the alleged spirit of a disinterested accounting for the dominion,
the global hegemony of the English language, it was a common
belief, especially among colonized or conquered peoples, that
the predominance was a consequence of at first British Imperial
power and then American, that if another nation, such as Germany,
had come to world domination, its language would have become
the world’s lingua franca. This clean-cut but erroneous
conclusion speaks to the over-appreciation of the cause and
effect that underlies all historical change and the inveterate
under-estimation of the role human nature plays in determining
not only what language best lends itself to universality, but
human behaviour in general.
Ireland, population five million, a country of inconsequential
power and prestige, were the only English speaking country in
the world, English would still emerge as the world’s primary
language of communication -- that is the second language of
all non-English speaking nations -- for reasons which are as
unvarying as they are proper to the species, in particular the
propensity for human beings to seek out and take the path of
least resistance when it is available. This is especially observable
in the human response to the effort required to perform any
given task in contrast to the effort expended, when the latter
offers a choice of ‘less than’ in respect to customary
expenditure. In negotiating the limited time available between
home and getting to the workplace, we will choose biking over
walking, driving over biking. In the supply of heavy materials
for home construction, we will opt for mechanical conveyances
over human agency.
the near future, China is expected to emerge as the world’s
next superpower, but despite its 1.4 billion inhabitants, English
will still remain the international language of governance and
instruction. It is hardly an accident of history that India,
a country comprised of 29 states and 22 major languages (720
dialects), uses English, the mother tongue of its reviled former
colonizer, for governance, and national and international commerce.
there is no circumventing the long-term drudgery the learning
of any language entails, the language that best facilitates
the learning process will immediately recommend itself, just
as recalcitrant languages (Czech, Hungarian, Turkish) will be
strictly limited to those for whom it is their mother tongue.
We must bear in mind that 5-year-olds, who are naturally disposed
to learning, require between two and three years to learn a
new language. Rare indeed and in deed – with the exception
of English learners -- is the person over 30 who is able to
master a second language. I, for one, look forward to the day
when an Elon
Musk patented micro-chip can be welded to my
flabby (under-performing) neo-cortex, and with a simple cerebral
impulse-command, I’ll be proficient in whatever language
isn’t a person who wouldn’t rather be proficient
than not in whatever task is set before him. Who wouldn’t
rather make fewer than more mistakes? We revere, pay top dollar
to those exceptional persons who make the fewest mistakes in
their field of endeavor: the world’s best athletes, ballet
dancers, classical musicians, actors. With the exception of
those individuals whose psychological make-up or socio-economic
standing have rendered them self-annulling – prone to,
at one extreme, apathy or the other extreme, anarchy -- each
of us, according to ability and inclination, strives for perfection,
a fugitive goal that all human beings are condemned to pursue
it concerns the learning of a language and the meta-objective
of attaining perfection, or less than that, the more modest
goal of making the least number of mistakes in one’s second
or third language, where both objectives are subsumed by human
nature that bids us to ease the pain associated with the protracted
learning process, we will congregate around the language that
provides the most efficient result in respect to time and effort
expended. In our time, which hasn’t yet taken into account
the proficiency of the many new digital languages that are operating
just below the surface of computation based technology, the
language that best facilitates learning is incontestably English,
especially basic English upon which international communication
and commerce depend.
the many reasons why English is easier to learn than all other
no masculine or feminine (or neuter) nouns, participles/gerunds
(2) no declensions (distinguishing noun as direct or indirect
object of verb, possessive, nominative).
(3) conjugations (especially in the present) are facile compared
to other languages
(4) English requires fewer words than the Latin languages, or
German, to express the same thought
(5) In any given sentence there are more non-variables in English
(words that stay the same regardless of usage) than other languages.
(6) There are no number inflections for adjectives, articles
English, “the blue book” will always be the blue
all the major languages except English, in a typical sentence
of 15-20 words, at every 3rd or 4th word, the speaker has to
consider choices in respect to verb endings, direct and indirect
objects, noun and verb modifiers, all of which are gender sensitive.
In Turkish, an agglutinative language, a single noun can carry
as many as six suffixes. In other words, since English has more
non-variables per sentence than all other languages, the learner
will make fewer mistakes than the learner of German, for example.
In the efficiency rating category, measured by significant content
divided by the number of syllables, English is the most efficient
respect to the all-important ear - - if you don’t catch
it you lose it -- English is the easiest tongue to assimilate
because it is the slowest spoken language in the world after
Mandarin and German. Spanish is spoken 33% faster than English,
on top of which it is a vowel based language, meaning that its
(torrential) flow is unbroken making it more difficult to isolate
individual words. German and English, consonant based languages,
are full of stops, which allow the ear to identify words and
phrases heard for the first time.
conjugation is famously simple in English, with only the 3rd
person singular changing in the simple present. (I go, you go,
he goes, we go, you go, they go). In French the ending of the
verb changes according to the person and number (singular, plural:
Je vais, tu vas, il/elle va, nous allons, vous allez, ils vont).
In English there is one change, in French there are six. The
same relative simplicity holds for compound verbs. Sentences
that require two or three verbs are demonstratively more unwieldy
in non-English languages. Unlike Spanish and French, subjunctive
mood tenses are rarely used in English.
English verbs, the infinitive reveals the form of the conjugation
in the simple present: 'to go,' 'to see,' become 'I go,' 'I
see.' In French the infinitive aller (to go) becomes
je vais. In Spanish ir (to go) becomes yo
voy. In Spanish there are two verbs ‘to be;’
in French there are two verbs ‘to know.’ In Turkish
there is no verb 'to be' or 'to have.'
while it is true that there are almost no verb conjugations
in many of the Asian tongues, they are tonal languages and their
scripts and long alphabets preclude their suitability as convenient
respect to the all-important learning curve, it is always easier
to transition from the complex to the simple than the other
way around. It is easier to manage an alphabet comprised of
26 compared to 50 letters, or to deal with 50 grammar points
than a 100.
English speakers have been singled out (mocked and derided)
for being unable to learn second and third languages. However
misleadingly true, it has nothing to do with innate ability.
If I’m used to solving quadratic equations, I will find
the learning of multiplication and division facile by comparison.
For mother tongue English speakers, all other languages are
more complex and thus, exponentially more difficult to learn.
we now agree that English, compared to all other languages,
best lends itself to universality, it should be noted that this
consensus is not strictly an outcome of ergonomics, but also
human nature that serves but one master: the path of least resistance.
Notwithstanding strategic location, specialized industry and
technology may require of a workforce that it become proficient
in second languages other than English, in most international
arenas (UN, WHO, NATO, NAFTA) English is the medium that best
facilitates the discourse that animates difference of opinion,
while providing the best lexical materials for the construction
of bridges that link unlike cultures and allow watchful and
wary strangers to become better acquainted.