How did English become international?
English is a language that is spoken all over the world and is often referred to as “lingua franca”. Lingua franca is a language that is adopted as a common language among speakers of other languages. English is often used when it comes to international diplomacy, academic journals as well as global commerce. In addition, English is the most common language on the internet. For about five hundred years ago, there were between five and seven million english speakers in the world. According to “Babbel.com,” up to 1.5 billion people speak English today, either as their first or second language. That is more than 20% of the world’s population. So, how did English reach this kind of status?
The British Empire played a huge role when it comes to the spread of English. In the 16th century England began establishing colonies overseas. English was taken around the world by the sailors, soldiers, pilgrims, traders and missionaries of the British Empire. By the end of the 18th century the British Empire had grown quite extensive with colonies in a few parts of India and Africa, in the Caribbean, Canada and what was to become the United States.
Through the 19th English began to surpass French. By the time of the first World War, the United States had become a strong economic power and its role in the war increased its political influence in Europe. After the war the Treaty of Versailles was written not only in French but also an English. This signalled the start of English as a language of diplomacy but it was after WWII when English really began to develop into the main global lingua Franca, as the United States developed more fully into a world superpower.
As the United States grew in power advancements in technology gave rise to mass communication and media. American movies TV and music spread throughout the world, exposing regular people to the English language rather than just being the lingua Franca of International Business and diplomat you can now stay at a youth hostel and communicate with most of the other travellers in English. This is largely because of English language mass media as well as English as a second language courses being a part of the curriculum in schools in many countries. This is something that has continued to increase in response to the growing importance of English as a global language, and that makes the growth of English self-reinforcing.
Today over 96% of scientific articles are written in English. In the past couple of decades globalisation has solidified the position of England as a global language with people from all over the world interacting with each other more and relying on the global lingua Franca to communicate. And on top of that the internet has accelerated that trend. English is the number one which online and people from all over the world are constantly exposed to English online and communicate via social media with people from all over the world mainly in English.
So, in summar, the reach of the of the British Empire brought english to all 4 corners of the globe. And the rise of America built upon that momentum. As the world has gotten a smaller place due to technology and globalization, English has become a truly global language.