Welcome to the Langfocus channel, and my name is Po-ru.
“Why did English become the international language?”
- That is the question we're going to answer today.
English is the de facto global lingua franca.
It is the language of global commerce, the main language of international diplomacy,
the language of air traffic control, and the majority of of academic journals.
Maybe most importantly for us, it's the most common language on the internet, and it's
the language that international travellers with different native languages use to communicate
(the very definition of a lingua franca).
But how did English reach this kind of status?
Well, it's partly because of the United States of America's role as a global superpower.
But the scene was set earlier than that.
In the 16th century England started to establish overseas colonies, and by the end of the 18th
century the British Empire had grown quite extensive, with colonies in a few parts of
India and Africa, in the Caribbean, Canada, and what was to become the United States.
The British were not the only ones establishing colonies, of course.
Much of present day Canada and the US was part of New France, a large area that had
been colonized by the French.
But these areas were lost to the British during the 7 years war.
Much of what is now the southern and western United States was colonized by the Spanish,
but these areas were taken in wars with Spain and later Mexico.
The Dutch had also colonized the area of New Netherland, but it was lost to the British
in the late 17th century.
There were also non-British immigrants to the British colonies, for example German speaking
For a long part of the USA's history, German was its second most widely spoken language.
It declined in use during the first world war, because of the stigma of being associated
So while there were numerous languages spoken by settlers, English became the dominant language
in the United States.
The British kept on establishing colonies after American independence, including much
larger areas of the Indian subcontinent and Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and after
the first world war – in the Middle East.
including colonies on the Indian subcontinent, in Africa, Australia and New Zealand, and
after the first world war in the Middle East.
In 1922 the British Empire covered almost a quarter of the earth, and about 1/5 of the
Some of these countries became populated by English settlers, and these are the countries
where English became the dominant language, replacing many others.
Other countries were not populated by permanent settlers, only by administrative, military,
and commercial personnel.
In some of these countries, English did not become the single dominant language, but became
a prestige language and a convenient lingua franca that could facilitate communication
between linguistically diverse populations.
English was not the only colonial language gaining a foothold throughout the world.
But along with Spanish, and French it was one of the main ones, and its hard to imagine
a language other than one of these becoming the global lingua franca.
Through the 19th century it was French, but English began to surpass French in the 20th
By the time of the First World War, the United States had become a strong economic power,
and its role in the war increased its political influence in Europe.
After the war, the Treaty of Versailles was written not only in French, but also in English.
This signalled the start of English as a language of diplomacy.
But it was after WWII when English really began to develop into the main global lingua
franca as the United States developed more fully into a world superpower.
This is partly because after the war, the United States' military maintained a presence
in Europe to assist in reconstruction efforts, which greatly increased its international
And this didn't stop with Europe: American economic, political, and military influence
over much of the world has been the reality for decades.
As the United States grew in power, advancements in technology gave rise to mass communication
American movies, tv, and music spread throughout the world, exposing regular people to the
Rather than being just the lingua franca of international business people and diplomats,
you can now stay at a youth hostel and communicate with most of the other travellers in English.
This is largely thanks to mass communication, as well as English as a second language classes
now being a part of the school curriculum in many countries.
This is something that increased in response to the growing importance of English.
One the last remaining obstacles to English truly becoming the world language was the
USSR during the Cold War.
Russian was the lingua franca in most of the USSR's member states.
And scientific articles during that time were written mainly in either English or Russian.
But the decline and ultimate collapse of the USSR resulted in a decline in Russian as a
lingua franca and language of science.
Today, over 96% of scientific articles are written in English.
In the past couple of decades, globalization has solidified the position of English as
a global language, with people from all over the world interacting with each other more,
and relying on the global lingua franca.
On top of that, the internet has accelerated that trend.
English is the number 1 language online, and people from all over the world are constantly
exposed to English online, and communicate via social media with people from all over
the world, mainly in English.
All you have to do is take one look at the comments on this channel, and you'll see that
English functions as the lingua franca of much of the internet.
So in short, the reach of the British Empire brought English to all 4 corners of the globe,
and the rise of America built upon that momentum.
And as the world has gotten smaller due to technology and globalization, English has
become a truly global language.
Does everyone speak English well?
No of course not.
But on top of the roughly 360 million native speakers of English, there are over a billion
who speak it as a second language.
Some people say as many as 2 billion people around the world speak English, I guess depending
on what level of proficiency we include.
Will English be the international language forever?
Well, forever is very absolute world.
Nothing lasts forever.
But it seems that English will be the international language for the forseeable future.
Will Mandarin become the international language since China is growing in influence?
I doubt it.
China exists in a bubble, cut off from the rest of the internet and social media world.
They basically have their own separate world online and their own separate media, and this
limits the amount of cultural influence China will have on the rest of the world.
I think that people in China will continue to learn English to communicate with the rest
of the world.
But, if you work at a souvenir shop in a tourist area, Mandarin might become your daily lingua
Will Esperanto become the internationl language?
The question of the day:
If you're watching this video, you obviously speak English.
How about the other people you know, and the people in your area?
How well do most of them know English?
And native speakers of English, what has been your experience using English while traveling?
Have you found it easy to get around using English?
Does it depend on the location?
Let us know in the comments down below.
Be sure to follow Langfocus on, you know, all those social media things I mention in
And once again I'd like to thank all my Patreon supporters, especially these wonderful people
right here on the screen, for their monthly pledges.
Thank you for watching and have a nice day.