Reading Level: Intermediate – Advanced English
Reading Time: About 3 minutes
Why We Speak English
I’m more likely to do something if I know WHY I’m doing it.
As an English learner, have you ever thought about why we speak English?
No, I don’t mean your personal reasons (if you speak English as a Second Language) like getting a better job, or making your mom proud. I mean… why did English become a global language?
Why do 1.5 billion people around the world speak English?! Why are only about 25% of the world’s English speakers native English speakers? Why is English the language of aviation, the sea, most scientific journals, many international organizations, business, technology, the music we listen to and the movies and TV shows we watch?
I did some research over the last week to find out, and wanted to share my findings with you. I’ve grouped history into 10 top reasons why the world speaks English today.
Tell me in the comments, do you think English should be our global language of communication?
Basically, English just seems to always be in the right place at the right time. Let’s look at 10 of those places and times so I can explain a little more.
Quick disclaimer: I have a Master’s Degree in Education, not History, so please excuse me if I missed some important points here… feel free to add to our knowledge in the comments!
Top 10 Historical and Cultural Reasons Why the World Speaks English Today
1 – War and English Language
In 1066 the Norman Conquest made French the language of Britain. So, we would all be speaking French now if it weren’t for the The 100 Years War between the French and the English. In 1363 after the Treaty of Bretigne, Parliament opened once again in English. From this period of time as well as others, French language has had a huge influence on English.
The Allies, including Britain and the US, won World War 1, which brought in more English influence around the world. The Treaty of Versailles was signed in English and French, marking the importance of both languages.
World War 2 boosted the US economy as Americans produced supplies for the war. After World War 2, the US became the richest nation on Earth. The Allies, including Britain and the US, won World War 2, which also brought in more English influence around the world. The United Nations was formed after World War 2, and English became an official language along with French, Russian, Arabic, Spanish and Chinese.
2 – Migration and English Language
English started to come about in 410AD when Germanic Tribes, including the Angles and Saxons, migrated over to Britain. Their vocabulary became more popular than the existing Latin from the Roman Empire, and Old English started.
In the Colonial Era of the US, of the 19th Century, immigrants came from many English-speaking countries. Many immigrants, including slaves, also came from non-English speaking countries. To assimilate, or to become like existing residents, everyone started to learn English. From the early 19th Century until the Great Depression, the US had a huge spike in immigration. This increase in immigration can also be seen after World War 2, from 1950 to the present day.
3 – The Black Plague and English Language
In 1348 The Black Plague hit Britain, leading to mass migration out and high number of deaths within.
Between 1350 and 1550, about 65,000 immigrants moved to England to make up for the lack of laborers. At that time, one in every hundred people was an immigrant, attracted by the better work conditions. Compare that to the present day, with about 8% of Englands population being immigrants.
In 1550, English language went through the Great Vowel shift, which is the reason why English spelling is different from English pronunciation (thanks a lot, Great Vowel Shift!). The Great Vowel shift was basically a rapid evolution in English pronunciation due migration and mixing of accents after The Black Plague. Some scholars say it has to do with the influence of the French, too.
4 – Religion and English Language
In 597 Christianity came in to Britain, adding Latin-rooted words to the vocabulary like font, Bishop, and martyr.
In 1611 The King James Bible, a new translation of the bible from Hebrew, gave English new phrases. Many of the phrases were very literally translated from Hebrew. It was a public, widespread book in Britain with a lot of influence on English.
5 – Colonization and English Language
England colonized North America, the Indian Subcontinent, much of the Caribbean and Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. So, the colonized had to learn English and a lot of new English vocabulary came from these new places. Between beating Napoleon and being a winner of the first world war, English got 10 million square miles and 400 million people, leaving new varieties of English to develop all over the world.
6 – Literature and English Language
In the 17th Century, Shakespeare’s work became super popular not only in England but around the world. His writing introduced many new phrases into English, and marked the era of Early Modern English.
7 – Science and English Language
The Scientific Revolution took place in part in England around the same time that English settlers were also off colonizing a large part of the world. Scientists like Robert Hooke, Robert Boyle, Francis Bacon, and Isaac Newton, published research in English. Since then, English has become a leading language in scientific research.
8 – Industry and English Language
In the 18th Century, the Industrial Revolution was happening in Britain. Machine manuals were written in English. Workers migrated to the cities to make more money, and needed to understand the directions. Anyone who wanted to export the machines needed to understand English too. The Industrial Revolution had to do with textile production, and everyone wears clothes, so the influence of English grew.
The American Industrial Revolution continued in the British Industrial Revolution’s steps.
9 – Entertainment and English Language
The United States started exporting entertainment in the form of films, music, and later TV shows. With Jazz, Rock n’ Roll, and Hollywood being so cool, people actually wanted to learn English to be able to better understand these forms of entertainment.
10 – The Internet and English Language
Depending on what you count as the first computer, the first one was invented either in England or the US. Many people would say the ENIAC, completed in 1945 at the University of Pennsylvania in the US, was the first digital computer. From that time on, many tech companies have been based in the US, specifically in Silicon Valley. English is the language of Information Technology text books and manuals. Many great thinkers had a part in the rise of the Internet, but Bob Kahn, an American Electrical Engineer, is credited with creating the “heart” of the Internet.
English Language at the Right Place and the Right Time
So, there you have it — 10 reasons why English has become a dominant language all around the world. Today about 360 million English speakers are natives, and over 1 billion are non-native speakers. This shows that English truly has become a global language, used to connect people across borders.
If your friends ask you why they have to learn English, share this post with them so they know WHY they should learn English, too!
SOME BOOKS RELATED TO THIS VIDEO THAT I THINK YOU’D LIKE!!
📚The Mother Tongue and How it Got that Way by Bill Bryson: https://amzn.to/2Cj2DId
📚The Adventure of English: A Biography of a Language: https://amzn.to/2Ch6UM6
📚Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English: https://amzn.to/2RNxguu
📚The History of English: An Introduction: https://amzn.to/2RRck60