English Lingua Franca

The prominence of the English language has continued to increase in stature over time. Today, the language is spoken by almost 2 billion people across the world, compared to five million some five hundred years ago. According to Breiteneder (2009) its prominence cannot be attributed to the language’s structure or its intrinsic qualities. In fact, no language can claim superiority over other languages based on its structure or grammar. Instead, politics and economics are the two leading drivers of this prominence. The increase in use of the language has made it an automatic lingua franca in the modern world. English is a native language in both Britain and the USA and therefore derives considerable power by virtue of this association. The dominance of these two countries in the world in successive periods has ensured the progression of the English language into a lingua franca. Ultimately, the increased use of the dialect in a majority of domains qualifies it as a world lingua franca.

English has successfully attained dominance as the leading means of communication in the international sphere. Currently, the number of non-native speakers surpasses the number of conventional native speakers from countries such as the USA and the UK (Seidlhofer, 2009). The increase in the numbers of speakers can rightly be attributed to the association with power. Indeed, the choice of international language is determined by power amidst other considerations. That notwithstanding, English has not been the only lingua franca in the world’s existence. It is preceded by other lingua franca such as the French during the era of European expansion and Latin during Greek domination of the globe. The choice of a universal language is largely influenced by the speakers’ dominance in areas such as politics, economics and military. Such has been the trend with the English language following subsequent superpower positions of Britain and the USA. The existence of English as a lingua franca is a both a blessing and a curse to the world. While it helps in globalization and integration of different communities, it has also been blamed for the suppression of other languages such as Arabic.

The potential of the language in enhancing international cooperation is an important aspect of any lingua franca. The use of a single language is beneficial to the world including both native and non-native speakers. Everyone in the world grabs the opportunity to learn English as a second language because of its potential use as a vehicular language. In addition, the language is important in driving global integration and cooperation through the provision of a single medium of communication. Bolton & Graddol (2012) assert that the use of the language is not limited to the concept of international integration but extends far beyond to include aspects of commerce, education and politics. Through the use of the language, people from different language speaking countries can effectively communicate with each other at the international arena. For instance, deliberations on world politics as well as international treaties can only be done through a single language. The incidence of English as a vehicular language is therefore appreciated in this regard.

The use of the lingua franca of English language is not entirely beneficial however. In fact the proliferation of the lingua franca has incurred huge disadvantages to other speakers as they cannot communicate in their native languages. Indeed, these speakers have to allocate a great deal of resources in learning the English language to make any meaningful impact at the international arena. Even after such investments in the acquisition of a foreign language, the non-native speakers may still communicate with difficulties. This development has led to increased concern over the viability of a single language dominating over all other languages in the world (Guilherme, 2007). The challenge of acquiring anew language in order to communicate with other people has been appreciated in different scholarly publications. Also, the use of a foreign language in communication may result in the generation of the same misunderstandings it aimed at avoiding. For instance, the translation of certain words from one’s language into a foreign language cannot be achieved with 100% effectiveness. Some words in the English have no translations in other languages meaning that people may find it hard to communicate in the language when they are already used to their native dialects.

The axiom that English is the international language of communication is undeniably true. Its use is increasing contributing to the galvanization of trade and the sharing of knowledge in both academia and informal fields. The prevalence of the language in the international space is attributed to its establishment in significant fields such as tourism, computer science and aviation. According to Crystal (2003) the language is used unofficially to enhance communication and especially in international trade.  Furthermore, the English language has cemented its place as lingua franca through dominance in different international as well as European institutions. Today, most of the learning in schools is facilitated through English as a first language or a second language. This dominance is importance in the standardization of learning concepts thereby giving a better understanding of the education curricula. The harmonization of learning and research internationally is one of the benefits of the lingua franca (Jenkins & Leung, 2013). Still, the use of the language helps in the opening up of people’s minds to global perspectives. The stature of the English language as a lingua franca in the world is important in this respect.

A consideration of the negative effects of the internationalization of the English language on the native speakers and their respective countries is also necessary. The dominance of the language has been cited as a recipe for cultural deterioration in the English speaking countries. One of the ways in which this is achieved is through the suffocation of national identities in these countries. English speaking countries do not have one lingual but incorporate other minority languages that are being suppressed in the process. Consequently, the dominance of one language is not only dangerous to the world but to the native countries as local languages are suffocated in the process. The result of this degradation is a continuous and irreversible impoverishment of the spiritual and cultural heritage of the countries (Wardhaugh et al, n.d.). The intellectual identity of these people is not spared either as their mode of communication is quashed in the wake of English dominance. Still, there is the danger attached with the rejections of English speaking countries at the international stage as they are accused of colonizing the world in communication. In this fashion, the use of English language as a lingua franca is not only inappropriate but disadvantageous to the world.

Jenkins, (2009) argues that the fact that the English language is not a mother tongue of any community makes it an ideal lingua franca. It is not surprising, therefore, that the adoption rates of the language have increased in the recent past owing to a direct association with a majority of the people. Consequently, the English language has applications in the business world as a neutral code of communication. For instance, a Chinese national travelling to Italy on a business trip will most likely communicate in English. In this regard, the language helps in bringing harmony between people of different languages by availing a common language for use. The use of the language is also not limited to a particular group of people and is therefore relevant in this application. It is widely used in the field of business with almost all inter trade deals being communicated through English (Crystal, 2003). Other people have cited the origin of English as a disqualifying factor in its attempt to be a lingua franca. Accordingly, the language stems from diverse cultural backgrounds thus communicating that it is not neutral. Nonetheless, the successful application in business makes the language an automatic candidate for the lingua franca position.

The proliferation of the English as a lingua franca is detrimental to the culture of other languages in the world. In fact, the language has been associated with imperialism for its role in threatening the survival and preservation of other languages. The use of the language in foreign countries continues to endanger the continuation of minority languages. A case in point is the degradation of Arabic language where some countries have witnessed false use of the language as result of English dominance. The dominance of the language has resulted in a false and indeed fallacious ideology that it is superior to other languages (Bolton & Graddol, 2012). The result is that wealthy families in Arabia have sent their children abroad to learn the English language resulting in people that are neither good in their mother tongue nor the English language. Actually, one cannot be more comfortable speaking a foreign language than they are when speaking in their mother tongue. Ultimately, this mindset results in the degradation of the native languages as everyone yearns to speak in the English language and not their mother tongue.

Perhaps, the proliferation of the English language is largely enhanced through the concept of globalization. Today, the world is a global village characterized by unlimited flow of capital, goods and technology. According to Breiteneder (2009), the increased cooperation between different countries of the world has contributed to the establishment of the English language as the world’s lingua franca. In terms of politics and economic cooperation, all developments have acted as catalysts to the ascension of the English language. For instance, the growth of such alliances as the NATO has advanced the use of the English language in a bid to increase communication efficiency. Further, international organizations such as WHO with representation in almost all countries require the use of a single language of official communication. These developments, coupled by the position of the superpowers have all contributed to the increased use of the English language in international politics. With regard to the concept of international trade, there is a demand for the use of a single language resulting to the adoption of the English language in this aspect.

The use of the English language as a lingua franca has huge potential in the field of academia and research. In fact, the fields of research and academia are a leading domain of English as a lingua franca with applications in many countries. The dependence on English in standardizing procedures in research has increased in recent years resulting in the dominance of the language (Seidlhofer, 2009). One of the reasons for this direction is the fact that the field of academia is highly dependent on international cooperation and the sharing of knowledge and skills in research. Also, research findings have to be communicated to participating stakeholders in different countries resulting in an increasing demand for the English language in communication. The need for negotiations in the area of international research practices and concepts contribute to the need for a single language of communication. The use of the English language in academia has increased ever since the Second World War strengthening its use in the field with every passing year. The field of academia is interesting as it is different from other international fields that have chosen their communication language through joint decision. In contrast, the academia field is naturally chosen with the eventual evolution of English as the language of choice.

The evolution of the internet further contributed to the ascension of the English language as a lingua franca. The internet has its origin in the United States and was originally composed in English. In a bid to catch up with the new technology, most of the people in the world have learned the English language to improve their communication skills with other people. Although the internet has evolved to incorporate other languages, the use of the English language in this respect has not withered. According to Breiteneder (2009), more than 60% of the internet is in the English dialect with the other percentage being divided amongst other languages. Evidently, anyone who intends to use the internet as a tool of communication has little choice than to use the English language. The use has also been increased by the evolution of internet to become a marketing tool and facilitating business. Ultimately, the internet has cemented the place of English as a lingua franca in many disciplines including trade and cooperation.

There is no denying that the English language is the current lingua franca of the world. However, the evolution of the language as a lingua franca has not been by chance but a result of the dominance of the UK and the USA in political and economical spheres. Particularly, the subsequent ascension of the two countries into superpower positions has cemented the language as a lingua franca in ways never seen before. The dominance of the language in numerous domains of the world has increased its chance leading to a demand in its use. Indeed, the language is commonly used in the areas of business, research and international cooperation. The benefit of this development is better communication amongst people of different nationalities as well as the achievement of international integration. Eventually, the use of the language in different aspects at the international arena makes it an effective world lingua franca.



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Crystal, D. (2003). English as a global language. (2nd.ed.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wardhaugh, R., Phillipson, R., & Crystal, D. Roles and Impact of English As a Global Language.

Jenkins, J., & Leung, C. (2013). English as a lingua franca. John Wiley & Sons, Inc..

Jenkins, J. (2009). English as a lingua franca: Interpretations and attitudes. World Englishes, 28(2), 200-207.


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