Would you consider English the universal language?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by science man, May 4, 2010.


Would you consider English the universal language yet?

  1. yes

    21 vote(s)
  2. no

    15 vote(s)
  1. Omega133 Aus der Dunkelheit Valued Senior Member

    But what about Binary?
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  3. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    When I was a schoolkid (lo! those many centuries ago) the English didn't start taking French lessons until they were 11 or older (generally anyway; for my school it was 9); the French, however, started learning English at age 6 (and this was confirmed when I went to France and school there).
    Likewise when I started to learn Russian at age 13 we were told that Russian schoolkids took English lessons from the age of 4.
    I've been to France, Germany, and the Czech Republic (and the Netherlands - but their command of English has already been commented on) and never had a problem finding an English speaker when I've stumbled over the local language. In my experience (my personal experience) those who have any grasp at all of English in a foreign country tend to extremely willing to put it into practice and use it whenever the opportunity arises.

    My parents have been a couple of times (10-20 years ago) and had no difficulty despite my mother's best command of French being "Bonjour monsieur" regardless of whether she was speaking to a man or a woman.
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  5. I can't for google translator to reach perfection or any translator for that matter.
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  7. hmmm ok well glad to hear it.
  8. nirakar ( i ^ i ) Registered Senior Member

    The website below puts English speakers at 914,398,325 people.

    They include 132 million Indians who speak English as a third language. They include 55% of Germans for another 46 million people. Perhaps the discrepancy between the 480 million cited by one Wikipedia site and the 900 million cited by the other Wikipedia site might be because of different standards of fluency.

    The 480 million number seemed too low to me. It is debatable whether I can speak Spanish. A lot of people in India speak English about as well as I speak Spanish. I still find their limited English useful too me when I visit India because I only know about 100 Hindi words.
    Last edited: May 5, 2010
  9. nirakar ( i ^ i ) Registered Senior Member

    The Chinese are starting to do a lot of business in Africa. The USA is on a path towards economic irrelevancy and therefore English may become less important. The global village world we are living in creates a need for a universal language but it might end up being Chinese rather than English.
  10. Chinese become the universal language? :crazy:

    huh well if that ever happens of course I'll learn it :worship: but I highly doubt it.
  11. soullust Registered Senior Member

    really though, One the USA is not the originator of the Language, it was a universal vote by the Largest world economies. and don't ever say America has no say, they still have the largest economy, and the largest reserves of hard currency with in there border.
  12. nirakar ( i ^ i ) Registered Senior Member

    I was intrigued by the rise and fall of Aramaic as the universal language of it's region.

    If Aramaic could fade into obscurity then English also could fade into obscurity. Right now English is still expanding and shows potential of becoming a global universal language but I would not be surprised if Chinese, (Mandarin) surpasses English 50 years from now. English has the head start but will China becoming the worlds largest buyer and seller of products overcome the head start that English had?

    Will India become competitive with China in manufacturing any time soon? If that happened it would increase the likeliness of English becoming the universal language.

    I do expect that all this ever increasing global integration will lead to there being a universal language 100 years from now. On the other hand the trend of ever increasing global integration is not guaranteed to continue. Some political events, maybe trade wars, or fear of plagues or nuclear war or something else unforeseen event may reverse the trend towards global integration.
  13. NightFall Lazy Hedonist Valued Senior Member

    I think it is on it's way there, sadly. On one hand, limitless communication opens doors for limitless advancement and social progression. however, languages are one of the most difining aspecs of a culture and it is sad to think of how many will die off over the next 100 years. Expressive as it may be, I would rather something more pleasant than English become universal tongue.

    However on the idea of a universal language, do you think if all the world spoke the same language, would we have more peace or more war?
  14. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

    Uh, no.
    The French speak French because they always have.
    Kinda like Americans speak 'English', for the same reason...
  15. I think it's possible.
  16. Well then how do you explain the Spanish, Italian, Greek ect?
  17. glaucon tending tangentially Registered Senior Member

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  19. Ambrose Mason Obsidian Gael Registered Senior Member

    English is like common in the Forgotten Realms and fantasy books. It's also a great language for literature with so many adjectives.
  20. NightFall Lazy Hedonist Valued Senior Member

    that was multiple choice, not agreement.
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Language is a tool for communication within a community of people. Mathematics is a field of study, namely of quantities, changes, space, etc.

    Perhaps you're referring to mathematical notation. It is a system of writing, but not a system for writing language. It fails that definition for multiple reasons, primarily because it is language-independent: speakers of all languages use the same mathematical symbols in the same way but read the equations, formulas, etc., aloud in their own language.
    Duh? What you're saying is that there are fewer speakers of English on the entire planet than there are speakers of Chinese in the country of its origin. That hardly supports the hypothesis of the "universality" of English.

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    I daresay that's true of any students of any language. Once you've put the effort into studying it, you want to practice it, particularly if you have the (perhaps rare) opportunity to test your understanding of a native speaker and his understanding of you, as well as to receive his advice.

    I can be a real pest when I hear people speaking a language I've studied, although I've learned the hard way that they don't all have the same attitude toward foreign students. The Japanese--often honestly and literally--don't realize you're speaking Japanese because that language from that face does not conform to their expectations. (A proven tactic is to walk up behind them--no joke!) The French act like you're desecrating their sacred language. (This is most true of the Northern French and their Frankish heritage--most notoriously the Parisians. I found the Southern French with their Celtic heritage considerably more collegial, and the Quebecois I've met have been downright friendly and helpful.) The Germans will speak German to you but they won't dumb down their vocabulary or talk slowly. The Italians are just happy to talk and don't seem to care if you understand each other. The Chinese and speakers of Spanish are so pleased that somebody actually wants to learn their language that they'll put considerable effort into helping you. The Romanians will talk to you in French, assuming that nobody else speaks Romanian but the entire world knows French. As for the Slavic peoples, I haven't met many Russians but the Czechs, Poles, Slovenes, etc. are so amazed if you can say one word in their language that they'll buy you lunch and give you a private lesson.
    A friend of mine who speaks French well enough to get along as a tourist once phoned a Paris hotel from L.A. to make a reservation. Before launching into French, she asked the manager, "Parlez-vous anglais?" He shouted, "Non!" and slammed down the phone before she had a chance to respond.
    I hadn't gone into it that deeply but I'm sure you're right. It would make sense to count only people who are functionally fluent. Many Indians speak English as a second language and can work in an anglophone environment with no problem in comprehension. As an ESL teacher I define "second language" as "functionally fluent," not "one of only two." A person can speak more than one second language.
    Use my powers-of-three scale. In English, I'd say 15,000 words is functionally fluent, and that's a rating of 8.4. Your fluency in Hindi is 4. Most of us well-educated anglophones are up around 9 in English, with people like Winston Churchill at 10. I'm about 8 in Spanish and somewhere between 6 and 7 in several other languages. I'd say 8.0 is better than tourist fluent but not live-there fluent.

    It's not so easy to apply my rating scale to agglutinative languages like Chinese or Finnish, where it's not clear what exactly constitutes a "word."
    That would be fortuitous. Chinese has a couple of key advantages over English:
    • It's easier to learn, with no inflections and very few "noise words" like articles and prepositions.
    • Because of this, the syllable count of a sentence is about 70% of the count in English or French, probably the two most compact European languages. This means that it's spoken more slowly, making it easier for a foreigner or a student to pick out the words he knows.
    Of course the Chinese logographic writing system is almost impossible for an adult to learn, but by the time Chinese is in any position to become universal, they will have adopted one of the phonetic writing systems that have already been developed. They're just waiting for the non-Mandarin languages to die out from attrition, like Cantonese and Fujian. They use the same words but pronounce them much differently, so they can all read the same logograms, but they could not all read the same phonetic symbols. ("Five" is wu in Mandarin but ng in Cantonese.)
    Aramaic hung on for more than two thousand years, from ancient times up through the fall of the Ottoman Empire. There are still people who speak it and there are Aramaic websites. What is pertinent to this discussion is the astounding fact that Aramaic continued to be used as the lingua franca of the Middle East--and even as the vernacular language of millions of people--long after the Aramaean people disappeared!
    When a language vanishes, a huge part of the culture behind it vanishes. Studying the Hopi language teaches us that the Hopi have a completely different way of seeing the universe than we do, and it's very difficult to express the concepts of their culture in our language or vice versa. Their concept of time is almost incomprehensible to us! Think of all the other thousands of viewpoints we've lost over the centuries.
    Pleasantness is a matter of taste. Ask twenty anglophones what the most beautiful foreign language is and you'll probably get at least eight different answers. (I vote for Romanian, in case you're wondering.)
    Language is only one of many ways in which two peoples can be similar or different. Speaking the same language didn't stop the Northern and Southern Americans from killing off two to three percent of their population in the bloodiest war since Genghis Khan's era. Every Jew in Nazi Germany spoke fluent German, and for many it was the only language they knew.

    But if our entire species spoke the same language, what we would lose is cultural richness. That in itself would impoverish us philosophically, and I would bet that this would make it more difficult to resolve differences peacefully.
  22. Hey what about the fact that most of Wikipedia's articles are in English?
  23. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    English seems to be the common language of science & computer technology. \Also: there is a lot more non-fiction published in English than other languages (this is a guess on my part).

    The above might tend to make English a universal language due to a large number of people using it as a second language.

    I do not think any language will become a universal language if the definition is a language used by all & replacing most other languages.

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