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How Did the English Language Become So Popular?
English is the most spoken language in the world, with at least 1.3 billion speakers around the globe. While a large part of such a high number comprises native English speakers, 753 million English users are non-native. But why has this language become so popular? Read our article to find answers to this question.
The British Empire
The first reason why English spread worldwide is the British Empire. Before colonization, only Britons spoke English. However, when they started taking over and trading with Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world, the language naturally became more popular.
In the so-called Age of Exploration, which occurred between the 16th and 18th centuries, the British Empire had colonies worldwide. As a result of colonization, English was introduced in many places.
English was usually used by administrations and people involved in business. Local communities were communicating with each other in their native languages. Education was also in English, which is why English was an elitist language – only known by educated people. It took over the place that the French language held earlier on.
Industrial Revolution in Great Britain
The 18th and 19th centuries brought the Industrial Revolution to Britain. Because of it, the country’s economy was boosted, and its technological power brought a lot of development. Economic dominance meant spreading the culture and the language. English became an even more popular language, as it was often necessary to know it to be an important player in global trade and run international business interactions.
After the Second World War, American business was growing. Many brands started trading around the globe. Because of that, English became a language of global business and trade.
While the British Empire and post-war American trade played an important role in spreading English worldwide, popular culture sped up the process of English becoming the most popular language in the world. American music and film became desired exports that everyone wanted a taste of. Jazz, rock’n’roll, and other popular music styles influenced many countries’ cultures. Great Hollywood productions made people who had never heard of English interested in this language. Because of the spread of various popular culture texts, more people could discover and learn this language.
Many forms of media, including music, literature, and cinema, are more likely to gain global popularity if executed in English.
A Sign of a Certain Lifestyle
Knowing the English language and American culture became cool. The American Dream and all it was connected to make the English language a sign of a particular lifestyle. Everyone wanted to taste American-style success.
Film and music are usually produced in English to reach as large an audience as possible. Because of that, many people desired to learn English and could practice while listening to their favorite tunes or watching films.
Many important technological advancements were made in the USA, especially in the 19th and 20th centuries. Because of that, it became obvious that people involved in science and technology should know it.
The internet was invented in the USA. As a result, words that are used in technology and the computer world are in English. A whole new vocabulary set was created solely for this purpose. Many online platforms, websites, and social media networks predominantly use English, making it essential for global communication and information sharing.
Even now, people involved in tech must know English. Any serious publication requires texts in English, and most research is done using this new lingua franca.
English in National Politics
Undoubtedly, English is a new lingua franca in popular culture and technology. It is also super popular in the political world. Organizations such as the United Nations, NATO, and others, where English is one of the official languages, highlight its importance in international diplomacy.
Migration of People
As people migrate more and more, languages can easily spread around. However, as English is already considered a universal language, many people decide to study it to be able to communicate in most places. It causes a snowball effect where more and more people want to learn it because it is useful. People from different linguistic backgrounds often find it necessary to learn English to communicate in multicultural societies or access better opportunities.
As English is often taught as a second language in schools around the world because of its global importance, every year, more people speak it. Even though not everyone gets to a high proficiency level, many students feel inspired by the possibilities it can give and stay motivated to develop their language skills in the future.
English Will Spread Even More
Considering its position in the modern world, it seems like the English language will not leave its status anytime soon. With constantly developing technology and its use in business, you can be sure that this language is good to know.
Additionally, with the growing popularity of streaming platforms (films and music) and the game world, and social media, such as TikTok and Instagram, it will become even more accessible and straightforward to learn for millions of non-native speakers. Although, according to some predictions, languages such as Arabic or Mandarin will spread around the globe, it seems that English can easily stay on the top of the list of the languages most spoken by non-natives.
The popularity of the English language is connected to many factors, including historical events, economic changes, technological improvements, and cultural influence. We can observe a snowball effect because many people want to learn English to use it in the sectors of economy, politics, and technology or even to communicate in personal and professional situations with more people.