How Did English become World’s Most Powerful Language?

Hello, friends! Have you ever wondered why English is such a popular language? Why are you expected to know English if you want to move ahead in your career? Not only in India, in most of the countries in the world, but you are also expected to be able to speak in English in addition to your mother tongue. What is so special about English? That it became the most powerful language in the world. Why is it the Global Language? And which was the most powerful language in the world before English?

In today’s educational post, come, let’s try to find out. “Like most languages, English has evolved through generations of speakers.” “The English language is a big, beautiful mess. Few languages are as diverse and unexpected in their history. Let’s begin.” Looking back at history, the answer begins with the British Empire. The largest Empire in the world. “For 200 years, Britain was the most powerful nation in the world. From Canada to India, from Australia to Nigeria, from the Caribbean to South Africa, The British Empire once ruled over a third of the people on Earth.” The year was 1922 when this Empire was at its peak. It was occupying a large chunk of the world, larger than ever before. Look at this map, of all the land on Earth, 25% of the area was under the control of the British Empire at this time. If you start at one corner New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the UAE, many African countries, then comes the UK and till Canada.

All of these were under British Empire’s control. There was a saying that ‘The Sun never sets over the British Empire.’ And you can see why this was true. By the time Australia had sunset, it would’ve been morning in India. And by the time India had the sunset, Canada’s morning would’ve begun. In total, a population of 450 million people was under this British Empire. The British Empire was colonizing so many countries. And the people of the colonies, if they wanted to have a good career, if they wanted good jobs, then they had to learn the English language. That’s why in the colonized countries, English was considered the ‘Language of the Elite.’ If you were educated and had a good job, then, of course, you’d know English. But what happened when the hold of the British Empire started breaking away? By the 1950s, most of the colonies had gotten their independence.

Or they had begun a strong independent movement. The British had to leave the country and had to give independence to these countries. One of these countries was India. Even after getting independent, in most of the colonies English remained as an official or the national language. Why? There were different reasons in different countries. Take India for example. When India’s Constitution was being drawn up, the Constituent Assembly discussed this in detail. Whether English should be used as an official language in India, or should Hindi be used only? Should Hindi be made into the national language?

Many people favored Hindustani becoming the national language of the country. The language, which is a mix of Hindi and Urdu. But many people believed that English should continue as the official language. One of these people was Dr BR Ambedkar. He believed that the best way to represent the Dalit community the English language was the best option. In fact, he believed that of all the communities in India the English language is the only language that’s equidistant to all others.

There isn’t an added advantage to any community. He used the example that Brahmins would be at an advantage is Sankritised Hindi became the national language. Apart from him, many leaders from South India were also concerned about it. They believed that Hindi is a North Indian language and if it became the national language, then South India would feel underrepresented. That’s why it was decided that there’d be two official languages in India. Hindi and English. But at the same time, over the next 15 years, they would work to phase out English because during the independence, English was also seen as the ‘Language of the Coloniser.’ That since it was the language spoken by the British, it shouldn’t be promoted.

It was said that by 1965, English would be completely phased out. Although, the Parliament was given the option that the Parliament could continue using English. In 1967, an ‘Angrezi Hatao’ (Remove English) movement was also launched. By a Socialist leader. That English should be completely phased out. But it wasn’t done so. Because this movement had to phase a lot of resistance from the South Indian leaders. And obviously, their demand was also justified, they asked why Hindi should be the one chosen. Why not Tamil? And because of this reason, English is still an official language. America’s story is somewhat similar to this.

The United States of America was colonized by many countries. Britain, France, Spain, Netherlands, but the major portion belonged to Britain. So when the USA got its independence from the Britishers, they realized the importance of having a national identity and that language plays a very important role. They decided that this language would be English. Which would unite the various States. You might be surprised to know this but at that time, many languages were spoken in the USA. French, Spanish, Dutch, German, but English was given priority. Priority to the extent that by the early 20th century, several States banned teaching in foreign languages in schools.

It was only in 1923, that the Supreme Court of the USA, struck down the private language education restrictions. The story that I told you till now, explains English being spoken in the countries colonized by Britain. But what about the rest of the countries in the world? No one forced the other countries to use English. So how did English spread to the rest of the world?

So how did English spread to the rest of the world? The answer to this is hidden in the last 50-70 years, friends. In World War II, the Allied countries defeated the Axis countries. Allied countries like Britain, America and France, defeated countries like Germany, Japan and Italy. The first point is that the countries that win a war of this scale, their culture dominates over the world. Since English was being spoken in Britain and the USA, it dominated the world. the USA became the most powerful country in the world, after the end of World War II, the USA was one of the only countries that didn’t incur huge losses. The developed European countries were devastated.

Their economic growth had crashed. But in America, a large economic boom was seen after the end of World War II. After the 1950s, America came up as a superpower along with the Soviet Union. With the help of Capitalism, American businesses start to spread all around the world. The top business schools started teaching in English. English became the language for trade and business. The musical bands from America were releasing their works in English and started becoming popular worldwide. Additionally, the same thing was seen with the filmmakers.

Hollywood films and American television series became global sensations. America had the best technologies in all these aspects. Due to this, the American culture spread throughout the world. World War II is said to be a very important reason for this because many people believe, that if Germany and the Axis powers had won World War II, then perhaps German would’ve been the more dominant language in the world today. Perhaps the trades and businesses taking place globally now, would have been in Germany. Because in most of Europe, the German language would have been imposed on most European countries. Had Adolf Hitler won. But this is purely theoretical.

It is difficult to say what would have happened actually. But the reality of today is that after America and Britain’s victory, English proved to be a powerful language. The last, final, reason. How could English dominate even after the 1980s and 1990s? Leaving behind all other languages. The reason behind it is that the invention of the Internet occurred in America. The companies related to the internet that came up did so in America.

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But whether it is Google, Facebook, YouTube, Apple, all these top technologies companies, that rely heavily on the internet, were founded in America. That’s why today 63% of the websites on the Internet, have content in English. And obviously, the invention of computers and the invention of keyboards, Keyboards and typewriters were also invented by an American. So obviously, he did it in his language. English. So that’s why initially the computers had English keyboards only. And so all these websites were developed in English. It was only after the age of smartphones that websites in other languages started becoming more common. And through the touchscreens of smartphones, keyboards in other languages started being developed.

Before smartphones, keyboards in other languages were very rare. So friends, because of all these reasons, today in 2021, English has become the most powerful, the most important and the global language. But is English the first global language? The story that I told you, started after the British Empire was established. What happened before it? Was there another global language before English? The answer is, Yes! There were 2 Indo-European languages, that were very dominant in their era. And these languages were Greek and Latin. A linguistic professor from the University of Chicago states that Latin is the first recorded global language in the world.

And it was the global language longer than English. For 1,300 years. It was the dominant language in the world. It was during the Roman Empire. In most of the Western European cities, Latin was one of the main languages. But after the end of the Roman Empire, the language Latin broke into pieces. It started developing differently in different regions. Due to this, many of the current languages were formed. You’ll be surprised to know that Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian these four important and widely spoken languages emerged from Latin. On the other hand, if we talk about Asia, In Asia, Arabic, Chinese, and Persian or Farsi, were the dominating languages. I’m talking about the 15th century, as you’d know, Mughal Emperors like Akbar, talked in Farsi.

Do you know that around the later 1800s, some people thought that the languages that exist now, are imperfect in some way or the other. So they decided to develop a language through which every person in the world could communicate with everyone else. That wouldn’t be limited to only a country. That isn’t limited to a region. Instead, it could be a global language. That’s how the Esperanto language was born, friends. It is a language that was created by a Polish man, in 1887. And obviously, as you can guess, this language wasn’t successful.

Today, it is estimated that about 100,000 to 2 million people speak Esperanto. One thing is certain, it is very easy to learn this language. The creator of this language claimed that it would take only an hour to learn its grammar. If you know any European language. If you know any of these languages, you can easily learn this. Because it is a language created out of the combination of these languages. And while creating it, it was ensured that its grammar is made as simple as possible.

Things are pronounced as they are spelt. And by using prefixes and suffixes, it is very easy to create new words. So it doesn’t have an extensive vocabulary. You can easily learn the new words of this language. Fun fact, you can learn this language too on Duolingo for free. If you are curious to know more about this language you can go check it out. It has 28 alphabets and if you compare it to English, it is missing alphabets like Q, W, X, Y because he felt that these alphabets are a bit useless. And aren’t used much. So they are replaced by some alternative alphabets for sounds that aren’t normally signified in English by any special alphabets.

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