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English is the most widespread
world language today. It has become the official language of cross-border trade
and business, and the language of the internet1.
A world language is a language spoken internationally, spread over large
geographical areas and with many speakers, both native and as a second language2.
There are many factors that have contributed to the outspread of the English
language, such as the expansion of the British Empire, media and entertainment,
and globalisation, which has led to cross-border trade and business. These
points will be discussed further in this text. There is controversy in the
world about the spread of the English language. Is this spread positive or not?

The English language started
spreading because of the expansion of the British Empire, which started about
400 years ago, the Empire has both grown and become smaller over the years. At
one point, it had territory on all the continents, colonisation is therefore
the main reason the native English speakers are spread over large parts of the
world. The people of the British colonies were forced to learn English and many
of these countries, which are independent today, kept English as their official
language, mostly because of practical reasons. English was the language of the
government, and had a high status among the citizens. It might have been
regarded as better than other eventual local languages, and was more attractive
to learn and to speak. This can be seen as a negative aspect of the outspread
of English, the above is an example of how the English language diminishes other
smaller languages.

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As well as colonisation, the
Industrial Revolution contributed greatly to the spread of the English
language. During this revolution, major technological advances were made3.
Any country who wanted access to this new information would need to understand
English. The use of the English language when presenting new inventions and
technology has continued since. This is a positive aspect of the spread of the
English language, there is a larger audience and more people all around the
world know about the product and more people will therefore want to buy it.

English has become more and
more popular to use and learn over the past few years with the spread of social
media. Today, we can easily communicate with people from the whole world. To
understand each other, a lingua franca, a bridge language, is used. English is
the world’s lingua franca because of the great power English-speaking
countries, such as the USA and the UK, holds. This power is divided into many
parts, one of which is the cultural power. Hollywood movies make up almost the
entire entertainment industry and are popular all around the world. Many people
learn English just to watch and follow their favourite TV-shows and movies. The
likely expansion of the entertainment industry in the near future will probably
spread English over even larger geographical areas.

Trade and business today takes
place on an open, international market, which has emerged due to globalisation,
a process by which nations become increasingly attached and dependent on one another.
Professional conversations and meetings take place mostly in English, and it is
therefore essential for anyone on the market to be able to speak and understand
English. Over large geographical areas there will be different accents, phrases
and ways of expressing yourself, which can lead to misunderstandings. It may be
more difficult to have productive meetings when the parts struggle to
understand one another. Non-native speakers will also be at a disadvantage
compared to native speakers, because they are less familiar with the language
and it can therefore be harder for them to express themselves, and to
understand what the native English speaker is saying. However, cross-border
trading also opens up for huge opportunities, especially for smaller and poorer
countries. They can join in on the international market, obtain a larger
audience, and build their economy. This can contribute to the strengthening of
international bonds, and countries become reliant of one another. First and foremost,
this reliance, among many other benefits, can prevent wars and conflicts. We
can thank English, as the world’s lingua franca, for these benefits and
opportunities.

The English language has been
spreading continuously for about 400 years, since the British Empire started
growing, and even after the Empire died down. The spread has been aided by numerous
factors, such as the entertainment industry and social media. Globalisation and
the growth of the open international market has further prompted more and more
people to learn English. A global language has both positive and negative
aspects. It helps smaller countries to build up a larger audience and improve
economy, and can also help prevent conflicts because of the interdependence which
exists between most countries in the world today. Nonetheless, the English
language also diminishes other smaller languages. Due to its high status in the
world, it may be regarded as ‘better’ to speak English, rather than native
languages, in certain communities.

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