Welcome back to part 2 of my deep dive into the question if and why English is pushed as universal language in digital media. Last week, I elaborated on the omnipresence of English concerning memes, social media, digital advertisements and news. I wanted to leave some room for yourself to think about possible reasons why that could be the case and if digital media is the trigger or the consequence of pushing English as a universal language.
Unfortunately, I did not receive any feedback to my last post which means I cannot include your opinions in my line of argumentation. Nevertheless, I developed my own opinion and you have the option to comment afterwards on the appropriateness 😀
I think one possible reason is our educational system. English is taught in most European schools from early age onwards. In most cases, children have to take basic classes in English but are free to choose other language classes as well at a later point. This leads to the fact that our younger generations necessarily have a basic knowledge of English, some more and some less. Last week I commented on the fact that an even larger part of the population speaks Chinese but its appearance on the internet is way less pronounced. Well, Chinese isn’t taught in any school around here. You have to visit special schools to take classes. I assume that this has to do with the language system used. English is easier to understand for most Europeans as the alphabetic system is identical to Germanic languages. Additionally, English grammar is rather simple when compared to Chinese. So, when people decades ago needed to communicate across borders, they chose a language that was close to everyone and rather easy to acquire. I assume that that’s how they came up with English.
You should also have a look on the spread of English-speaking colonies and consequences of the World Wars for further understanding of the emergence of English as a lingua franca. From that point on, English started to become a language of trade and business and was supported more and more in educational systems. It is a reinforcing circle as with better English skills acquired in school, the usage of English worldwide increases and the importance of the language as a lingua franca is pushed. Furthermore, the US incorporates a global super power which leads to strong economic and political influence globally. The importance of the US in international trade and political decisions further pushes the usage of English. I inserted a video for you in case you want to hear more about historical reasons.
However, it is still a long way from a trade language to being a universal language in digital media and advertisement in multiple countries. I connect this development partly with the gaming scene. Many games have been developed in English speaking countries or with English terminology which brought up the necessity to use English online. Players communicating within the games mostly decided for English to communicate as the terms to describe certain actions were English anyway. The large gaming scene partly conquered video channels like YouTube and also gaming blogs or forums. Step by step, more and more English content has been added. Gamers tend to be socially very active online. Have a look at the blog of Sophia who talked about socializing in online games last week if you want more information about that.
I am aware of the fact that I am only speaking for European regions. I am not informed enough to make any claims about Asian or African regions and how they handle the English language online. That would exceed the scope of the point I wanted to make. However, I think it would be really interesting to have a closer look at these areas and their online communication as well.
But coming back to the European area: I think what I am discussing here is partly a self-inforcing circle and I am still unsure if I have been tapping into the real underlying reason. All the developments described are rather consequences of English being an international language in media and pushing it in educational systems supports the appearance of English more and more. However, the described developments have been active since more than a decade already. Nowadays, one can already recognize some new trends. Stay tuned, because next week I will elaborate a bit more on my predictions for the future and current developments in language in media and advertisements.