Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Common Language

If you're a regular here on the Culture Shock weblog, consider yourself privileged. 

No, I don't say that because this is a spectacular blog or anything.  I say it because that means that you are part of the 4 billion people in the world who use English - or "Globish" as Newsweek calls it.  In other words, not only can you read and understand this blog, you are able to speak with, listen to, or understand 67% of the rest of the world when they use English.

While I studied teaching ESL four years ago, we were told that we might someday find ourselves in a situation where 2 people from 2 different parts of the world who speak 2 different languages are communicating in a common second language - English.  They used the example of two businessmen - one Japanese and one Dutch meeting in Cairo, and speaking a language which is native neither to the people nor the land.  "Pretty cool", I thought, "I wonder if I will ever see that?" 

Turns out that I have seen something like it on a few occasions since I've lived in Croatia.   Just this morning, I listenened to a conversation between these two guys:

The one on the left is Croat.  He asked the teenager on the right from Norway to tell him a little about the electronic drumset he was playing as part of the concert they would be putting on this evening in our small town of Orahovica.  They spoke English and understood each other quite well.  Even though Croatian and Norwegian were their native languages, they successfully used a second language to communicate effectively. 
It happens all around the world folks. So while it may not seem like a privilege to speak a language most of the world understands, if English is your native tongue, the fact is the rest of the world is learning how to communicate with you.

Kind of convicting for someone who only knows one language fluently.   Thankfully, it's English.  

1 comment:

Brian Barker said...

I believe that the promulgation of English as the world's "lingua franca" is impractical and linguistically undemocratic. I say this as a native English speaker.

Impractical because communication should be for all and not only for an educational or political elite. That is the position of English at the momen because minority languages are under attack worldwide due to the encroachment of majority ethnic languages. Even Mandarin Chinese is attempting to dominate as well. The long-term solution must be found and a non-national language, which places all ethnic languages on an equal footing is essential.

An interesting video can be seen at

A glimpse of Esperanto can be seen at