List

Crystal, David. English as a Global Language. New York, 1997. Print.

  • This books considers three questions:  What constitutes a world language?  Why is English the current world language?  Will English continue to be the dominant world language in the future?
  • Crystal’s ideological positions:  1) He believes in the value of multilingualism; 2) He believes in the value of sharing a “common” language.
  • 5 sections of the book:  1) Why a global language (what makes a global language, why is a global language needed?  what are the dangers of a global language?  can the spread of a global language be stopped?; 2) Why is English the current global language: historical context (this covers the origins of English and gives an account of the different Englishes that currently operate in the world); 3) Why is English the current global language: the cultural context (political developments that have lead to the spread of English, English as global language because of its access to the spread and culture of knowledge); 4) Why is English the current global language: The cultural future (how English spreads as global language through media, movies, international travel, and communication); and 5) The future of global English (movements in the United States, the fragmentation of the “New Englishes”).
  • In sum, Crystal argues that the historical spread of English is a result of the exploration and colonialization process of the 16th – 20th centuries.  The sociocultural story of the now argues that English ill remain the lingua franca due to its influence in media, communications, commerce, travel, military might, etc.
  • Chapter 1 considers the different beliefs and opinions about English by both English and non-English speakers.  He notes that some of the worries of non-native English speakers include:  1) there will eventually (if there isn’t already) be a global imbalance of power in favor of speakers of English; 2) some less-spoken languages will be given up and forgotten in the interest of speaking English; 3) learning 2nd languages other than English will be discouraged; and 4) English could, in the future, displace and disappear all other languages.
  • Chapter 2 provides some interesting facts about the number of English speakers who inhabit the world (roughly 1.2-1.5 billion according to Crystal’s estimate).  It also demonstrates that 2/3 of the world still don’t speak English and that 70% of all native tongue English speakers live in the US.
  • Chapter 3 traces the Industrial Revolution and the rise of the British Empire as the historical cause for the rise of the English language.  He also demonstrates how English became the lingua franca for scholarship and science between 1750-1900.  For the British (and in contradiction to what Brutt-Griffler argues), English was the language of Empire and was used to unite the far-flung lands of imperial conquest.  This chapter also considers the rise of American economic power and how American industrialization/technological development has contributed to the spread of English of a global language.
  • Chapter 4 provides facts and figures for the preponderance of English in the British colonial states by considering the press, advertising, broadcasting, communications, music, education, etc.  This chapter also provides an interesting consideration of how folks who don’t use English as a native language use it for business, commerce, and participation in trans/international organizations.  This section also provides stats on who is using English and what they are using it for.
  • In Chapter 5 Crystal considers the language tensions surrounding the English-Spanish debate of the 1990s in the United States.  He creates a list of pros and cons for developing a monolingual language policy and points to (in much the same way as Appadurai) how minorities threaten the purity of a whole . . . and often need cleansing in the eyes of the majority.  He also provides a blueprint/idea for what he calls “World Standard Spoken English” or an English language family that will lead to a huge upswing in the number of bilinguals in the world.
  • Crystal provides a “triumphalist” view of English as lingua franca.  As he notes, “In my view the momentum of growth has become so great that there is nothing likely to stop its continued spread as a global lingua franca, at least in the forseeable future” (x).  That being said, he is weary of English becoming the sole global language.  He notes in the conclusion that he is worries that if English is the only language left in the future “it will have been the greatest intellectual disaster that the planet has ever known” (191).

Leave a Reply