General Question

_bob's avatar

Is the wide-spread use of the English language a sign of imperialism?

Asked by _bob (2485points) June 1st, 2009

To me, it’s simple Economics: the markets need English-speaking people, so the people learn English. However, some complain about it being an American imposition. What are your thoughts?
For the record, English is not my first language.
Also for the record, I just had a question modded because it wasn’t in English. This question is completely unrelated.

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24 Answers

PapaLeo's avatar

“an American imposition”?!!

Excuse me, but where did English originate again?

_bob's avatar

@PapaLeo Excuse me, but how important do you believe Great Britain is, relative to the US? Welcome to the 21st century, chap.

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

It was British imperialism that started it, America was part of that and has become a huge world economic influence so it makes sense but no longer as a sign of British imperialism.

PapaLeo's avatar

@bob_ Important to whom, may I ask? And in which context?

hungryhungryhortence's avatar

I’m having scary flashbacks of Margerine now, thanks bob

jackfright's avatar

I think so, it’s essentially imperialism though economics as you mentioned.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. If X wasn’t wide-spread, Y would likely be.

_bob's avatar

@PapaLeo To the world as a whole, economically and politically.

@Simone_De_Beauvoir How so?

@hungryhungryhortence Margerine?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@bob_ the way you wrote it up in your more section
certainly, in the beginning, it was definitely a sigh of imperialism
now imperialism has been renamed globalization and is accepted

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@bob_ not for the nation doing the imperializing
look, globalization isn’t one of those ‘all or nothing’ situations
it’s a complex concept and some countries have benefited from interaction with the ‘1st world’ or whatever but at a profit to us

_bob's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir True that.

Personally, I’d say globalization is a good thing, but there are some nasty side effects that have been largely ignored.

galileogirl's avatar

@bob_ American’s are lousy imperialists. Most imperialists spoke Dutch, French, German and Spanish. There has to be 1 primary language in global business and communication and Esperanto never caught on.

_bob's avatar

@galileogirl So, to you, it’s about economics, too?

dynamicduo's avatar

The only thing it is is a sign that the world wants to have a common language to increase interaction. I don’t see it as being an American imposition because, well, English != America. And how can it really be an imposition when all the countries are willfully establishing programs to learn English? It’s just a result of the free language market.

buster's avatar

@dynamicduo I like the idea of a free language market.

_bob's avatar

@buster I’m sorry to tell you, but…

galileogirl's avatar

@bob_ It’s about communication—in business, politics, education, the arts, You have to have one language in global transportation.

Dansedescygnes's avatar

Personally, I wanted Latin to be the global language. The lingua mundi. Heu, derelinquam somnium illud.

However, the language I’m making up is intended to be an international language. Someday…

And no, I don’t think it’s an imposition. Like @dynamicduo said, other countries are freely choosing to learn English. America happens to be one of the most powerful countries, so it dominates things like the internet and commerce and what not and thus English is used in those things. Other countries are just trying to be a part of those things and to do that they choose to learn English; no one is forcing them. Any country could’ve become the main influence in the internet and commerce and what not, it didn’t have to be America. Having one language understood by all just makes it easier.

ml3269's avatar

Perhaps it was imperialistic, but in our days it is a great way to unite the planet via one language, via the internet. Most people on earth speak chinese, but as a second language it is english. I like it that I can express myself in english all over the EU and outside…

btko's avatar

It makes sense for the world to have one language to communicate in – but I am a big supporter or the thousands of other languages out there, and I think they are vitally important.

It just so happens that English has dominated business culture around the world – if it had been Mandarin we would be having this same question just with different characters.

Jack79's avatar

Yes, it is a form of Cultural Imperialism. This is not the same as traditional, military and political imperialism, but it’s still a means of controlling populations beyond the borders of your own country. Whether that is done intentionally or out of mere practicality is a different story. But yes, you are a victim of the power of the English language (or, to be honest, the language of the USA) in the modern world.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, it’s a free language market. Nobody is forced to use English as a second language. But many people made the choice because other people made the same choice. Europe has a population of more than 800 million people and there are dozens of languages. Although it’s nice to learn a third language, perhaps a forth, at some point it will require too much time and effort. But people still wish to be able to communicate with everyone. Why is there HTML and HTTP? Same reason. A free technology market.

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