21 April 2008

The Anglosphere marches on

This afternoon I had a brief conversation with one of my new colleagues - she told me that her native languages were Hindi, Marathi, and English. Meanwhile I have been listening to a book on my new MP3 player* called Think India, which touts the importance to America that India speaks, in large part, English. This last point may be exaggerated but it does bring up the importance of the Anglosphere** - that part of the world, especially the Internet world, that uses English as its main means of communication and shares other characteristics.

Now England's Prime Minister Gordon Brown has published an article in the Wall Street Journal calling for an enlargement of the Anglosphere.

In the last half-century the English language has become not only the language of Shakespeare and Twain, of J.K. Rowling and Cormac McCarthy, but of science, commerce, diplomacy, the Internet and travel.

So, finally, I propose that together Britain and America strive to make the international language that happens to be our own far more freely available across the world. I am today asking the British Council to develop a new initiative with private-sector and NGO partners in America, to offer anyone in any part of the world help to learn English.

Very interesting.

* And you thought I was a technophobe

** best book to read: The Anglosphere Challenge: Why the English-Speaking Nations will Lead the Way in the 21rst Century by James Bennett.


Labels: , , ,


At 23 April, 2008 07:30, Blogger Brian said...

Shame on Gordon Brown by proposing linguist imperialism through English.
There will be a counter-reaction because what goes around, comes around.
The long-term solution has got to be a non-national language like Esperanto. Check http://esperanto.net

At 24 April, 2008 15:07, Blogger Clemens said...


English is now simply a tool - just ask the French. They no longer see English as the language of the Anglo-Saxons. They're even willing to speak it if it is the most efficient way to deal with the increasing numbers of Chinese tourists who are coming to France.

As for Esperanto, it is a beautiful and fun language. But, according to an expert cited in Wikipedia:

* 1,000 have Esperanto as their native language
* 10,000 speak it fluently
* 100,000 can use it actively
* 1,000,000 understand a large amount passively
* 10,000,000 have studied it to some extent at some time.

100,000 people out of 6 billion on the planet can use it actively.

Yes, there may very well be a counter-reaction to English. I once read a science fiction novel that posited Portuguese as the universal language of Earth in the distant future.

But if I were a betting man, my money would stay on English simply because it works, it has historical weight behind it, and at the moment I see no serious competitors.

This could change though. I have always wanted to go back to Western Civ's original universal language: Latin.

At 27 April, 2008 14:29, Anonymous Bill Chapman said...

Esperanto is a young language in every sense, so cannot have historical weight behind it yet. One of its advantages is that it is not tied to any power block or group of nations. It is particularly strong in France - partly because of resentment about English.

Thanks for the discussion!

At 28 April, 2008 23:32, Blogger Clemens said...

Esperanto may be popular in France, but more and more they are willing to use English, even as the use of French in Africa and other parts of Francophonie goes up. More people now speak French in Algeria than spoke it when the French were still there. And they don't seem to mind the fact that French was the imperial language jammed down their throats.

The idea of a rational, easy to learn, politically neutral, universal language has been around for a long time. Esperanto is the best attempt at it, but there are others out there and none seem to be catching on.


Post a Comment

<< Home