With so many languages bouncing around the globe, you would be forgiven for thinking English is just one of many. The following 10 entries look at how a once small language spoken by an island people is now used as a global lingua franca. If Latin had the Roman Empire, then English has the world.
SCOPUS, the world’s largest database for peer-reviewed journals, contains 21, 000 articles from 239 countries. A 2012 study found that 80 percent were written entirely in English. That’s not all. For an article to gain entry to SCOPUS, a journal must include an English abstract – even if it is written in another language. This trend in the sciences shows no sign of stopping and in some cases, has even increased.
Most scientists know that research written in aforeign language will likely reach a limited audience. If research is to have a global impact, then it needs to be published in English. This means researchers need to have a level of proficiency which allows them to attend conferences, read research papers and hold discussions, all in English.
A monolingual English approach to science has its drawbacks. A BBC article concerning the stories of the indigenous tribes of Indonesia noted that as indigenous languages decline, it becomes increasingly difficult for scientists to access knowledge that could potentially be lost forever.
9. English in the Publishing World
According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS), an organization which provides statistics concerning global book publishing, 21.84% of all books published in the world are written in English. This figure is dwarfed compared to the number of periodicals released in English, which makes up a staggering 62.55% of all periodicals published. This seems impressive considering that English only takes second place for largest literate population in the world. The title is actually held by Mandarin Chinese, which boasts a literate population of 794,947,565 people, or 14.68% of the world. In comparison, English only has 572,977,034, representing a mere 10.58% of the world’s literate population.
It seems strange then, that only 4.85% of the world’s information resources are produced in Mandarin. In comparison, English sits comfortably producing 44.29% of global information. The nearest contender is German at 7.60%. The perception of English as a universal language alongside special programs which encourage English proficiency are most likely the reason English stays up on top.
8. English and the Internet
Is English’s dominance on the web coming to an end? It is safe to say that English was probably the first language used online. By the mid-1990s, 80% of the internet’s content was written in English. This is no longer the case, where competition with Chinese, French, German and Spanish has caused English’s presence on the net to shrink to around 30%. Chinese in particular, has expanded to fill this gap, growing by 1277.4% between 2000 and 2010. To keep this in perspective, out of around the 6,000 languages in use, the top ten most commonly used languages on the internet (English, Chinese, Arabic, Portuguese, Japanese, Russian, German, French, and Malaysian) make up 82% of all content.
English remains dominant with around 800 million users surfing the net, but Chinese stays close with 649 million and Spanish follows with 222 million users. Does it matter which language you speak online? It does when it comes to language inequality. There are huge information vacuums where other languages are left in the dark in favour of more popular ones. For example, Google searches in English return between four to five time more results than in Arabic. Not all languages are considered equal.
7. English is Not the Official Language of the United States