native speaker model of English (usually British or American) to allow communication between the learner and native speakers.

The British, in particular, have been accustomed to think of

themselves as the historic 'centre' of the language. There has been little dissent from the idea that native speakers (of any language, but perhaps especially of English) are the basic reference point when issues of 'authenticity' are considered. The most authoritative grammar books and dictionaries are compiled not only within the native speaking countries but are also based on native speaker usage.

The boundaries between increasingly unsatisfactory categories of English speakers are being blurred. For  example, the definition of a 'second language speaker' traditionally rests on whether English is used in a person's country as a language of national communication. This kind of definition may have made sense in the days where national borders represented effective limits on communication, but hardly captures the importance of English to a growing number of professional and middle class speakers around the world. Should we not count, for example, a Chinese professional who is fluent in English and uses it in daily communication with colleagues overseas, a second language speaker rather than an EFL speaker?

Communities of discourse are no longer bound by national

boundaries in the way they were. It is not uncommon for close

communicative ties to arise between people in different

countries. This is one of the ways in technologies such as the Internet are reconstructing patterns of communication across the world. We believe that the future of English will depend on those second language speakers of English.

What does this mean for ELT professionals?

We feel that individuals will need to consider the changing role of English very carefully to ensure that their work is relevant to the changing needs of learners, and so that they can continue to be confident of their own role in their profession.  If English is to be used increasingly as a lingua franca between second language speakers, native speaker teachers may ask themselves 'are we the right people for the job?' Equally, language schools and colleges, publishers, examiners, and all those involved in creating ELT commodities will ask themselves 'what should the product be?' This question is particularly pertinent for British providers of ELT goods and services.

We do not want to devalue the role of native speaker teachers, though we hope that this discussion might encourage non-native speaker teachers of English to feel more confident about their role in the future teaching of English. All teachers, non-native and native speakers, will need to work with their learners to establish exactly what kind of English the learners need, and adapt their teaching accordingly. As part of this process, some teachers are already developing special courses for their advanced level learners, which focus on language awareness activities, helping learners develop a better awareness of Global English issues, by contrasting its contexts and usage with their

own language(s).

We plan to support such teachers by developing a new online course for members of our English Language Teaching Contacts Scheme (ELTECS), most of whom are currently based in Europe. Many ELTECS members are involved in teaching advanced level students, particularly training future teachers of English. Many teacher training degrees include a fairly traditional 'History of the English Language' type course, which often fails to interest students. The reason for the students' poor response appears to be that the students do not respond well to studying someone else's history. The story of the Anglo Saxons and the Norman invasion of England does not always engage the interest of students based in continents far from a small island in the North Sea.

More positively, a University teacher in Argentina has reported that her use of 'The Future of English?' as the core text of a reworked 'History of English' course was very successful. The reason for this success seems to be that the students could identify their own history (and get a feel for what might be their future) in the ideas contained in this book. We are not necessarily advocating the whole scale adoption of our publication as the way forward for teaching such courses, but would like to offer it as an interesting example of the materials that can be developed for advanced learners of English. We certainly did not imagine that the book could be used in this way when it was commissioned and written.

Advanced learners of English, particularly when they are future teachers, are an important group. They have hopefully reached a stage where they can develop, and eventually teach, different varieties of English available for the new communicative contexts we discussed earlier in this paper. But they are probably a small minority of the hundreds of millions of people who are currently learning English in some sense.

The challenge for the ELT profession is to develop courses and resources that are meaningful for the diverse and changing contexts in which English will be used. We will continue to try to help support the profession by developing our Futures series of online courses, tailored to British Council staff and key partner institutions, language planners and other groups for whom this approach is useful.

What else is the British Council doing to support the profession?

We look forward to the publication of 'The Future of English?' translated in Japanese, Chinese, and, we hope, Spanish and Indonesian. We particularly hope that these translations will enable us to have a dialogue with some of the world's majority which does not speak English. We imagine that they might offer very different perspectives, and some such readers might be more

critical and hostile towards English than those we have interacted with so far.

We will continue to publish our electronic Global English Newsletter (see subscription details below), which serves as a free current awareness service for those interested in new developments that have an impact on English.

The British Council has also commissioned three new reports on areas which we think are significant for the ELT profession:

The Internet and ELT

David Eastment has revised his original report published in 1996. There have been many developments since the original report was published, particularly as there are far more internet users now than there were in 1996, when only a minority of ELT professionals had access to or even experience of the Internet (arguably still the case in some regions and contexts).

Worldwide survey of Primary ELT

This sector of ELT has been expanding in recent years. Shelagh Rixon has been commissioned to survey the teaching of English in the state and private sectors, and to consider the significance of the often discussed 'critical age' for language learning.

The Language Machine

This report by Eric Atwell, examines how the latest developments in Speech and Language Technology might constitute the language machine of the report's title. Follow up events and discussion will focus on the potential impact of such a machine on the demand for and delivery of ELT.

We plan to share our findings from these activities with as wide an audience as possible, particularly using Internet discussion groups and the British Council's website for publication and discussion.

And finally

'The Future of English?' has turned full circle in that it has helped inform a new initiative in the UK, the Nuffield Languages Inquiry which began in Spring 1998. This Inquiry was commissioned in response to an apparent decrease in the interest among young people in learning foreign languages in the UK. Prominent individuals had written to the press to claim the British are learning the wrong languages. The most widely taught language has always French, which is the language spoken by Britain's nearest neighbour on the continent of Europe and a major world language, but many believe that other languages should be taught more widely. Some employers find it difficult to recruit British staff with the right mix of professional and language skills and are recruiting from overseas. There  is a shortage of foreign modern languages teachers, and this shortage looks likely to worsen. 

One of the most crucial questions asked by the Inquiry is:

what kind of foreign language capability is appropriate for a country whose first language is a major world language?

The co-author of this paper and author of The Future of English?, David Graddol, is working closely with the Inquiry, has helped publish their initial report and convened the Inquiry's online discussion group. The British Council  will support the Inquiry in several ways, working with the Central Bureau for Educational Visits and Exchanges (CBEVE) which already works closely with the Modern Foreign Languages profession in the UK.

The Inquiry is due to be completed in late 1999. It is chaired by Sir John Boyd (Churchill College, Cambridge) and Trevor McDonald (ITN News).

Caroline Moore and David Graddol

What makes a global language?

Why is English a leading candidate?

And will it hold this position?

Subject: English as a Global Language

Posted by: Cheryl Fonda on 20:13:14 3/15/99:

Hey everyone-hope you all had a great spring break!

This article is something I've thought about before. A few years ago I travelled around Europe with a friend. Although we knew

only a little French, we were able to travel with no problem. Everyone we encountered, with a few exceptions, spoke English.

It was comforting to be able to communicate with others when we were lost, needed help or just wanted to talk. Personally, I

think a universal language would benefit most people. I agree, however, that one should not replace native languages. Native

languages are symbols of culture, the past and its people. From what we have learned so far in this class, I think a universal

language would have maybe eliminated some othe oppression and subordination some peoples faced at the hands of colonizers.

What do you all think? I know it wouldn't have completely ended all the problems but would have made things easier-for

example for the british and the zulus.

Subject: Re: English as a Global Language

Posted by: shandana khanzada on 11:43:52 3/16/99:

In Reply to: English as a Global Language posted by Cheryl Fonda on March 15, 1999 at 20:13:14:

Undoubtedly, the English language is a powerful tool and has been a dominant force in supressing the colonies during

Imperialism. Fortunately,Pakistan ( my native country) which was under British rule did not let go of it's native language despite

British influence. English remains the official laguage, but we have our own national language called Urdu, which is quite


Subject: Re: English as a Global Language

Posted by: Wesley Edwards on 10:24:11 3/16/99:

In Reply to: English as a Global Language posted by Cheryl Fonda on March 15, 1999 at 20:13:14:

I guess from the heading of this posting that we would assume that english would be a great candidate for this universal

language. I do feel that it might eliminate some tension if everyone had access to a certain universal language and couldn't be

exploited as easily. However, most diplomats and such already speak english. It is the poor of every nation that don't have

access to english education, so the hierarchy still continues. The universal language would cause exploitation of poor by the rich.

The only difference is that it would not be a nation exploiting another but people of a nation exploiting there own countrymen.

Subject: Re: English as a Global Language

Posted by: Elizabeth Nelson on 20:34:01 3/15/99:

In Reply to: English as a Global Language posted by Cheryl Fonda on March 15, 1999 at 20:13:14:

We as english speakers take a lot for granted when it comes to languages we are very self-centerd. In most countries English

is taught beginning in grade school. Here we complain about the three year minimum required by most High Schools and UNC.

True a universal language would make business and politics much easier, but each language carries much of a culture. If you

have ever tried translating poetry from one language to another you know how words don't have exact translations and almost

all subtelties are lost. Think about even within the English language each dialect ( southern, midwest, New England) has its

own character.

Subject: Re: Re: English as a Global Language

Posted by: Laura Sykes on 11:37:15 3/16/99:

In Reply to: Re: English as a Global Language posted by Elizabeth Nelson on March 15, 1999 at 20:34:01:

A universal language sounds great in theory but the work that implementing it would entail is overwhelming to say the least. I

too have travelled to other countries and have felt very lucky when others know english and were able to help me.--Americans

should really know other languages well considering the resources we have here, but the truth of the matter is that we do not. I

think a universdal language would be more convienent but it would eventually wipe out certain difference among us that serve as

positive vehicles for learning and experience.

Subject: Re: Re: English as a Global Language

Posted by: Tareq Arafat on 10:17:09 3/16/99:

In Reply to: Re: English as a Global Language posted by Elizabeth Nelson on March 15, 1999 at 20:34:01:

Speaking from the other side of the coin, I would like to say that how hard it was for me to learn English. I had to go through

five years of English in middle to high school to be able to speak at a decent level. It would have made my task so much easier

if my mother tongue was English. No wonder people with English as their mother tongue find it easy to travel anywhere in the

world and still have the same privilege and comfort of communication. Do you know that I cannot express my anger with

people over here over a daily chore because I have to repeat myself to make my statements be understood properly: albeit

effectively taking out the venom?

Other than the sole purpose of communication, I had to learn English because it was thought my education could never be

fully accepted had I not studied Englsih diligently. Learning English well and to be able to speak with as little accent as possible

is considered a prestigeous thing (if you come from a colonized part of the world). If you speak good Englsih, then you are

never seen with the same pair of eyes.

Because of the history of colonization , English became widespread and I peronally don't see it as an evil because things were

different in the distant past and somehow the bad things that happened came up with something good: the emergence of a

language (Englsih in this case) as a global language. The bad part was our languages never gained a sense of respect remotely

close to the other European languages because they were languages from the colonies!

As far as the author's concern, I think Swahili is now an official language in the United Nations.

Subject: Re: Re: English as a Global Language

Posted by: Amanda Hearring on 09:52:40 3/16/99:

In Reply to: Re: English as a Global Language posted by Elizabeth Nelson on March 15, 1999 at 20:34:01:

I have always thought that the world would be a less confusing place if there was a universal language, and money, and

everything else was the same all over the world. But who's to say which language would be the one we all must know. SInce

the CHinese are the largest country, we might be might all have to learn CHinese, and I wouldn't like that very much. And if

everyone knew only one language, it would take away the opportunity for us to show off our abilty of being able to speak

another language, and all of those Mexicans that lived in my apartment complex couldn't talk about me when I walk by because

I would understand them.

English as a global language

The conference theme for which this keynote address has been prepared is in its entirety so relevant to the

evolving language situation in South Africa that I should perhaps begin by complimenting the organisers for having

invited a South African to make the initial input under this rubric. However, the reality of the global village and the

processes of conquest and dispossession by which it was overtly inaugurated in 1415 could equally have let the

choice fall on virtually any of the countries of the economic South. South Africa, thanks particularly to the aura that

still surrounds the heroic figure of Nelson Mandela is simply one of the more prominent sites which illustrate the

modalities of an international movement, i.e., the ever-expanding global hegemony of the English language and the

apparently inexorable corollary marginalisation of local, national and regional languages.

The situation is, naturally, much more complex than that which is reflected in this generalisation. In a recent

comprehensive review of three authoritative works on the future of the English language, Robert Phillipson points

to the many contradictions involved. About Graddol's British-Council sponsored book on the future of English, he

believes that

          If the book can reach beyond those who are committed to the promotion of English to those with a more

          open, multilingual agenda, it represents a promising starting-point for disentangling some of the many

          factors that currently strengthen English and might weaken it.


The impressive tome compiled by Fishman et al leads him to establish the need for much more scholarly research

by 'critical scholars working with grassroots forms of English and alternatives to English dominance', while

Crystal's essay on global English throws up questions of linguistic human rights, for Phillipson since Crystal

          foresees the consolidation of 'World Standard Spoken English', which he does not see as replacing

          other languages or (national) forms of English. This seems to imply a belief that English has become

          'global' without being causally linked to global trends and global injustice: the language happened to

          be at 'the right place at the right time' (110). One wonders where it will be if and when all the globe's

          citizens and languages are to enjoy basic human rights. (Phillipson 1999, forthcoming)

A question that is foregrounded once again is that of the dialectical relationship between one or a few world

languages on the one hand, and the death or extinction of numerous local and national languages. 'Again',

because this issue was debated especially in the then Soviet Union as the result of the facile speculations of Stalin

(whose views on the matter, as is now generally accepted, were based on the linguistic theories and vision of

Nicolai Marr, whom he subsequently denounced because of 'gross errors'). Stalin's views were popularised in a

book that for a few decades influenced the political Left and all manner of lay linguists as regards the destiny and,

thus, the importance of their own and other languages.

In South Africa, let me note parathetically, during the 'fifties, we debated with waxing passion the question whether

we should pay any attention at all to the 'tribal languages' instead of concentrating on English, the 'international

language'. The debate was exacerbated and rendered particularly vicious by the fact that at the time, the

Afrikaner National Party was using the very sensible UNESCO declarations on the importance of using vernacular

languages as media of instruction in schools in order to justify and beautify its racist curriculum, which the world

came to know as Bantu education.


Since this debate was left in the air, more or less, in the late 'fifties, new factors have come into play. Of these, the

most important is our modern understanding of the value of human diversity, biological, political and cultural.

Murray Gell-Mann, the 1969 Nobel prizewinner for Physics, among others, makes this point simply but effectively.

He accepts that, under unfavourable conditions, differences among groups of people, sometimes so minute as to be

invisible to the outsider continue to be used to justify social conflict and oppressive behaviour, including genocide.

And, although we may be sceptical about his reasoning, we cannot fault the conclusion he arrives at, when he

asserts that

          .cultural diversity is itself a valuable heritage that should be preserved: that Babel of languages, that

          patchwork of religious and ethical systems, that panorama of myths, that potpourri of political and

          social traditions, accompanied as they are by many forms of irrationality and particularism. One of the

          principal challenges to the human race is to reconcile universalizing factors such as science,

          technology, rationality and freedom of thought with particularizing factors such as local traditions and

          beliefs, as well as simple differences in temperament, occupation and geography (Gell-Mann 1994:341)

As a result of this ethos, those of us who are proponents and supporters of the value of multilingualism can be

compared with ecological and environmental activists who happen to be operating in the socio-linguistic domain. As

in the domain of biology, the critical question is whether we will be able to make our product 'profitable' and/or

whether the ideological dimension can supersede the purely materialistic in such a way that people prefer to be

multilingual even if it is not obviously of immediate or short-term material benefit to them. Coulmas (1992:148-149)

discusses the relationship between economic and social costs in the determination of national and regional language

policy and concludes that it is usually counter-productive to consider 'economic costs' as though language were a

purely micro-economic issue. He stresses the fact that the richer a country is the more possible it is for the rulers

to take the social costs of language policy into account. Thus, countries such as the Netherlands and Canada can

spend vast sums on different aspects of language policy, especially on the learning of foreign languages and on the

accommodation of the languages of immigrant minorities, whereas most African countries are constrained to

implement language in education policies that are, to put it mildly, irrational. They choose these options

          in plain view of the social costs of a monolingual system, that is, the costs of an elitist system where 25

          percent of the national budget is spent for the education of 12 percent of all pupils. (Coulmas


Language policy in the post-colonial situation

Because of the multilingual character of most colonially defined states in Africa and elsewhere and because of the

intuitive policies of imperialist powers, the languages of Europe, specifically Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English

and French (on the African continent) became the languages of power. With very few exceptions, there were no

systematic attempts during the colonial era to use any African language in high-status functions, not even in

domains such as secondary and tertiary education. These are well-known facts and it is unnecessary to repeat the

details on this occasion. Suffice it to say that on the morrow of political independence, the black elite which took

over the reins of power were faced with a cruel dilemma. This has been formulated best by writers such as Ngugi

wa Thiong'o. His famous essay on 'The language of African literature' is one of the most eloquent and passionate

denunciations of the cultural implications of colonialism and imperialism.

          The real aim of colonialism was to control the people's wealth(but) economic and political control can

          never be complete or effective without mental control. To control a people's culture is to control their

          tools of self-definition in relationship to others. For colonialism, this involved two aspects of the same

          process: the destruction or the deliberate undervaluing of a people's culture, their art, dances,

          religions, history, geography, education, orature and literature, and the conscious elevation of the

          language of the coloniser. The domination of a people's language by the languages of the colonising

          nations was crucial to the domination of the mental universe of the colonised. (Ngugi 1994:16)


The arguments which were marshalled by the new rulers in order to justify the adoption of the ex-colonial

languages as the 'official' languages of the respective independent, or liberated, countries are well known now. In

summary, they fell into three different categories. Politically, it was said that the choice of any indigenous language

would unleash a separatist dynamic which would destabilise the mostly very plurilingual African states. The

second-best option was, therefore, to continue using the colonial language which, at the very least, was accepted by

everyone and would not facilitate disruption and discontinuity. From having been the language of the oppressor,

English, for example, became the language of national unity and of national liberation. Economically and

technically, the use of the ex-colonial language made sense because there was already in existence in the countries

concerned and through the overt and covert links between ex-colony and 'mother country' a language

infrastructure and a pool of skills in the form of appropriate books, dictionaries, registers, publishers, printers,

trained professionals of all kinds as well as discourses and traditions which it would be both costly and unnecessary

to imitate and duplicate in any of the African languages, never mind the quixotic notion of doing so in all of them.

Culturally - although it must be said that this set of arguments was not used very often in Anglophone African

countries, with the tragi-comic exception of Malawi under Dr Hastings Banda - it was taken to be axiomatic that

the wealth of creative as well as scientific and technical literature and related artifacts in the European languages

rendered them superior to the indigenous 'vernaculars'.

By way of reminding us of the agonising decisions which had to be made, allow me to cite two statements made by

leaders of African independence movements, the first by President Milton Obote at the very beginning of the

struggle soon after Uganda was given its independence by Britain , the second by Prime Minister Hage Geingob of

Namibia in the last phase of the anti-colonial struggle. Obote, addressing the central question of national unity,

hesitantly put forward the following positions:

          The problem of cultureis essentially a problem of how best we can maintain and develop the various

          cultural forms in Uganda through a common language. I have no answer to this. I am well aware that

          English cannot be the media (sic) to express Dingidingi songs, I have my doubts whether Lwo language

          can express in all its fineness Lusoga songs, and yet I consider that Uganda's policy to teach more and

          more English should be matched with the teaching of some other African language. We are trying to

          think about a possible answer to the question of why we need an African language as a national

          language? Do we need it merely for political purposes, for addressing public meetings, for talking in

          Councils? Do we need it as a language for the workers; to enable them to talk and argue their terms

          with their employers? Do we need an African language for intellectual purposes? Do we need such a

          language to cover every aspect of our lives intellectually, politically, economically?

          I would not attempt to answer that question but it appears to me that Uganda at least is faced with a

          difficult future on this matter and the future might confirm that a decision is necessary to push some

          languages deliberately and to discourage the use of some other languages also deliberately (Obote,

          cited in Alexander 1989:40-41)

By the time Namibia was ready to take its independence from the increasingly demoralised apartheid regime, there

was much more clarity on the implications of choosing one policy rather than another. Yet, the fundamental decision

for English remained exactly the same. For reasons that have to do with the modalities of colonial oppression in the

19th and 20th centuries, it seemed as though every newly independent African state was doomed to take the same

language policy detour by accepting in practice the primacy of the ex-colonial language, in spite of all the eloquent

rhetoric to the contrary. Geingob, the Director of the United Nations Institute for Namibia at the time, wrote as

follows in 1981:

          In spite of the difficulties inherent in the task of implementing English as the official language for

          Namibia, the Namibian people will rise to the occasion. This decision, however, does not imply that the

          indigenous languages are being dismissed. Local languages have a vital role to play in society and

          there will be a need for an overall multilingual language planning policy, both long-term and short-term,

          in which the various languages are institutionalized to their greatest advantage.

          The aim of introducing English is to introduce an official language that will steer the people away from

          linguo-tribal affiliations and differences and create conditions conducive to national unity in the realm

          of language. Inherent in the adoption of this policy are a number of issues and implications. Will

          English become an elitist language, thereby defeating the goals for which it was intended? Will Namibia

          be able to obtain a sufficient supply of teachers trained in English to teach English? How cost effective

          and cost beneficial will the choice of English prove to be for Namibia?. (UNIN: 1981)

From our own (South African) archives, the following statement gives some indication of the dilemma faced by the

colonial and mission elite already at the beginning of this century. Dr Abdurahman, one of the early leaders of

the'Coloured' community in South Africa, who was called upon, as President of the African People's Organisation

(APO), to persuade the intellectual leadership of this group of people of diverse origin to decide which way to go in

the light of the imminent dominion status that was to be conferred on South Africa after the defeat of the Boers in

1902, had no doubts whatsoever in regard to the language question. For a South African, what is most significant

about this statement is the fact that it does not even consider it worthy of mention that besides Afrikaans and

English, there was (and is today) a wealth of African (Bantu) languages used by more than 75% of the population

as their principal means of communication.

          The question naturally arises which is to be the national language. Shall it be the degraded forms of a

          literary language, a vulgar patois; or shall it be that language which Macaulay says is 'In force, in

          richness, in aptitude for all the highest purposes of the poet, the philosopher, and the orator inferior to

          the tongue of Greece alone?' Shall it be the language of the 'Kombuis' [kitchen, NA] or the language

          of Tennyson? That is, shall it be the Taal [Afrikaans, NA] or English?.

In the official newsletter of the APO, we read the following editorial, probably written by Abdurahman himself, in

which the coloureds are enjoined to:

          endeavour to perfect themselves in English - the language which inspires the noblest thoughts of

          freedom and liberty, the language that has the finest literature on earth and is the most universally

          useful of all languages. Let everyonedrop the habit as far as possible, of expressing themselves in

          the barbarous Cape Dutch that is too often heard (APO, 13/8/1910, cited in Adhikari 1996:8)

Needless to say, examples of this kind can be multiplied at will, not only from South African political and cultural

leaders but from the rest of the continent as well.

Against the background I have sketched here, we ought not to be surprised, therefore, at the debilitating language

attitudes of the vast majority of African people as they emerged out of the formal colonial era. However, these

attitudes could not have been sustained if they were not integral to, and reinforced by, the political economy of the

neo-colonial state. The nature of the post-colonial state in Africa has been analysed in great detail by many African

and European scholars since the early 'sixties in terms of whatever paradigm was fashionable at the time such

analyses were written, most recently that of post-modernism. I shall refer to it presently when I discuss

globalisation, the latest buzzword we use to describe the often baffling developments that have changed so radically

the modalities of the world economy. For the moment, I wish to refer to Pierre Alexandre's insightful and

illuminating analysis of the relationship between neo-colonial language policy and the reproduction of social

inequality. At the end of the 'sixties already, he noticed the way in which knowledge of English or French was

tantamount to the acquisition of what we now refer to as 'cultural capital' by the post-colonial elites.

          On the one hand is the majority of the population, often compartmentalized by linguistic borders which

          do not correspond to political frontiers; this majority uses only African tools of linguistic communication

          and must, consequently, irrespective of its actual participation in the economic sectors of the modern

          world, have recourse to the mediation of the minority to communicate with this modern world. This

          minority, although socially and ethnically as heterogeneous as the majority, is separated from the latter

          by that monopoly which gives it its class specificity: the use of a means of universal communication,

          French or English, whose acquisition represents truly a form of cultural accumulation. But this is a very

          special kind of capital, since it is an instrument of communication and not one of production. It is

          nevertheless this instrument, and generally this instrument alone, which makes possible the

          organization of the entire modern sector of production and distribution of goods (Alexandre1972:86).

Let us make it explicit, therefore, that it is an indisputable fact that in the post-colonial situation, the linguistic

hierarchy that was built into the colonial system led to knowledge of the conquerors' language becoming a vital

component of the 'cultural capital' of the neo-colonial elite. It was and remains their knowledge of English and/or

French that sets them apart from the vast majority of their African compatriots and which keeps them and their

offspring in the privileged middle and upper classes. Pierre Bourdieu, among others, has refined the sociological

analysis of this phenomenon as it manifests itself in both multi- and monolingual societies, so that, today, we have a

very clear understanding of the intersection of language policy, language practice and socio-economic realities,

including socio-economic stratification. The only question we need to pose here is the extent to which these elites

cynically deny the realisation that for the overwhelming majority of 'their' people, the type of proficiency in the

relevant European, or world, language that would empower them is actually unattainable under present conditions.

Alternatively, is it possible, that the argument from convenience emananting from bureaucratic inertia and from the

opportunism of politicians for whom politics is no more than 'the art of the possible' are the real explanation for

what we call the 'lack of political will' among African leaders when it comes to improving the status of African

languages in their countries and the modernisation of the corpora of these languages? The debate on these issues

is ongoing and is now hotting up because of developments in South Africa, among other things.

Globalisation, the ESL industry and the 'underdevelopment' of African languages

In recent years, scholars such as Robert Phillipson and Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (1986), James Tollefson(1991), and

others, have established the existence of what has been called the ESL industry and have criticised the pernicious

effects of this industry. I want to do no more here than draw attention to the marginalising effects of this industry

on the African languages and the consequent disempowerment of the speakers of those languages. A recent

dissertation by Anjuli Gupta-Basu traces this process in detail for some of the languages of the Indian

subcontinent. Among other things, she concludes that the popularity, spread and dominance of the English language

has nothing to do with the popular perception of mythical or inherent linguistic properties of the language. Instead,

she maintains that

          The dominance of English is due to conscious, co-ordinated and heavily funded (Anglo-American)

          institutional promotion programs, combined with functional, financial and professional incentives for the

          learners, in a world where hierarchically ordered and selected English-speaking people dominate all

          high-level political, military, scientific and cultural arenas. (Gupta-Basu 1999:249)

She traces the development and growth of this industry in Great Britain, the U.S.A. and English-dominant,

Europeanised countries such as some of those of the British Commonwealth. In relation to India, she quotes

Phillipson's observation that

          Those who fail in their quest for the alchemy of English see their life chances reduced. Those who

          become proficient in the alien language may sacrifice the language of their parents and their own

          culture in the process. The dominant language partially displaces other languages, through exclusive

          use of that language in certain domains (for instance in the media, or in the modern sector of the

          economy), and may replace the other languages totally. For well established languages the addition of

          English should represent no substantial threat, but in many parts of the world linguicist structures and

          processes have resulted not in English enriching other languages and cultures but in English

          supplanting them (Gupta-Basu 1999:255. Also, see Coulmas 1992:46).

As far as Africa itself is concerned, we have numerous studies which demonstrate that these processes are

replicated on our continent and that they are integral to what we call globalisation. Most recently, Alamin Mazrui

(1997) has denounced the deleterious effects of the global ESL industry on the languages of Africa. In a

hard-hitting article on the effects of World Bank policy on education and on the African languages as media of

instruction, he concludes that

          The European languages in which Africans are taught areimportant sources of intellectual control.

          They aid the World Bank's efforts to enable Africans to learn only that which promotes the agenda of

          international capitalism. Partly because of this Euro-linguistic policy, intellectual self-determination in

          Africa has become more difficult. And, for the time being, the prospects of a genuine intellectual

          revolution in Africa may depend in no small measure on a genuine educational revolution that involves,

          at the same time, a widespread use of African languages as media of instruction (Mazrui 1997:46)

Against the tide? The South African debate

The indisputable hegemony of English in the former African colonies of Great Britain gives rise to many profound

questions about the future of the continent and its people. One such question is that relating to the developmental

capacity of African people. Kwesi Prah (1996) and Paulin Djité (1993), among others, have stressed that the failure

of virtually all economic development programmes and campaigns in many African countries may well derive from

the fact that the concepts of science and technology are not embedded in the consciousness of the people of the

continent, most of whom have either no grasp, or only a very inadequate grasp, of the European languages in which

modernisation comes packaged to the continent. While much detailed research would be necessary in order to

substantiate such a far-reaching hypothesis, I do not doubt that it is intuitively correct. If people are unable to

acquire those habits of mind that constitute the substratum of the creativity of scientists and other innovators

because these practices, like the priestly rituals of yore, are conducted in what is virtually an impenetrable secret

language, the thinness of the residual social layer of people who have access to the language concerned guarantees

that the nation as a whole will become mired in mediocrity and stagnation.

Everywhere in Africa, there is a struggle taking place between those of us who realise that, for the next few

generations at least, there is no hope of English becoming the universal second language of the people of the

continent, on the one hand, and those, on the other hand, who cynically, or even sincerely, promote the illusion that

this is possible. There are profound socio-historical reasons for our caution as well as first principles, of democratic

polities among other things. There is first of all what I call Tollefson's paradox, according to which

          inadequate language competence is not due to poor texts and materials, learners' low motivation,

          inadequate learning theories and teaching methodologies, or the other explanations that are commonly

          proposed. Instead, language competence remains a barrier to employment, education, and economic

          well being due to political forces of our own making. For while modern social and economic systems

          require certain kinds of language competence, they simultaneously create conditions which ensure that

          vast numbers of people will be unable to acquire that competence. A central mechanism by which this

          process occurs is language policy (Tollefson 1991:7)


Beyond this basic feature of the political economy of modern industrial societies, there is the historical fact that

there are simply not enough proficient speakers of the English language in any African country, not excepting

South Africa itself, to replicate the conditions of some of the countries of Britain's 'Old Colonial Empire' such as

Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Caribbean islands and the U.S.A. In these dominions, as we know, the native

populations were either eradicated or enslaved or, via conquest and immigration, reduced to the status of minorities

on their own land, so that the English language and Anglo-Saxon cultural forms became hegemonic in what seemed

to be a completely 'natural' process. Above all, however, there is the simple truth that no people, however small,

can ever be content to transact their most important and most intimate business in a language which they do not

command intuitively. None of the established nations of Europe would tolerate this for more than the space of a war

in which they might have been temporarily defeated. There is no reason to assume that African people, or any

people of the economic South, are different. For this reason, it is high time that the superficial and manipulative,

number-crunching techniques of market research, on which the legitimation of the ESL industry is based be put to

the question, along with its empiricist paradigm which, generally, does no more than measure the extent of the

dominance of the ideas of the most powerful strata of the given society.

This position must not be confused with an anti-English prejudice or programme of action. On the contrary, as will

become evident presently, we are in the vanguard of those in South Africa who demand that access to English

become the right of all those who want it, precisely because such access is the key to power at certain levels of

South African society as it is at present structured. It is because we have come to understand the relationship

between underdevelopment, poverty, undemocratic political regimes and langauge policy that we, in South Africa,

are committed to a policy of promoting multilingualism and modernising of the African languages. In doing so, we

are in fact reviving the OAU Language Plan of Action for Africa written as long ago as 1986. Besides the intrinsic

value of being proficient in a number of languages, it is obvious that in the post-colonial situation where lingua

francas which cater for the whole nation either do not exist or where the former colonial language functions as such

in restricted domains, knowledge of two or more national languages is a viable alternative and an essential

practical strategy for the creation of national consensus and even of a sense of national unity. Moreover, given the

arguments I have put forward above in respect of the absurdity of expecting African people to accept voluntarily

that they must normally function in a foreign language, the imperatives of immediate empowerment (via that

foreign language) and the broadening of democracy (via modernisation and the enhancement of the status of the

indigenous languages) prescribe a policy of multilingualism in all social domains.

In an earlier review of David Crystal's book on English as a Global Language, Phillipson (1998) criticises the

author for misrepresenting the position of those who oppose the displacement of indigenous languages by English:

          His admission that there are other views is reflected in quotations from Gandhi and Ngugi 'rejecting'

          English. However, the implications of this position are buried in comments on the expense of

          bilingualism. He does not name the counter-examples, such as Scandinavian competence in English

          being compatible with all affairs being conducted in local languages. Nor reflect on the cultural distance

          between the world of English and that of education for cultural continuity or subsistence farming needs

          in Africa. Ngugi has in fact nothing against the English language as such. What he objects to is the

          purposes to which it is put in global capitalism.

In South Africa, we have been witness to one of the most fascinating processes of language planning and language

policy development for the past fifteen years or so. During the first five or six years what I have called 'language

planning from below' was conducted semi-underground in NGOs and peoples' organisations which were mobilising

constituencies around the language question consciously with a view to changing the status of the African

languages and of Afrikaans. I believe that there are many interesting aspects to this process, some of which may

be useful to other countries in Africa and elsewhere. A forthcoming article by my colleague, Kathleen Heugh, and

myself, traces the process in some detail and discusses the most important developments critically.

For our purposes, I wish to concentrate on the new language policy in education and discuss the dilemmas and the

problems that this has given rise to. The official language policy in education was announced by Minister Sibusiso

Bengu on 14 July 1997 (see Appendix). In doing so, he said, among other things, that

          The new language in education policy isconceived of as an integral and necessary aspect of the new

          government's strategy of building a non-racial nation in South Africa. It is meant to facilitate

          communication across the barriers of colour, language and region, while at the same time creating an

          environment in which respect for languages other than one's own would be encouraged. This approach

          is in line with the fact that both societal and individual multilingualism are the global norm today,

          especially on the African continent. As such, it assumes that the learning of two or more languages

          should be general practice and principle in our society. This would certainly counter any particularistic

          ethnic chauvinism or separatism through mutual understanding. Being multilingual should be a defining

          characteristic of being South African (Bengu 1999:38).

In putting forward this position, the Minister was locating the new language in education policy squarely within the

most progressive tradition of the post-colonial African intelligentsia, as it is enshrined in the OAU resolution of July

1986, which is called the Language Plan of Action for Africa.

In a nutshell, the most important feature of the policy in regard to language medium is its commitment to an

additive bilingualism approach as the desirable norm in all South African schools. This implies, firstly, a

commitment to what used to be called 'mother-tongue instruction', i.e., L1-medium education, under the most

favourable circumstances; secondly, parallel-medium schools in most situations, for economic as well as political

and cultural ('nation-building') reasons; thirdly, dual-medium schools as the ideal, certainly for the next two or

three generations, i.e., until such time as the African languages can hold their own with English and Afrikaans in

high-status functions throughout the economy and the society. It also implies that single-medium educational

institutions which are funded from the public purse in whole or in part will in future be the exception, not the rule, in

South Africa.

The fundamental principle of the additive bilingualism approach to language in education, i.e., that the L1 of the

learner should be maintained throughout the educational career of the learner and that other languages should be

added on to this platform has a very significant political implication in the South African context. This derives from

the fact that under the apartheid regime, so-called mother-tongue instruction had been used to indoctrinate black

schoolchildren with a racist curriculum for social inferiority, an experiment that came to a catastrophic end with the

children's rebellion which we know as the Soweto Uprising of 1976. As a result, besides the hatred for Afrikaans

which Bantu education generated among black people, and the corollary orientation towards English as the

language of power, of 'unity' and of 'liberation', L1-medium education came to be equated in the minds of most

black people with inferiority and racial ghettoisation. This truly baneful legacy of apartheid is, next to the lack of

political will among most of the leadership of the country, the greatest impediment to the implementation of a

successful policy of multilingualism, multilingual education and even of the modernisation of the African languages

at the macro-linguistic level of planning.

Beyond its commitment to an additive bilingualism approach, the new language in education policy makes it

abundantly clear that there is no single correct approach to the language medium question (see Appendix). It

concludes by stating that

          Whichever route is followed, the underlying principle is to maintain home language(s). Hence, the

          Department's position that an additive approach to bilingualism is to be seen as the normal orientation

          of our language-in-education policy. With regard to the delivery system, policy will progressively be

          guided by the results of comparative research, both locally and internationally.

This apparent opening, or weakness, in the policy document has been taken as an opportunity by some scholars to

question, and by others positively to undermine, the very foundations of the policy. As students of language

planning and policy know well, this situation means that, in South Africa, we are about to enter one of the most

decisive periods of debate, polemics and conflict in the domain of language policy. For, very few issues inflame the

passions more than language-medium policy for schools. Our own history in the 20th century has seen two major

rebellions, the first against the language-medium prescriptions of Lord Milner and the second against those of Dr

Verwoerd, which the affected people considered to be oppressive.

It is regrettable that one of the most strategic research reports in the recent history of education in South Africa

has failed to deal with the question of language medium policy with the requisite seriousness. I refer to the Report

of the President's Education Initiative, which was pubished a few weeks ago (Taylor and Vinjevold 1999). In regard

to the language medium issue, the report, after detailing in a very selective manner the findings of various research

initiatives, poses - correctly, in my view - the two basic options with which we are faced in the new South Africa.

Allow me, for the sake of accuracy, to cite the relevant passages in full.

          In these circumstances [they conclude, NA] it seems that government is faced with one of two


          Allocating substantial resources to promoting added (sic) bilingualism

          The following steps would be needed to promote this course:

     advocating the advantages of additive bilingualism.

     the provision of books and materials in the indigenous languages of South Africa and ensuring that teachers

     in the lower primary are fluent in the primary languages of the pupils in their classes.

     the establishment of linguistically homogenous(sic) schools.

          Accepting the growing use of English as language of instruction at all levels of the schools system and

          promoting the conditions requisite for effective teaching and learning through English.

          The following conditions are most frequently quoted in the international research as important for

          instruction in a second language:

     teachers' language proficiency in the target language.

     teachers' competence as language teachers with an understanding of problems of learning in a second

     language and how to overcome these.

     exposure to the target language outside the classroom.

     the provision of graded language textbooks especially in the content subjects in the early phases of


          [They go on to say that, NA] It would seem that modernisation in South Africa and, the inexorable

          urbanisation in particular, is undermining the possibilities for the first alternative and that the more

          realistic option is a straight for English approach, except in linguistically homogenous(sic) classes

          where there is little exposure to English outside the classroom or where parents expressly request an


          Under these conditions, a research priority could be to examine the minimum requirements for

          successful teaching in English in South African schools - the teachers' English language competence,

          the books and materials required, the most effective ways of bridging the learners' language and

          English and other possible forms of support(Taylor and Vinjevold 1999:225-226).

In this forum, it is unnecessary to scrutinise these disastrous passages in detail. They can (and will) be faulted on

numerous grounds in various South African forums during the next few months. There are, however, two

fundamental reasons why they are simply not to be countenanced. In the first place, besides going diametrically

against the existing language in education legislation, they may be deemed to be unconstitutional, a matter which,

clearly, would require a court of law to decide on should it be challenged by one or other lobby. More basic,

perhaps, is the consideration that in a plurilingual country, it ought to be axiomatic that the languages of the citizens

should be seen as assets or resources to be used in the most effective manner for the full development of all the

people. One could compare this, in the South African context, to the existence of low-grade ore in many of our gold

mines. Rather than close down such mines, the authorities and the owners do everything in their power to keep

them going both because of their revenue-producing (wealth-creating) potential and because they provide jobs for

thousands of people. It is the merest blindness and even callousness to be prepared to push to the margin the

indigenous languages of the majority of our people which, as I have intimated variously in this paper, constitute an

inestimable cultural legacy and potential on the one hand and the basis of a potentially vast (language) industry, on

the other.

The hubris implicit in this lightminded recommendation is breathtaking, to put it mildly. It is exacerbated by the fact

that the authors are among the best-intentioned educators in South Africa. Leaving all conspiracy theories aside,

the global ESL industry, which is integral to the processes of globalisation as we have come to know it, could not

have been offered a more attractive bonus at a more opportune time and place!

The wisdom of Joe Slovo

Against such thinking, we have to put the real alternative, based on a consideration of all the relevant data and

comparative research in the light of a larger view of where we appear to be heading. To begin with, we have to

reject the empiricist paradigm within which the data and the conclusions of such studies are generated. Because of

the hegemonic effects of domination, generally speaking, surveys of the kind on which these studies are based can,

at best, indicate the extent of what we can advisedly call false consciousness. Because it is axiomatic that

democracy and empowerment are served by people being able to use the languages they command best, it follows

that formative research and advocacy (or awareness raising) rather than specious statistical misinformation are

required in the kind of situation in which we find ourselves on the African continent. On the logic of the empiricist

approach, if we were to give in to the male chauvinist ignorance of most of the people in Africa, we should be

opposing the use of condoms in order to'fight' against the blight of AIDS!

These recommendations, which, unfortunately, are going to be very influential in the coming debates about the

restructuring and reorientation of education in the new South Africa, are paradoxically parochial and even myopic,

in spite of their seeming 'internationalism' . They do not derive from a careful consideration of the global tension

between the need for one or two world languages in order to facilitate trade, technology and diplomacy, on the one

hand, and the national, sub-regional, and regional need for strong indigenous languages in which are captured the

history as well as all the treasuries of culture of the world's diverse peoples and through the command of which

alone, the individual human beings are able to develop their capacities to the full. Instead, like so much other

fashionable 'research', they have climbed on to the bandwagon of the marketisation of education.

In South Africa, we would be foolish to ignore the dynamics of language planning and language useage in the

evolving systems of the European Union. Coulmas (1992:117) makes the point that the monolingual heritage of

most European states is, ironically, the reason why the EU is willing to spend more on the maintenance of

multilingualism in its institutions than any other international organisation. And, a recent conference where the

question: Which Languages for Europe? was considered, concluded, among other things, that

          (Most) of the participants accepted - although some of them quite reluctantly - the idea that English

          (the so-called continental or international English) is becoming the lingua franca of the EU. It seems

          nothing will be gained by contesting this state of affairs. However, this does not close the issue, as

          there are still many unanswered questions.(Should) a political decision be taken about the lingua

          franca issue? Should the Gordian knot be cut at European political level? But on one thing everybody

          agreed: if English continues to take the lead, compensative political measures have to be taken in

          other domains: massive efforts of translation and interpretation and more facilities for passive

          comprehension. Multilingual policies should absolutely not be abandoned. The lingua franca and

          multilingualism should actually be standing side by side as two shutters of a common language policy

          (European Cultural Foundation 1999:8)


We would do well to remember one of the insights of the late leader of the South African Communist Party, Joe

Slovo, one of the architects of the new South Africa. In justifying the compromises that were made by those who

negotiated the settlement in 1993, he said, among other things, that there were certain limits to the willingness to

compromise. These were determined by the understanding that we should not do anything in the short term that

would make it impossible for us to attain our long-term goals. In my view, the recommendations of the Report of

the President's Education Initiative, were they to be adopted and implemented, would constitute such an obstacle.

Quite apart from the predictable failure of such an undertaking and the accompanying waste of resources and time,

the strategy would set up patterns of behaviour and expectations, a 'monolingual habitus' which it would be very

difficult to alter in future. The dissertation of Gupta-Basu, to which I have referred already, shows, in the Indian

context, how complicated and frustrating the language question could become for future political and cultural

leaders if we set our foot on this path. Ironically, most of the present generation of African political and cultural

leaders have realised belatedly that the English- or French-only or English- or French-mainly language medium

policies that they and their predecessors had followed for more than three decades after formal independence from

colonial rule had in fact been a disastrous detour. Most of these countries are returning to mother-tongue medium

precisely because the kind of 'solution' recommended by the PEI Report has failed.

We have to adopt an additive bilingualism approach, as the new language policy in education prescribes. Without

repeating what I have already described as the educational implications of this approach in respect of management,

school architecture and organisation as well as classroom strategies, I want to conclude by saying very clearly that

for the foreseeable future, such an approach, if carried out systematically but flexibly, will ensure very high levels

of literacy in at least one African language for all future citizens, most of whom will not get beyond the junior

secondary school (at best) for the next few decades, and at least some fluency in English (and probably in another

African language). For the middle classes, there will be an almost guaranteed fluency as well as a high level of

literacy in both their own first language and in English, at the least. In the course of the next century or so - and we

can think realistically in such time frames today because of the progress we have made in language planning theory

and practice - South African schools will normalise, i.e., they will tend to become single-medium institutions where

additional languages, including English, will be taught as subjects by well-trained and highly proficient first- or

second-language speakers of English, as happens in most countries in the world today. This is a calm and

completely feasible view of where we can go; it happens also to be an unproblematical view of where we should go.

The proponents of the spread of English as a language, in spite of the fact that, unlike French, there is no threat to

its hegemony, would do well to give heed to the strategic advice of Louis Calvet to the knights of the Academie

Francaise. According to Dias (1999:18), Calvet advises that

          in Africa the future of French as a language is linked to the future of the development of the countries

          concerned and, therefore, to the future of the great African languages of (wider)

          communication.Without a linguistic policy based on this complementarity, there is no future for

          Frenchbut there will also be no future for Africa, where French will remain a language of the elite, of

          power, while the people remain excluded from knowledge. That is what is at stake: it goes much beyond

          the French language and Europe; it concerns the economic and democratic future of the African

          countries. Obviously, it does not depend entirely on the countries of the North.And, what is valid for

          French, is also valid for other languages, e.g., for Spanish. The plea of the Quechua Indios of the Andes

          in Ecuador, in Bolivia, or in Peru is no different from that of the peasants in Africa. The same applies

          to Portuguese in Brazil, in Angola and in Mozambique and, incidentally, to Mandarin in the major part

          of China. (cited and translated by P.Dias from Calvet, L'Europe et ses langues, p.142and 140)

Dias adds, 'and also to Hindi in India and Afrikaans in South Africa'. These languages can only maintain and

expand their power if they simultaneously ensure that other indigenous or local languages flourish and develop.

I end off this address by saying as loudly as possible that social responsibility demands from all of us, whether we

are educationalists, language planners or policy makers, that we ensure that precisely because of the hegemonic

position of the language, the same responsibility applies above all, to English itself!


English as a Global Tongue

English is spoken by more people than any other language in the world, thus it is considered a world language. Today English

seems to be evolving into a future global tongue as its spreading on the Internet in recent years shows (almost 80% of the

world-wide-web's pages are now written in English). In this context the English language is accused of being a killer language

that wipes out smaller languages as well as the cultures they represent. Scientific research has found that in fact many small

languages have already vanished. However, English fits in a slot that could have been filled by any other language. It can neither

be blamed for developments demanding an international lingua franca nor for the consequences of using one super language for

world-wide communication.

Immense progress in fields of science and technology has created the need to facilitate a world wide exchange of knowledge.

Thus the latest industrial developments demand an international language which everyone is able to understand. Because of its

predominance in the industrial world it seems convenient that English will become this world language.

But, if everyone speaks the same language, will people still be able to keep their local identities? As long as regional groups

manage to keep their own language for internal communication the emergence of a global tongue is no danger to their culture. In

Europe globalisation has even turned into an opportunity for different regions to express their diversity. For example, Scotland

and Wales are becoming more independent from the British government. The fact that in Wales children are learning Welsh

again shows that if regions are interested in maintaining their regional culture an additional lingua franca for official

communication will not threaten their language.

However, the loss of languages plays a role in societies that are less developed than ours. Members of small linguistic groups

are changing to a language of a higher rank in hierarchy in advantage of flexibility. For example an African worker will find a job

much easier if he or she applies in a larger area than just his or her local region. R.M.W. Dixon states in his essay on the

'Language loss in Australian Aboriginal languages' that parents even force their children to speak English at home and avoid

code-switching to their indigenous mother-tongue in order to provide better chances for their future career. As a consequence,

the former vernacular languages which is now no longer spoken has lost its intrinsic function. So by trying to survive in a

capitalistic system of competition the actual victims are forced to support a process which debases their own culture.

Dixon's analysis shows that 'killer languages' cause the wipe out of indigenous languages. But is the English language guilty of

having banished so many languages? According to Brenzinger (1991, p.40), in India most dying languages are replaced by

other regional languages with a higher rank in the hierarchy of languages rather than by a world language. In those few cases

where languages are replaced by English there is nothing intrinsic in the English language itself which makes it work as a killer

language. The predominance of other European languages like Spanish, French and Portuguese during the colonial period has

wiped out native languages in South America and Africa just as well as English has caused the loss of languages in North

America and Australia.

Besides being widely spread the only distinctive feature the killer languages mentioned above have in common is that those who

introduced the languages were in control of power. Now, in the after-colonial age the slogan 'money makes the world go

round' shows that profit has a great impact on political decisions. Considering the fact that the US Dollar is the strongest

currency on earth, it does not seem coincidental that English is the only candidate for a global language. The influence of English

speaking business men has become another important impulse.

No matter how we evaluate the consequences, we can be sure that English as a global language is definitely to come. A global

tongue will inevitably function as a killer language, so we will not be able to preserve all languages and their cultures. Frankly,

the loss of individual culture is one of the prices of progress in our modern world. If we inverse the argumentation we would

have to propose : 'Let us stop progress, stop scientific research and technological inventions. Let us stick to the status quo so

we will save some languages!'. Who would agree? So we will have to pay the price for a global language. The obvious thing to

do is to teach people a skilful use of the English language now to enable them to participate in international communication so

they as well will benefit from the advantages of a global tongue.

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