English: The Language of International Communication

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryA generation ago, I was teaching English as a foreign language in Taiwan. At the time, about five percent of all Taiwanese understood English, and Taiwan was beginning to emerge from one-party authoritarian rule. Today, Taiwan is a democracy and over 28 percent of all Taiwanese understand English, and the percentage of all Taiwanese being able to read, write and speak English is increasing. In Singapore, the percentage of Singaporeans who can understand English is 48 percent. In Vietnam, the percentage of Vietnamese who can understand English is about 50 percent. In Europe, the knowledge and use of English is even higher. In Germany the percentage of Germans who can speak English is 56 percent. In Portugal, the percentage of Portuguese who can speak English is 56 percent. In Belgium, the percentage of Belgians who can speak English is 55 percent. In the Netherlands, the number of Dutch who can speak English is higher at 95 percent. In Sweden, the percentage of Swedish who can speak English is 89 percent.

English is the language of international business. English is also the official language in aviation, the international language of medical communications, the universal language of science, and the language of international relations and diplomacy. In short, English is the most widespread language of choice. English helps break down communication barriers, helps to resolve international disputes, and helps to break down cultural and social barriers for conducting business between corporations, countries and people. Those countries where its people have a better grasp of English have a far better chance of becoming part of the global business network. This in turn will mean that these countries will be able to economically prosper compared to those countries outside the global business network. I am by no means belittling languages like Spanish, French and Portuguese. Far from it—these languages form mini-blocs of countries and peoples in certain regions who communicate with one another so that no one country is ever isolated and alone.

I simply state that English is the over-arching language used throughout the entire world. We also have to keep in mind that four major countries have English as their primary or official language. These countries are the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. The United States is the number one economy of the world, and the U.S. dollar is the official global currency of exchange. Great Britain is the fifth largest exporter in the world. Canada is the tenth largest economy in the world. Australia is the 14th largest economy, followed by New Zealand which is the 54th largest economy. These four countries are very closely tied by economics, culture, history, and most important of all language. Their influence goes well beyond their borders, and English has always been and remains the key for their success. In so many ways, without English this world would be far more fragmented, more disunited and more embroiled in war and chaos than it is. I am happy and proud that I taught English back in Taiwan all those years ago.

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