Is the English language taking over the world?


Ellie Johnson photo

View from the top of the Arc De Triomphe in Paris, France

Ellie Johnson , Co-editor-in-chief

As I experienced my first time abroad in Europe, there was one thing I noticed that I could not seem to shake: is the English language taking over the world?

While it may be naïve to assume English is taking over the whole world, my exposure to a single country was so overwhelming in this aspect that it made me wonder. While there are an estimated 6,500 languages spoken in the world today, according to the language-learning website Busuu, it was possible for me to take a whole trip to Paris, France, knowing no more than ten French words.

From my arrival at the airport to my shuttle to the hotel, everyone I encountered spoke English. Even the concierge at the hotel apologized for his accent. Though it is arguable that all of these people are in the travel industry and are used to it, my further experiences proved that theory wrong.

While only knowing a handful of expressions in French, by only saying “Parlez-vous Anglais?” (Do you speak English?), I opened the door to the truth of how many people were learning English.

Restaurant menus were in French and then English conveniently on the opposite side. Waiters understood what I wanted to order without the point of a finger.

The most shocking example was when I went to a brunch restaurant outside of the city. The owner greeted me warmly, speaking English without me having to ask. I was served water while a couple came and sat at the table next to me an arms-length distance away. They were local, speaking French fluently. Instead of the owner approaching them with his first language, he continued to speak English. There I was, 4,000 miles from home, with two Parisians speaking English sitting next to me.

I continued to question if this was becoming the new normal: do you have to clarify you can speak your first language, if not English, in cities abroad?

Foreign Language teacher Madame McCann has an abundance of experience abroad. She has spent years living in a variety of countries, including Mexico, France, and different Caribbean islands. Through her exposure, she says she has come to the conclusion that while English may be spreading throughout the world, its direction seems to be based on economics.

“When you go to the cities or places where English speakers would visit, with tourism or business, then they make an effort and speak English,” she said. “But if you go anywhere outside of that in other countries, there is no English. People are speaking more English in metropolitan areas because there is the opportunity to make money.”

This theory seems to be evident everywhere. Because different countries throughout the world interact so frequently, and America’s power and assets have business appeal, it has almost become crucial for other countries to adapt and make an effort to learn English.

By gauging Madame McCann’s perspective, it shows a probable reason why so many people in the business industry spoke English in Paris, but it still does not explain why locals did.

One big reason that English is becoming the most-spoken language in the world, according to the France-based Speak English Center, is the “coolness” factor. Basically, other people in foreign countries want to learn English because it is associated to a certain lifestyle that we have here in America.

Though English may not be spreading throughout the whole world, there is no denying its increasing presence in metropolitan areas. While there may not be one clear answer, it seems the factor of money and the spread of American culture are some of the biggest impacts of one country’s language escalating globally.