2012-05-29

Annoying Myth: English is a Global Language

Some people who should know better, they tend to be British, think English is a global language. If global means on different continents, then yes. But Mandarin, German, Portuguese, French and Spanish are also widely spoken on different continents.

The fact is, the vast majority of the world's 7 billion people do not understand or speak English. They need subtitles to watch Terminator 3. Or, more likely, they are watching a dubbed version, with no exposure to English.

That's not to say English isn't popular. In Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, it is often the neutral go to language. There are so many national languages it that area (Norway has two) that picking a useful second language is difficult. Still, the vast majority of the people in that area are not fluent in English.

Whenever I blog about something apolitical, I get plenty of Google Translate hits. A reminder that even in its simple written form, some people prefer a machine translation.  Any Canadian who has been south for the Winter knows the advantages of understanding and speaking Spanish. You can get better prices, you can use public transportation and leave the resort/prison without escorts. And that's in the tourist areas. In-land, forgetabout it. No English, at all.

But English is the most popular second language, right? Well, if it is, it won't be much use in giant chunks of Africa (French). Spanish is the most popular second language in Spain and Latin America.

There would be huge advantages if there was a universal language. Be we are not there yet. I'm all for teaching people English. But trying to explain, sell, proselytize or entertain in English, to non-English speakers, is pure folly. Learn a second language. Hire people to translate your message. Better yet, create it locally and translate it back to English for quality control. 

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