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Why is English so popular?

Why do so many people learn English as a second language?

Is it easy? No. English is one of the most complex languages to learn. It’s not a very logical language. Our spelling system is crazy and so is our (very irregular) grammar. It’s not considered the most beautiful language, either. If there is one thing to take away from this, it’s that languages do not thrive because they are “perfect” in any way – they thrive mostly due to cultural (political, economical, religious, etc…) reasons.

The Arts & Amusement.

  • People read for fun. There have been many prolific and talented English writers. A lot of contemporary music is in English. Movies, games, advertising, computer programs, plays, and other forms of entertainment are often available first (or only) in English.

Politics & History.

  • Some of the most imperialistic countries were English speaking: mainly, Britain and America. Britain colonized most of Africa and India, and with that colonization came the spread of the English language. When the government, schools, or religious bodies in a country speak a certain language (English), the language will permeate through all aspects of a society.

Academia.

  • The majority of scientific and technical information is available in English. Did you know that 80% of the information stored in electronic retrieval systems is in English? [Source: Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language.] In many parts of the world (where lesser-known languages are spoken), the only way to read famous pieces of literature is to read them in English (Shakespeare, the Bible, etc…).

Simplicity.

  • This is a sort of chicken-egg situation. It seems like many people know English, so more and more people learn it to be able to communicate easily…

Communication.

  • With so many languages to choose from to learn, people want to pick the one that will be most useful. English is used as a communicating language – meaning that two speakers of other languages (say Swahili and German) may use English as a common language to speak in.

Before English, the prevailing language was Latin. We know how that ended up! In the coming centuries we’ll see if English holds its ground.

What would you pick as your second language? I’ve studied Italian, French, and German… I’m best at Italian. I want to learn Japanese and Spanish.


5 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. 1

    Neat! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately in Kenya. Most people I encounter speak both English and Swahili. The kids are taught English in schools, so young people especially are usually fluent. I makes me feel like a total American a-hole for only speaking one language fluently.

  2. Marie #
    2

    I could count myself lucky to have English as my first language, but from a strictly statistical point of view, it was the most likely outcome. As a Southern Californian, my definite pick for a second language is Spanish. Four years of high school study leaves me almost literate and not nearly fluent, but able to communicate well enough with my hispanic neighbors, who often speak English with equal difficulty.

  3. 3

    One thing English does have going for it, independent of history and politics (though history and politics are at the source of this oddity) is that it has about twice as many words as most languages. The reason: it developed after the Battle of Hastings when William of Normandy came over to what we now now as England and conquered the locals who, at the time, were speaking German (notice I said ‘locals’ not natives). The blending of the languages spoken by the conquered (German) and the conquerors (French) is what became English. And the etymology here is fascinating: from German we get house (haus) and from French we get mansion (maison); from German we get swine (schwein) and from French we get pork (porc). It’s pretty clear who was living in what kind of home, who was tending the animals and who was doing the fine dining based on the words that have come down from each language…

  4. Tawanda Machava #
    4

    The whole concept of English popularity retains back to colonialism and nothing else.In Zimbabwe,colonisation has brought a high english culture above native cultures and it has done it in Africa and world wide.After establishing the english developmental principles ,the language of development became the language of the world .take it in a broader sense

  5. Dreamer #
    5

    I thing English have so reasons to be popular because the nations in the world needs one language common and united them for easy conversation between them in any part in the world and also for how powerful countries like united kingdoom yesterday and united states of America today indeed I’m from Algeria and I love studying English but sadly thing is we geted French in Schools as a forigen language not English so..sorry for my English in this comment but I hope be good in at some day..


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