Muyou know English?” A ubiquitous statement asked directly or indirectly across various strata, corporations, families; a question whose answer differentiates, ostensibly, the well educated from the ‘others’. And now, the language that gets used in communication across the globe is being used by the sole superpower as another tool of
extending its influence across the globe, this time digitally.
In the so-called ‘global village’, approximate 228 countries of the world speak close to 7,000 different languages; 92% of world’s population speak languages other than the much hyped ‘global language’ English. But the internet – arguably the most viable source of present and future global communication – has almost 67% of its content in English, while its been reported that only one third of its present users have English as their native
language; though it is also true that two thirds of internet traffic does come from the US (CNN Research).
It’s no surprise then that ‘English’
domain names, URLs and web addresses crowd the internet; that most of the commonly used internet sites are hosted in English; and that the central registrar of domain names on the internet – ICANN – still remains completely under US government control. Though quite surprising, researches have proved that by syntax and phonetics, Sanskrit – an age-old Indian language – happens to be the most suitable language for developing computer software. Even Mandarin (going by the number of users in China) stakes its claim. Contrastingly, most software
programs are still developed in English.
But the world is hitting back. One
example was Google’s 10 year, $200 million ‘omnigooglisation’ effort (as called by the French press) to digitize the literary world, which was opposed bitterly by non-English speaking countries of Europe. Le Monde, the leading French newspaper, wrote – “It (Google’s attempt) is a confirmation of the risk of crushing American domination in the definition of how future generations conceive the world...” Even in 2001, BBC had reported how “European Commissioner Neil Kinnock has been accused of trying to increase dominance of the English language in the EU.” If this be the scale of concern in a developed country, imagine the consternation in the other countries. The other league argues that US is the world’s largest economy; so English needs its place in the sun. The naysayers shoot back that Japan is the world’s second largest economy, and nobody talks twice about the Japanese language.
English, unfortunately or otherwise, will remain one of the most dominant languages historically. Rather than fight its usage, a more intelligent tactic would be to embrace it to one’s own advantage; a strategy used quite successfully by
Indian software technocrats to score over the Chinese in getting global IT contracts and jobs. Ask yourself, if you didn’t know English, would you have been reading this article?!?