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Why Did English Become the International Language?

Hello everyone. 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 immigrants. 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 with Germany. 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 world’s population. 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 century. 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 influence. 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 and media. American movies, tv, and music spread throughout
the world, exposing regular people to the English language. 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 franca. Will Esperanto become the internationl language? NOPE. Shrug 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 every video. 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.

100 Replies to “Why Did English Become the International Language?”

  • I find that English barely exists in some areas that were formerly French colonies or are current outlying areas of France. In France itself, English is fairly common (whether or not people like to use it – or hate to use it). But just try to find English in Madagascar, in Tahiti outside of Papeete, or even in Quebec province outside of Quebec City and Montreal. I've read that Celine Dion didn't understand the English lyrics of songs she was singing at the start of her career. French Guiana, on the other hand, is heavily bilingual with English, for the reason that it is the seat of the European Space Agency. The international scientific community there, from all over Europe, uses English as the lingua franca as well as the language of technology. (Incidentally, doesn't the term "lingua franca" mean "French language" – due to the fact that the French language was the "lingua franca" of the world before English was?)

  • I think it also has part to do with the fact that spanish is more complicated to learn than english, and french, Well.. people there always have to correct each other, the grammar is too complex. Whereas in english you can speak very poorly but still be understood.

  • I'm English, and have never had problems communicating abroad. If they don't understand me I say it again louder. If that still doesn't work I just smash the place up.

  • And in a lot of places people were just forced to learn english and stop speaking french, like louisiana and a lot of the french americas, it's pretty taboo to speak it still, francophobia is pretty terrible.

  • I think most of citizens of Ukraine teach 1)English 2)Polish (economy reasons) 3)French (girls in majority) and German (boys in majority) 4)In some region situation is differends. Regions what very close to Romania are teaching romanian language becouse they etnical romanians or on half (mix marry). Regions what near the Hungary are teaching hungarian language becouse they etnical hungarian or on half (mix marry).

  • About professional lingua franca- in Fleet domain, English became the one only in the XXth Century. In Mediterranee, in a previous century, the Latin still was used in navigation and maritime meteorology. During Rus- Japanese war in Russian navy every officer knew French but a few could use English.

  • The separated internet environment in China really doomed
    people to learn English by social media. The government banned every Google based websites and social medias in China

  • I'm belgian and I'm a french native speaker. I study in english and my level is pretty high, but it is not the case for everyone here in Belgium. French native speakers struggle with learning english. Most People in my family speak english with a bad level and they are just able to understand simple sentences

  • Short version: most Americans cannot and will not speak other languages and the World sadly realized that if you wanted to do business with the US, you had to learn English.

  • I learned English at school first, and then, I heard my half sister speak it once, and although she is a German, she spoke it with a perfect british accent, and I was like, I want to do that too! I Started imenselly getting interested, and a friend of mine told me about great games for the blind, and that the truely great ones are available in English only, so there we go! As for now, I can speak English well enough to do every-day-conversations, but when I read the English translation of "Emil und die Detektive" by Erich Kestner, there are thousands of words I need to look up. Concerning my pronunciation, I can do both british and american, and I'm in a really torn state. Currently, I just speak the accent of the other person, but I tend to speak with an american one when I'm alone.
    So, that's me.

  • Good luck using English in Russia

    Russian guy: They people is class

    English guy: Do you speak english?

    Another Russian guy: Washing english? I washing english.

  • I dont think that any language will overtake the current lingua franca of English. In Space you need to know Russian as well as English but mainly Russian due to all the Russian parts, so the language in space is currently Russian but I bet you it wont be long till this is in English. However on Earth the Internet speaks English on the whole, all schools teach English as a 2nd language, international business has to be done in English, Communication between ships in international waters has to be in English and Air Traffic control also in English…. Can you see it changing?

    Edit: We already have a generation of parents teaching their children English before school… Who knows – Maybe in 3 generations parents may decide to teach their child English as a main language but they live in Spain and only give then basic Spanish words just to get by…. Then THEY grow up, see the importance of English and forget Spanish altogether….. (This is how Cornish/Welsh/Irish and Gaelic Scottish are rapidly dying out….) There is no need to speak those languages if nobody understands it but can speak English instead!!

    I mean Europe has a freedom of movement, so like you can live in France and go on a holiday in Germany but the French dont speak German, but know English, the Germans dont speak French but also know English. Trust me, this is happening RIGHT NOW with all these European visitors to another European country. So as generations go, more and more will just teach English since everyone knows it anyway and it also means better travel abilities cos parents in that country are just as likely to teach then English too!! MARK MY WORDS!

  • Thanks, Paul, very informative (well edited) video. I enjoyed it. Español es la segunda lengua más utilizada en internet y una de las más habladas del mundo.(Spanish is the second most used language on the internet and one of the most spoken in the world) I'm glad I speak both of them. I love languages (J'adore les langues / adoro le lingue / Ich liebe Sprachen) and your videos make me love them even more. Thanks for sharing!

  • It’s super convenient being an English speaker abroad but you feel a bit rude. That’s why I follow this channel really e porque eu sou tentando aprender Portugues

  • I love Langfocus but I hate how English is becoming more spoken (English Native) mainly because some people try and stop you from speaking their language. German is the language where this has been the biggest issue, and I have to pretend I'm not a native so the natives can actually give me a chance. It is so demotivating when you put all of the hard work in and get nothing back!

  • To answer Paul’s question, most people below 40 here in Finland know English well enough to get by, and the vast majority of people under 30 know English very well.

    English is my third language (after Finnish and Swedish) and I absolutely love the fact that for the first time in history over a billion people can speak the same language and communicate with each other with relative ease.

  • Even if you don't speak English correctly as a native speaker you can communicate easily with anybody all over the world

  • Ok with mandarin but why spanish couldn't be an international language? Or french again? I vote for French! 😅

  • 1:21. Incorrect. Spain never lost territory to the US until 1898 (Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines). Florida was sold to the US (Adams-Onís Treaty, 1819) and the rest of the continental colonies gained independence as Mexico in 1821.

  • In Switzerland, English speaking ability highly correlates with education level (more educated -> more English) and age. 60% of Swiss residents speak English (1.2% are native speakers). In Geneva 79% of people speak English and a similar number apply to Zurich as well.

  • Here in Czechia, there's almost no chance of encountering someone above 45, who's fluent and functional. Furthermore, even many young people are too shy to speak English despite having a solid vocabulary. Command of Czech university students is pretty reasonable, though.

  • I live in London. 50% of people here are born abroad. The level of English is this simplified in public interactions and people are used to speaking in a way that helps non native speakers. Whenever I converse with Aussies or people from parts of the UK that are not exposed to so many international people, it becomes apparent they are not used to adjusting their speak

  • I'm from God's own country ,Kerala,it's a southern state of India,.,here we are using English as our second language,because as you know India is having more than 22 official languages,.but,in our state Kerala,I don't feel any difference in people who knows English ,either in village or in cities,because our state is having 100% literacy,.But it's not the case among rest of the India,there is a huge difference in terms of education between Village and cities,so,it's very difficult to communicate with people who are from villages.,But,please point that I can handle six languages including English ,Hindi and south Indian languages as well.,But I don't feel any wrong in that people who doesn't know English,because it's not our mother tongue .

  • Hablaremos chino cuando EE. UU. Pierda su supremacía. Lo mismo pasó con el griego y el latín, dos imperios que fueron súper potencias en su época, su legado seguirá siendo relevante pero todo cae y nada es eterno

  • You thought this video would be boring? No. It's like, people think vanilla ice cream is boring? No.

    Great job, again, Paul!

  • I went to Boston when I was four, and came back to Brazil when I was eleven. Here in the city I live you don't see english speakers that often. Maybe there are some more in Rio, São Paulo and some other big cities but still not that much like in other countries where english is way more influential.

  • You might also add that English is really a very easy language to learn to speak. It has largely eliminated gender, verb endings, and the declension of nouns. Only the spelling is difficult, but that isn't tremendously important for a lingua franca.

  • I once thought of learning Esperanto, not because it's likely to become the dominant world language, but because there are Esperanto speakers all over Europe, who are eager to take in Esperanto speakers for a night or two in order to practice their language skills. It might be a really cheap way to see Europe.

  • Growing up in California actually introduced me to a few different languages, but the main foreign language was Spanish. But I’ve had friends that speak French, hebrew, who know ASL, Chinese, Korean, Farsi and more.

    English is obviously helpful when I travel abroad but sometimes it falls flat. When I went to Japan it was easier to whip out the translator since not many people spoke English. Same with France (mostly outside Paris). Italians were pretty good with their English from my experience, but one time my cab driver didn’t know English but he knew Spanish, so I spoke that to him (I used to be much better with it than I am today). In Israel they also speak English very well so that was no issue. But yeah mostly where I’ve traveled English isn’t usually a problem, and with the bajillion language apps it’s easier to talk to people who don’t speak your native tongue that it used to be

  • English grammar is simple when compared to many other languages. Easy to learn, easy to remember and can even be understood when misused or altered. Despite its irregular pronunciation that may have helped maintain it's momentum as lingua franca.

  • Mas nadadalian ang mga amerikano at iba pang mga lahi na ingles ang sariling wika kapag pupunta sila sa ibang bansa dahil hindi na nila kailangang mag-aral ng ingles dahil iyon na ang sarili nilang wika.

  • Why did English become the international language? Because God has endowed the British race with a world-wide Empire, that they may execute His sovereign purpose in the world. The victories they had over the heathen were the victories of the nobler soul in man. God save the Queen! Or something to that effect…

  • We're all exposed to English, whatever our level of proficiency. For example, my brother has a very bad memory of his English classes at school. As a result, he has the English level of a perfect beginner. He's a big fan of tennis on television. On Eurosport, some commercials interrupting the matches are in English. The scores and statistics on the screen are all written in English, even if the tennis event doesn't take place in an English speaking country. When I was a kid, it was not like that. If a sporting event was, say, in Italia, the mentions on the screen would have been written in Italian. The trend accelerates: the American films and series names are kept in English. They're no longer translated or adapted, even if the movie or the series is dubbed in the local language. Only Quebec with its linguistics laws keeps on making mandatory that all commercials slogans, movie titles and the likes have a French translation.

  • I’m from Puerto Rico, one of the last colonies in the world. Being a colony of the United States, and with the growing advancement of globalization, my generation has been able to speak spanish as our first language and fluent english as a second language. It is an impressive evolution, seeing the last generation of puertoricans can barely speak any english. Even though we’ve been a colony of the United States since 1821.

    Puerto Rico is a small island, but having fluent spanish and english in a paradisiac island is definitely something worthwild.

  • During Cold War (1946-1991), there was two absolute superpowers (USA vs USSR). Countries that aligned with USA (capitalist ones), used English alongside US dollars, US trading systems, etc. Countries that aligned with USSR (communist ones except Yugoslavia), used Russian.
    In Cuba, Russian was taught as second language in their educational system until recently.
    There was even a "Y-Generation", when people started putting "y" in their children's name to make their sound more Russian, paralleling Brazilian practice of giving their sons names ending in "-on", because these sound more American.

  • I know a weird form of english that I learned only by reading, i pronounce the words exactly the way they are spelled and that helps me to write correctly, but if you speak with me you will be amazed, you will hear things that never been uttered before!!!!

  • I`m only watching your videos for English language. I have no problem to understand you. It`s really pleasure to listen to your English comparing to others.

  • Where I live, even though the language is taught on school, people do not speak it, just a few speak the language at least conversationally, so I had a hard time practicing but as you said, english is all over the internet and you could learn it just interacting online if you want

  • When I visited the Ukraine, I needed to use the few words of Ukrainian I had learned to get around there, because most Ukrainians don't speak English. Only the younger Ukrainians have learned it well at school. However, as it becomes more of an international destination (for many people, things are cheap there) I am sure that more and more Ukrainian people will improve their English.

  • What does America got to do with Great Britain language WTF. are you trying to say that America made English language international Americans they don’t even have a language they just copies what ever english people do. Lol 😂 😂😂😂

  • At least in my country (Guatemala) English is a language of prestige, because its cultural impact. But very few people understands it. In my case, my proficiency is quite basic. I can write and listen better than to speak. 😔

  • I’m a native speaker to English. I find it easy to travel. Most people in my area also speak English natively or its their second language but speak it like a native speaker. I do know some people whose English isn’t that good and I know two people who don’t speak it at all and I talk to them through translators.

  • ::::::: English ::::::
    *Movies/News Channels(Media)
    *Curriculum in Schools
    96% Scientific Articles
    Air Traffic
    Academics(University Websites)
    -Even in China/Korea/Japan
    Traffic/Road signs
    Medical reports
    IT industry(Program language)
    Restaurants Menu
    Sailing Works
    Non-native countries: Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark, India,Arab lands

    ::::: Arabic(26) :::::
    Quran, Job Opportunities, Tourism, Int' Organisations

    ::::: Spanish(21) :::::
    Songs(Media) & Internet

  • Try to visit the countryside of any country in the world. Almost everyone is virtually monolingual in their native language.

  • Most people I know, speak English. Some people I have had to speak to know Spanish and some English. But some of them had such heavy accents it was a struggle to understand them when discussing technical or business matters.

  • do you think English will survive as a lingua franca with trump degrading our influence at an amazingly rapid rate.??????

  • While traveling in Germany it seemed as everyone knew fluent English and it was very easy to get around. The same cannot be said for Italy. In Rome many spoke English well but outside of Rome, it was relatively difficult to get around with knowing a good amount of Latin based vocabulary that appears on signs and such.

  • El español es un idioma muy fácil y puedes entender varios idiomas como el italiano el portugués y un poco de francés.

  • My first language is Spanish, but I love English, I think it is the best language ever, because I can communicate with every people around the world, is the language of business, travels and also the gramatic is not hard, I don't wanna be a controversial person but in my opinion nowadays knowing english is basic, not a luxury, greetings from Chile

  • I agree with the remarks on Chinese. That bubble apparently is China's problem if it ever wants to win cultural influence. But that influence would need the expense of a loss of power to the "CP".

  • I am Greek and I am living in the capital I learned English alone because our education system suck we are not able to learn other languages expect Greek and ancient Greek we have English 40minutes 2 times per week its absolutely nothing. Btw because we have also private English school I think my people can speak even the basic communicate to help someone but our grammar and accent is very bad 🙂 but is a lot of people I think 50%+ more who have diplomats like B2 and 30/ of the country with c2 or more because we are a tourist country

  • Italy alone has 113 United States military bases. Around the world on every continent there is around 900 U.S. military bases spreading English around the world.

  • I am a native English speaker, and I wish that English was not the international language. I don’t know what it would be replaced with, but I just don’t like seeing cocky people saying “Well I’m not gonna learn another language because everyone speaks English anyway.”

  • The more important question is whether or not English SHOULD be the universal language. That is because if English is the "universal language", everyone would only have to learn English while knowing their native language. This would effectively make the learning of all other languages redundant!

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