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English Language And Global Identity English Language Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 5460 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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With increasing popularity of English language as a second language it makes it a global language rather than a regional or a national language. The learning and use of English language also brings new identities along with it. This can be seen more comprehensively in the past two decades; as we can relate to global icons more than before, we have more global identities now. We can relate to English music, Hollywood movies, Global Icons, Heroes, Global brands etc.

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As Crystal (2000) stresses Language as the primary symbol of identity. When two persons of different nationalities or different origins meet; the first thing they bring together in the conversation is the use of a language which connects these two persons. Hence language is used as the bridge between two unknown persons for communication; giving them some type of identity and means to communicate. In recent years, English language has been used as a global language for communication between different nationalities hence increasing the importance and influence of English language.

But the question arises if it’s possible to adopt a new identity without losing your original (or first) identity. A number of studies in the field of social psychology have shown that immigrants can feel emotionally attached to the new country without losing their attachment to their homeland (Harris 1980). In other words, in short term it might be possible to learn a new different language in isolation and without adopting new identity (or identities) related to that language or culture associated with it but in long term using this language with other people to communicate does bring changes in one’s perceptions of identity and also brings new identities to an individual. According to a study by Goffman (1963) the personal identity is defined by how others identify us but not how we identify ourselves.

Identity, language and second language learning

The concept of identity is a rather loose one. This is evidenced by the fact that various dictionaries and articles seem to give different and slightly vague definitions. From “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is” (www.wordreference.com) to “the state or fact of being the same on as described” (www.dictionary.com), authors seem to struggle when trying to be precise with what elements constitute an identity. For that reason we particularly like a more open (but less vague) statement that defines an identity as “the set of attributes describing (an aspect of) a person” ( Koch 2002). This set of attributes tend to diverge depending on the specialized literature, and though is debatable whether or not a particular element constitute part of an identity, there seems to be a general agreement and understanding on the importance that a language has when giving form or description to a particular identity. It remains unclear if it is strictly necessary to be able speak a language (or how deep is the knowledge of that language) to form an identity.

According to (Love & Ansaldo 2010) a native speaker is someone born and brought up from birth to speak a given language. A person is a native speaker if he/she is brought up in a family where the parents or other adults had the same experience with the same language during their upbringing. Hence, if you are a native speaker of a language that particular language is referred to as your mother tongue.

However, these links between language and identity tend to refer to the mother languages and not so much about newly acquired ones. When it comes to second language learning, the effects of this language on the speaker’s identity depend on the reasons and level of assimilation of the language.

According to the literature on Second Language Learning (SLL) (or Second Language Acquisition (SLA)), second language learners (L2) and foreign language learners have as main reasons for learning a second language family, profession, communication, personal interest and by requirements of an educational system. In addition, the variables age, language and personal engagement play an enormous role on the level of knowledge of a secondary language and to a certain extent to the way that it affects our identity (- Piller, -2002). Accordingly, if an individual is learning a language with motivation, that individual gets engaged in the process and perceives that knowledge as a benefit for the future, the level of assimilation of the language and it’s cultural background will have a deeper impact on his/her identity. On the contrary, if the reasons to learn a secondary language are imposed and are deemed as useless, that language will have a very limited impact on the personal identity.

National Perspectives on learning English language as a second language


India is rich in languages.  There are 18 major languages spoken in India and over 1600 regional languages. Even though Hindi is the official language.

English has been with India since the early 1600’s, when the East India Company started trading and English missionaries first began their efforts. A large number of Christian schools imparting an English education were set up by the early 1800’s. The process of producing English-knowing bilinguals in India began with the Minute of 1835, which officially endorsed T.B. Macaulay’s goal of forming “a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern – a class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect” (quoted in Kachru 1983, p. 22). English became the official and academic language of India by the early twentieth century. The rising of the nationalist movement in the 1920’s brought some anti-English sentiment with it — even though the movement itself used English as its medium.

English is the second major language spoken in India and is used for much of the official business. It is the official language of the judiciary. Many people prefer to use English as a common language. A large percentage of people in India can speak and read English.

English is also extensively used in education .The school education in the country is basically divided into two different categories. I.e. primary, secondary. Primary Consists from grade one to five, Secondary consists grade six to tenth. The school education available in three languages formats. One is state language format, another in national language format and English format. Choice depends on students. If choose State or National language format in school education, English start at secondary level. Choose English it starts from primary level. But graduation and after level it must be study in English.

English is the most commonly used language of international commerce, politics, science, diplomacy, and the most commonly used language on the Internet. English is such a language having an international status and can provide the best medium to interact with outside world. India is a peace-loving country and wants to spread the same message to all countries of the world. We have to explain and convince friendly nations our point of view.

Present Indian deal with export business   worldwide like software, textiles, chemicals, telecommunication hardware, food grains, iron and steel, consumer durables and electronics, Jewelers. To communicate with worldwide clients we require common language. In India is now seen as a major centre for software development. A significant number of international software companies have set up branches in India. English is the main language used in computing and Indian software engineers are proficient in English.

My point of view, English is good language for communication to worldwide. A person who knows English is considered better educated. Such a person has a higher social status and may aspire for a better job. At present, most of students   taking English medium at primary level, but they are not studying state language and National language. English has changed Indian languages in many ways — mostly through the incorporation of new words.  I would simply love to see all schools become English medium schools that teach the mother tongue as a compulsory second language.


The British ruled the Indian subcontinent (comprising of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc.) for almost two hundred years from 1756 – 1947. After the independence, the two newly formed countries inherited quite a few things from British Rule i.e. Army Structure, Train System, Governing Models, English Language, Civil Services etc. Pakistan adopted some of these things and one such thing is English Language. The country has two official languages: Urdu and English. Though Urdu is also the national language of the country; but it is English language which is substantially used in official communication at the Government level (also in Judiciary, the Legislature, and Civil Services etc.) The country’s constitution and its laws are written in English and the Legislature (National Assembly or/and The Senate) uses English language for amending existing laws or introducing any new laws.

English is also extensively used in education. The school education in the country is basically divided into three different categories i.e. Primary, Middle, and High. Primary Consists from grade one to five, Middle from grades six to eight and High school consists of Grades nine and ten. The English language is compulsory at all three levels which mean that every student has to take an English language course for at least first ten years of his or her education. The education system especially in big cities is English based and every course is taught in English except Urdu Language course of course. The country also has another education system which runs in parallel to the Public education and often termed as Private Education (or Private Schools). Its education, curriculum and examination are mostly based on Cambridge International Examinations. The percentage of students going through this system is far less than the other system because of several reasons. But the general perception in the country about English language and Private education is thought to be Elite.

English is also been used in businesses and corporations quite broadly. The private organizations especially multi nationals run their daily business based on English language. The products and services available for a consumer often give offers, ingredients, help in both English and Urdu. The mode of communication in offices at these workplaces is English. The policies, mission, vision, code of conduct etc developed by these organizations is often in English. Most of the times job interviews are conducted in English language and the candidate’s command over English language is one of the main factors being considered during the hiring process.

When we look at the entertainment industry of the country; we find English very common there too. Cinemas show most of the newly released Hollywood movies and there is a big following of these movies; most of these cinema-goers are students, youth, middle class young families, working class in private sectors etc. New generation authors coming up with amazing pieces of art in English language – Mohsin Hamid is one fine example with his “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” winning several awards including “Anisfield -Wolf Book Award”. The newly promoted English theatre industry has been growing pretty fast especially in the big cities like Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Multan etc. The cable T.V and internet has also played their part in this whole phenomenon. There are few English based local T.V channels and so many other channels air English programs on regular basis. Most of the youth are addicted to English (could be American, British, Australian – By English I mean ‘based on English language’) T.V shows, movie channels, music etc.

In our view, this growing influence of English language in Pakistani culture and identity has fruitful consequences as it makes the people learn and speak another language, be communicative with the outside world especially to remove wrong perceptions about the country and people of Pakistan and promote the positive aspects of the country. But this phenomenon also brings some tricky issues like diminishing use of Urdu language; perceptions about Urdu being language of poor and working class. We cannot deny the growing importance of English language especially in the last decade or so making it a global language but for Pakistan and its people presence of English language in different facets of life is a very positive sign as long as there is a healthy balance between the two official languages of the country.


From the government point of view Bangla is the national- official language of Bangladesh and English is the most important foreign language. But in reality English is the second language of the country and in many places English is more important than Bangla in Bangladesh.

Constitution: About the language of the country the Bangladeshi constitution clearly states: “The state language of the Republic is [Bangla].”

In the constitution nothing is mentioned about the status of English. English is not mentioned as a second language or official language. But many important government documents are written both in Bangla and English. The parliament proceedings are kept into these two languages. When a government body organizes a fair then often the souvenir is published in English.

English in Law court in Bangladesh: After Independence the government took the initiative to implement Bangla language in law court. As a result, now the lower courts carry out their activities in Bangla but English is yet very influential in High Court and Supreme Court. If a lawyer wants to practice in Supreme Court then he must have a good command over English language. Many of the judges still give their verdicts in English language. It seems that this trend of using English will remain for the forcible future.

English in Education sector in Bangladesh: Formal and institutionalized education system started in Bangladesh during the British rule. At that time Bangladesh was part of British India. There was a debate about the medium of education. Raja Rammohan Roy argued that the medium should be English rather than Sanskrit or Persian. During the British period the medium of education was largely in English. Calcutta University took an initiative in 1935 to introduce Bangla as a medium of education along with English. In Bangladesh the use of Bangla in college level started in the 1960s. Now students can answer in the examinations in Bangla or English. In the college level and university level after 1971 the government tried to patronize Bangla and implement it by replacing English in the education sector. In our general education system English has equal if not more importance than Bangla. In our education system English is really the Second language as all the students have to study it as a compulsory subject for twelve years.

English and Administration: During the language movement the people of Bangladesh were afraid that if Urdu was established as the State Language of Pakistan then all the government activities will be carried out in Urdu and our people will suffer. As a result of the language movement, the Pakistani Regime kept on carrying out government activities in English language. After Bangladesh became independent the government of Awami League decided to replace English with Bangla in administrative works but after the death of Sheikh Mujib this process came to a halt and English continued to remain as the dominant language. It was during the rule of Ershad Bangla Procholon Aeen of 1987 was created and implemented. From that time English started to lose its significance in administration. However, it has to be mentioned that all the international communication of Bangladesh government is carried out through English.

English in Economic activities: The economy of Bangladesh is dependent on foreign aids and export of some common items like readymade garments, jute, tea, fish etc and also we import a lot of things. Bangladesh is not self sufficient economically. Trading is more popular than production. Trading requires constant communication with foreign companies. Many of the companies who are involved in trading have to use English in dealing with foreigners. So it is clear that English is the dominant language in our economic activities.

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Comparison of English foreign languages like French, German, and Farsi: French and German have become very popular for economic reasons in our country. Learning these languages help us to increase our possibility to get a UN job. Learning French is also helpful for getting immigration to Canada. Also there are good facilities to learn these languages in Dhaka University, Alliance Francaise, and Goethe Institute. Recently, the English Institute of North South University has introduced French course. On the other hand during the Muslim reign Farsi was the language of the Royal administration and law court in Bangladesh. At present, a student can attend Farsi course for one semester by just paying tk. 250 in Iran Cultural Center but there are not many students who are interested to learn Farsi, French, and German. On the other hand, hundreds of students each year appear for TOEFL and IELTS exams in English language.

From the discussion so far there is no doubt that English is the second language of Bangladesh but this reality is not reflected in our constitution. Officially Bangladesh is not known as an ESL country to the outside world. So Bangladesh should be declared as an ESL country by the government without any delay. We learn English not because we like Shakespeare or Dickens. We learn English from out of every day necessity.


The Ghana perspective on language culture and identity.

Several reasons account for the Ghanaian attitude towards the English Language and why English is learnt, widely spoken and thought in Schools in Ghana. Paramount among these factors is the multilingual nature of the Ghanaian populace and the vis a vis this has posed to national development.

Ghana like many African countries is characterized by people with different ethnic backgrounds and for that matter different language. There are over 60 languages spoken by over 18 million people in Ghana (National Population Census of 2000), which connotes that at least one distinct language is spoken by every 300,000 people on average. The multilingualism nature of the Ghanaian population has come with several challenges with regards to defining a Ghanaian Identity and what makes a person a Ghanaian. Historically, the multilingualism had transpired as a result of various ethnic migrations from different empires on the African continent who settled in Ghana in the early 1200 AD. As a result of the ethnic differences there had been conflict over which ethnic origin dominates and has appropriate ownership to various lands and regions in Ghana.

The influence of the multilingualism in Ghana on national development and national identity has created several debates and efforts from a section of Ghanaians at achieving and selecting one local language to be adopted as a national language for official communications in businesses, governmental proceedings, School administration, teaching and learning as well as for inter ethnic trade communications. However these efforts have been gravely thwarted by the Ghanaian perception of local languages and the influence of the English language as inherited from the Colonial masters.

The premier constitution of Ghana known as The Gold Coast constitution made specific prerequisites for Elected Members of the legislative assembly to be able to speak and read the English language with a degree of proficiency sufficient to enable them to participate in proceedings of the assembly since such proceedings were totally conducted in English. However the 1992 version of the constitution has dropped this requirement. This clearly demonstrates the extent of prestige and significance that the Ghanaian community placed on the usage of the English language for official proceedings.

Formal Education began with the influence of the European merchants and the Christian missionaries who invaded the then gold coast in the early 15th century.  Missionaries started building schools and educational centers   and used them as training grounds for their converts. During such trainings emphasis were laid on the learning of the English language than any local language at the time. As a result by the 1890’s English was the sole language used for training in schools in the (McWilliam and Kwamena-Poh 1975) The British colonial rule of over a century (1821-1957), led to the establishment of English as the most prestigious and the only official language of the country, a privileged position that the colonial language has retained after independence as well, till the present day.

The English Language is today employed in television and radio broadcasts, news papers, magazines, book publications, legal proceedings and documentation, and all forms of official proceedings.

The peculiar prestige enjoyed by the English language is clearly evinced in the words

of this Ghanaian journalist, who claims that: English […] enjoys great prestige in the country as it is seen as a language of power and security. Competence in English gives one the power to exercise authority; t is a key to one’s advancement in society. It enhances one’s chances of getting a good job. A person who wants to feel secure learns English as it is one of the requirements for employment in many areas. (Saah, 1986: 370)6


For people growing up in Sweden, English is scheduled from the 4th grade until the second year of high school. This means that Swedes study English from the age of ten until seventeen. It adds up to a total of eight years of schooling in the English language. In addition to this many students also have the option to learn a third language for 5 years, from 7th grade to second year in high school. Learning two languages besides the mother tongue is the normal scenario for Swedish academics. The third language is most often German, French or Spanish although lately Italian has been introduced as a choice of third language as well. While the rigorous English education is mandatory in Swedish schools, it should be stated that the third language is optional.

Little reflection is needed in order to understand the importance of a second language among Swedes. There are approximately nine million people living in Sweden and Swedish is not spoken to any greater extent in other countries. Due to this it is easy to see how the people in Sweden could benefit from speaking another language in order to communicate outside their national boundaries. The choice of English as a secondary language in Sweden is linked to the size of the language and its influence on the developing countries in a historical perspective. Even though it is clear that size alone was not a single deciding factor when establishing a second language for Sweden, it is obvious how it has been of importance. The Mandarin language has more than twice the speakers and Spanish is also spoken by more people than English. Further, Hindi and Arabic are just slightly “smaller” languages than English as it is the native tongue for large populations over the globe. However, even though these languages are larger or in the same size as English they have not been that useful to the Swedes. This has to do with the general development level of the societies where these languages are predominant. Take mandarin for instance, as China for a long time has been less developed than Europe and America the opportunities to do business with the country has been insignificant compared to the ones presented by countries within Europe and the US. The historical connection to America is also part of the explanation to why English is widely spoken among Swedes. In the ninetieth and twentieth century there was an extensive emigration from Europe to America. Due to harsh living conditions in the Scandinavian region during the time, more than 1,3 million Swedes packed their belongings on boats in order to sail over the north Atlantic ocean. Stories passed on from emigrants to their relatives left in Sweden led to a common perception of America as the “prosperous land in the west” among Swedish inhabitants. This affected the general attitude towards the English language and gave people incentives to learn English in order to pursue happiness on the other side of the sea. This is an important event that laid the foundation for the English language in Sweden. Besides this Great Britain was an early developed nation as it was one of the first to become industrialized during the ninetieth century, an event that had huge impact on English in Sweden.

In Sweden, comprehensive education is not the only driving force that has developed the English speaking skills among the population. Different media has also contributed in a great sense. As motion pictures from abroad (read Hollywood) seldom, with the exception of children’s movies, are dubbed, the Swedish audience is confronted with the English language each time they amuse themselves with a good film. Swedish television also shows a large number of English speaking shows and series. In fact most of the popular programs are from America or Great Britain. In Sweden all young people are familiar with Jay Leno, Dr. Phil, Top Gear and the various HBO productions such as Entourage, Sopranos and True Blood. When aired these broadcasts are never dubbed, instead Swedish text is provided in order to facilitate understanding. In addition to television and movies, other media such as music, games and the Internet predominately use the English language. The current development is a self fulfilling prophecy. As more and more media is produced with English as the main language, users of this media adapt and become comfortable with using the language as a natural way of communicating. This is something that has formed the younger generations growing up in Sweden as they are confronted with the English language to a large extent in their daily lives when watching films, playing video games, browsing the Internet or listening to music. To verify the accuracy of the statements above one only has to go two generations back in time. Most grandparents in Sweden do not speak that good English and parents are not as fluent as the generation currently graduating. Similar it seems reasonable to believe that future kids and their grandchildren will be fluent in English, meaning they will be equipped with two native languages.


Spain, on the contrary, has the second language with more native speakers in the world divided into 44 countries. Spanish culture, language and religion, historically and forcefully spread into many countries, ensure that Spanish is not endangered and still allow Spaniards to communicate with a large part of the global population.

In addition to that, a simple look into Spain’s recent history shows that after Spanish Civil war (1936-1939), the country fell into an almost 40-year dictatorship that ruled the country into a complete autocracy. For the first half of the dictatorship, Spain relied only on its own resources and remained closed to most of international relations.

In the mid 60s due to a dire situation of Spain economics, the country was forced to open, allowing certain imports while exporting work force to Germany and France. Due to the importance and closeness of France, French started being taught in schools, even though it was usually aught for few years due to the short period of schooling that Spain’s population were used to.

It wasn’t until a few years after the restoration of democracy (1978) when the importance of English became obvious and the public school system started adding the teaching of English in public schools. However, the impact of English culture and language was so low, that the efforts to learn the language properly were never high resulting on a rather poor knowledge of the language in the general population.

As in most countries that weren’t colonized by the British, the main sources of American/English culture into Spain were movies and series, however, differently from most countries those popular inputs were dubbed into Spanish, so the language (and especially the phonetics) have kept English’s impact in the Spanish population to an almost absolute 0.

Parents that wanted their kids to develop a better level of English would have to opt for specialized language academies, or participating in exchange programs or trips to native speaking countries. It wasn’t until the late 90s, with the massive spreading of the Internet that English finally started made its impact on young Spanish population, however, English still remains as a good asset to find a job and some entertainment, but from apart from that, there’s no general appeal for Spaniards to gain a high level in English use. The language is learned because it is a great tool to communicate with international people as they key for global communication, generally detached of the American/British cultural factor that surround the language, concentrating on its usability and potential audience formed by multicultural people.

English and the sense of a Global Identity

When it comes to specific L2, we find that the English Language has become the most important one by large in terms of geographical distribution of speakers. Though English is only the third language when it comes to native speakers (350 million against Spanish (358 million) and Mandarin (800 million)) (Ethnologue, 2009), if we add second-language speakers and those who learn the language as a foreign language, English, with 900 million speakers, rises to the second position only topped by Mandarin with 1151. However, since only 18% of the Mandarin speakers are non-Chinese speakers and 62% of the English speakers are not native-speakers (L2), and it’s spoken in more than 123 countries in the world, we can draw the conclusion that English has become the current de facto language of the world. Actually, English has become the current lingua franca of international business, science, technology and aviation (Ding & Saunders 2006). A lingua franca, originally Italian for “Frankish language”, is a language systematically used to communicate between persons not sharing mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both persons mother tongues (Wikipedia  ). Hence, a lingua franca can be thought of as something as a bridge language between different nationalities.

However it is not the purpose of this paper to study the historical reasons that have lead to the current situation.

Due to the falling power and cultural influence of China in East Asia any aspiring Chinese businessman will learn English as it is already well established as the international business language (Ku & Zussman 2010). As such English is incontestably the global lingua franca of the current era of globalization (Ding & Saunders 2006). The reasons are various and originate from the colonialism of the British Empire to the standardization and spreading of American entertainment and IT industry.

The IT revolution with new means for communication, emerging world markets, outsourcing of production to other countries, and common currencies such as the Euro are all contributing to the globalization of the world (Kilbourne 2002). If the industrialization characterized the 18th and 19th century of the western world, globalization is the trait of today. As such it marks a major turning point in human history as large parts of our daily life are affected to some extent. Activities such as reading the morning news in the wall street journal, taking your Asian ec


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