pedro lopez casuso on 3 Nov 2000 09:58:51 -0000

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[nettime-lat] que lenguaje global? (I)

esto estaba hoy en mi buzo-n
puede que sea un pelo largo por eso lo he partido en dos.
puede que sea relevante y de interes para la lista en general por eso lo
pongo a pesar de estar en ingles, pero /y especialmente para los que
estudian el impacto del idioma ingles en el mundo, por supuesto los que le
temen al hecho como un indicador de la sombra del imperio
a riesgo del idioma propio, encontrara argumentos a su favor que los
ayudara, tal vez, a combatir "al enemigo del norte".

la autora muy en el fondo lo que busca es obtener una informacion confiable
de lo que esta pasando en esa region del conocimientode que es la lengua y
la influencia de la net en el futuro lenguaje que hablaremos.

espero que en nettime-l no este restringida informacion en ningun idioma
de hecho me parece que cabe en el ambiente diverso que afortunadamente se
respira en esta lista

si no me equivoco y es de interes, tal vez alguno --no como yo--
que ame el trabajo lo quiera traducir
What Global Language?

English isn't managing to sweep all else before it -- and if it ever does
become the universal language, many of those who speak it won't understand
one another
  by Barbara Wallraff
 BECAUSE I am interested in what happens to the English language, over the
past year or so I've been asking people, at dinner parties and professional
gatherings and so on, whether they think that English is well on its way to
being the global language. Typically, they look puzzled about why I would
even bother to ask such an obvious question. They say firmly, Of course.
Then they start talking about the Internet. We're just having a
conversation, so I refrain from launching into everything I'm about to tell
you. It's not that I believe they're actually wrong. But the idea of English
as a global language doesn't mean what they think it does -- at least, not
according to people I've interviewed whose professions are bound up
especially closely in what happens to the English language. Join a
discussion of this article in a special forum on the globalization of

  Indeed, by now lists of facts about the amazing reach of our language may
have begun to sound awfully familiar. Have we heard these particular facts
before, or only others like them? English is the working language of the
Asian trade group ASEAN. It is the de facto working language of 98 percent
of German research physicists and 83 percent of German research chemists. It
is the official language of the European Central Bank, even though the bank
is in Frankfurt and neither Britain nor any other predominantly
English-speaking country is a member of the European Monetary Union. It is
the language in which black parents in South Africa overwhelmingly wish
their children to be educated. This little list of facts comes from British
sources: a report, The Future of English?, and a follow-up newsletter that
David Graddol, a language researcher at The Open University, and his
consulting firm, The English Company U.K., wrote in 1997 and 1998 for the
British Council, whose mission is to promote British culture worldwide; and
English as a Global Language (1997), a book by David Crystal, who is a
professor at the University of Wales.
  And yet, of course, English is not sweeping all before it, not even in the
United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census, ten years ago
about one in seven people in this country spoke a language other than
English at home -- and since then the proportion of immigrants in the
population has grown and grown. Ever-wider swaths of Florida, California,
and the Southwest are heavily Spanish-speaking. Hispanic people make up 30
percent of the population of New York City, and a television station there
that is affiliated with a Spanish-language network has been known to draw a
larger daily audience than at least one of the city's English-language
network affiliates. Even Sioux City, Iowa, now has a Spanish-language
newspaper. According to the census, from 1980 to 1990 the number of
Spanish-speakers in the United States grew by 50 percent.
  Over the same decade the number of speakers of Chinese in the United
States grew by 98 percent. Today approximately 2.4 million Chinese-speakers
live in
America, and more than four out of five of them prefer to speak Chinese at
home. The rate of growth of certain other languages in the United States has
been higher still. From 1980 to 1990 the number of speakers of Korean
increased by 127 percent and of speakers of Vietnamese by 150 percent. Small
American towns from Huntsville, Alabama, to Meriden, Connecticut, to Wausau,
Wisconsin, to El Cenizo, Texas -- all sites of linguistic controversy in
recent years -- have been alarmed to find that many new arrivals do not
English well and some may not even see the point of going to the trouble of
learning it.
  How can all of this, simultaneously, be true? How can it be that English
conquering the globe if it can't even hold its own in parts of our
traditionally English-speaking country?
  A perhaps less familiar paradox is that the typical English-speaker's
experience of the language is becoming increasingly simplified, even as
English as a whole grows more complex. If these two trends are occurring,
they are, then the globalization of English will never deliver the
result we might hope for: that is, we monolingual English-speakers may never
be able to communicate fluently with everyone everywhere. If we want to
exchange anything beyond rudimentary messages with many of our future fellow
English-speakers, we may well need help from something other than English.
  The evidence strongly suggests that the range of realistic hopes and fears
about the English language is narrower than some may suppose. Much
of what is likely to happen to English is colored, sometimes luridly, by
people dread or desire -- for their children, their neighborhoods, their
nations, their world. Human aspirations, of course, have a great deal to do
with what comes to pass. And language is very much tied up with aspirations .
  Last fall I visited David Graddol at The English Company's headquarters,
Milton Keynes, England. Graddol has a rumpled appearance somewhat at odds
the crisp publications, replete with graphs and pie charts and executive
summaries, for which he is responsible. Similarly, the appearance of The
English Company's offices, located in the ground-floor flat of a Victorian
house and sparsely furnished with good Arts and Crafts antiques together
some flea market stuff, is amiably out of keeping with the sophisticated,
high-tech nature of the consultancy's work. Stuck on the wall above the
in the kitchen, were four clocks, each captioned with a big letter
on a piece of paper: M, K, M, A. This was to help the staff remember what
it was in Malaysia, Kazakhstan, Mozambique, and Argentina, the four sites
where officials and advisers on how to teach English throughout those
countries were taking part in an online seminar moderated by The English
  "The main message," Graddol told me, "is that the globalization of English
isn't going to happen the way people expect it to." He ticked off a dizzying
array of eventualities that could transform the world language picture:
political alliances that have yet to be formed; the probable rise of
trading blocs, in such places as Asia; the Arab world, and Latin America, in
which the United States and other primarily English-speaking countries will
little involved; the possibility that world-changing technological
will arise out of nations where English is little spoken; a backlash against
American values and culture in the Middle East or Asia; or the triumph of
values and culture in those places.
  To understand the fundamental paradoxes of global English, though, we
focus on two realms of possibility: demographics and technology -- yes, the
Internet, but much else that's technological besides.
  First, Second, or Foreign Language
  PEOPLE who expect English to triumph over all other languages are
surprised to learn that the world today holds three times as many native
speakers of Chinese as native speakers of English. "Chinese," as language
scholars use the word, refers to a family of languages and dialects the most
widely spoken of which is Mandarin, and which share a written language
although they are not all mutually intelligible when spoken. "English"
to a family of languages and dialects the most widely spoken of which is
standard American English, and which have a common origin in England --
not all varieties of English, either, are mutually intelligible. The
of English used by educated speakers practically anywhere can be understood
most Americans, but pidgins, creoles, and diverse dialects belong to the
family, and these are not always so generally intelligible. To hear for
yourself how far English now ranges from what we Americans are used to, you
need only rent a video of the 1998 Scottish film My Name Is Joe, which,
in English, comes fully subtitled.
  "Native speaker" is no easier to define with any precision than "Chinese"
"English," although it means roughly what you'd think: a person who grew up
using the language as his or her first. In terms of how demographic patterns
of language use are changing, native speakers are not where the action is.
the difference between native speakers and second- or foreign-language
speakers is an important one subjectively as well as demographically. The
subjective distinction I mean will be painfully familiar to anyone who, like
me, spent years in school studying a foreign language and is now barely able
to summon enough of it to order dinner in a restaurant.
  In any case, the numerical gap is impressive: about 1,113 million people
speak Chinese as their mother tongue, whereas about 372 million speak
And yet English is still the world's second most common native language,
though it is likely to cede second place within fifty years to the South
linguistic group whose leading members are Hindi and Urdu. In 2050,
to a model of language use that The English Company developed and named
"engco" after itself, the world will hold 1,384 million native speakers of
Chinese, 556 million of Hindi and Urdu, and 508 million of English. As
languages Spanish and Arabic will be almost as common as English, with 486
million and 482 million speakers respectively. And among young people aged
fifteen to twenty-four English is expected to be in fourth place, behind not
only Chinese and the Hindi Urdu languages but also Arabic, and just ahead of
  Certainly, projections of all kinds perch atop teetering stacks of
assumptions. But assuming that the tallies of native languages in use today
are roughly accurate, the footing for projections of who will speak what as
first language fifty years from now is relatively sturdy. That's because
of the people who will be alive in fifty years are alive now; a majority of
the parents of people who will be here then are already here; and most
people's first language is, of course, the first language of their parents.
  Prod at this last idea, to see how it takes into account such things as
immigration and bilingual or multilingual places, and you'll find that it is
not rock solid. By David Crystal's estimate, for example, two thirds of the
world's children grow up in bilingual environments and develop competence in
two languages -- so it is an open question what the native language of a
many of those children is. Then, too, a range of population projections
exists, and demographers keep tinkering with them all.

  But it's undeniable that English-speakers now have lower birth rates, on
average, than speakers of Hindi and Urdu and Arabic and Spanish. And the
countries where these other languages are spoken are, generally, less well
developed than native-English-speaking countries. In 1996, according to
Nations statistics, 21 percent of males and 38 percent of females in "less
developed regions" were illiterate in every language, as were 41 and 62
percent in the "least developed countries." Nonetheless, the gains that
everyone expects English to make must come because it is adopted as a second
language or a foreign language by most of the people who speak it. According
to "The Decline of the Native Speaker," a paper David Graddol published last
year in the AILA Review (AILA is the French acronym for the International
Association of Applied Linguistics; the review belongs to the minority of
international scholarly journals that still make use of another language in
addition to English), the proportion of native English-speakers in the world
population can be expected to shrink over the century 1950-2050 from more
eight to less than five percent.
  A few more definitions will be helpful here. "Second-language" speakers
in places where English has some sort of official or special status. In
for instance, the national government sanctions the use of English for its
business, along with fifteen indigenous languages. What proportion of
population of a billion speaks English is hotly debated, but most sources
agree it is well under five percent. All the same, India is thought to have
the fourth largest population of English-speakers in the world, after the
United States, the United Kingdom, and Nigeria -- or the third largest if
discount speakers of Nigerian pidgin English. English is a second language
virtually everyone in India who speaks it. And obviously the United States,
too, contains speakers of English as a second language -- some 30 million of
them in 1995, according to an estimate by David Crystal.
  "Foreign-language" speakers of English live in places where English is not
singled out in any formal way, and tend to learn it to communicate with
from elsewhere. Examples might be Japanese who travel abroad on business and
Italians who work in tourism in their own country. The distinction between
two categories of non-native speakers is sometimes blurry. In Denmark and
Sweden the overwhelming majority of children are taught English in school --
does that constitute a special status?
  The distinction between categories of speakers matters, in part because
where English is a first or second language it develops local standards and
norms. India, for instance, publishes dictionaries of Indian English,
Denmark and Sweden tend to defer to Britain or the United States in setting
standards of English pronunciation and usage. The distinction also matters
relation to how entrenched English is in a given place, and how easy that
place would find it to abandon the language.
  One more surprise is how speculative any estimate of the use of English as
second or a foreign language must necessarily be. How large an English
vocabulary and how great a command of English grammar does a person need in
order to be considered an English-speaker? Generally, even the most rigorous
attempts to determine how many people speak what, including the U.S. Census,
depend on self-reporting. Do those years of French in high school and
entitle us to declare ourselves bilingual? They do if we want them to.
Language researchers readily admit that their statistics on second- and
foreign-language use are, as Graddol put it in "The Decline of the Native
Speaker," "educated guesswork."

  David Crystal, in his Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language
observed that only 98 million second-language speakers of English in the
could be totted up with certainty. In English as a Global Language, though,
argued that the true number was more nearly 350 million. Graddol put forward
variety of estimates in "The Decline of the Native Speaker," including
Crystal's, and explained why each had its proponents. According to the most
expansive of them, the number of second-language speakers was 518 million in
1995. From 98 million to 518 million is quite a range.
  Estimates of the number of foreign-language speakers of English range more
widely still. Crystal reports that these "have been as low as 100 million
as high as 1,000 million." The estimates would vary, because by definition
foreign language speakers live in places where English has no official or
special status. They may or may not have been asked in a national census or
other poll about their competence in English or other languages; they may or
may not have had any formal schooling in English; their assessment of their
ability to speak English may or may not be accurate.
  This last point is particularly worth bearing in mind. According to recent
"Eurobarometer" surveys described by Graddol, "77% of Danish adults and 75%
Swedish adults for example, say they can take part in a conversation in
English." And "nearly one third of the citizens of the 13 'non
English-speaking' countries in the EU 'can speak English well enough to take
part in a conversation.'" However, Richard Parker, in his book Mixed
The Prospects for Global Television News (1995), reported this about a study
commissioned by Lintas, a major media buyer, in the early 1990s:
  When ad researchers recently tested 4,500 Europeans for "perceived" versus
"actual" English-language skills, the results were discouraging. First, the
interviewees were asked to evaluate their English-language abilities, and
to translate a series of sample English phrases or sentences. The study
produced, in its own words, "sobering" results: "the number of people really
fit for English language television turned out to be less than half the
expected audience." In countries such as France, Spain, and Italy, the study
found, fewer than 3 percent had excellent command of English; only in small
markets, such as Scandinavia and the Low Countries did the numbers even
10 percent.
  So the number of people in the world who speak English is unknown, and how
well many of them speak and understand it is questionable. No one is arguing
that English is not widely spoken and taught. But the vast numbers that are
often repeated -- a billion English-speakers, a billion and a half -- have
only tenuous grounding in reality.
  I have never seen any tables or charts that rank languages according to
proportions of the world's population expected to be using them as second or
foreign languages ten or fifty years from now. The subject is just too
hypothetical, the range of variables too great. Consider, for instance, the
side effects that the breakup of the Soviet Union has had on the use of the
Russian language. Now that no central authority seeks to impose Russian on
schoolchildren throughout the Soviet bloc, few countries besides Russia
require students to learn it, and for the most part the language is less and
less used. However, in places including the Caucasus, Russian continues to
valued as a lingua franca, and fluency in it remains a hallmark of an
  Consider, too, the slender thread by which Canada's linguistic fate hung
long ago. In November of 1995 Quebec held a referendum to determine whether
most of its citizens were in favor of independence. If 27,000 of the 4.65
million Quebeckers who voted had cast their ballots for secession rather
against, by now Canada's entire population of some 30 million people, all of
them in theory bilingual, might conceivably be on the way to being largely
monolingual  - the nation of Quebec in French and what remained of Canada in
  In the United States, discounting the claims that antagonists make about
other side's position, it's hard to find anyone who doesn't think it would
nice if everyone in the United States spoke English. Virtually all the
impassioned debate is about whose resources should be devoted to making this
happen and whether people should be encouraged to speak or discouraged from
speaking other languages, too. All kinds of things have the potential to
change the rate at which English as a second language is learned in the
States. Suppose that nationwide, English lessons were available free (as
already are in some parts of the country) and that employers offered
and schools offered parents, incentives to take them. Who can say what
this would have?
  Patterns of learning foreign languages are more volatile still. When I
visited David Graddol, last fall, The English Company was reviewing
the Chinese government had created to be used by 400,000 Chinese instructors
in teaching English to millions of their compatriots. Maybe this was a step
an inexorable process of globalization -- or maybe it wasn't. Plans to teach
English widely in China might change if relations between our two countries
took a disastrous turn. Or the tipping point could be something completely
undramatic, such as the emergence of an array of Chinese-language Web sites .
The information-technology expert Michael Dertouzos told me not long ago
at a conference he had attended in Taipei, the Chinese were grumbling about
having to use English to take advantage of the Internet's riches.
  Several Languages Called English
  MUCH of what will happen to English we can only speculate about. But let's
pursue an idea that language researchers regard as fairly well grounded:
native speakers of English are already outnumbered by second-language and
foreign-language speakers, and will be more heavily outnumbered as time goes
  One obvious implication is that some proportion of the people using
for business or professional purposes around the world aren't and needn't be
fluent in it. Recently I talked with Michael Henry Heim, a professor of
literatures at the University of California at Los Angeles and a
translator who has rendered into English major works by Milan Kundera and
GŁnter Grass. By his count, he speaks "ten or so" languages. He told me
flatly, "English is much easier to learn poorly and to communicate in poorly
than any other language. I'm sure that if Hungary were the leader of the
world, Hungarian would not be the world language. To communicate on a
day-to-day basis -- to order a meal, to book a room -- there's no language
simple as English."
  Research, though, suggests that people are likely to find a language
or harder to learn according to how similar it is to their native tongue, in
terms of things like word order, grammatical structure, and cognate words.
the researcher Terence Odlin noted in his book Language Transfer (1989), the
duration of full-time intensive courses given to English-speaking U.S.
service personnel amounts to a rough measurement of how different, in these
ways, other languages are from English. Today the courses for
employees who need to learn German, Italian, French, Spanish, or Portuguese
last twenty-four weeks. Those for employees learning Swahili, Indonesian, or
Malay last thirty-six weeks, and for people learning languages including
Hindi, Urdu, Russian, and Hungarian, forty-four weeks. Arabic, Chinese,
Japanese, and Korean take eighty-eight weeks. Note that all the world's
commonest native languages except Spanish are in the groups most demanding
English speakers. It might be reasonable to suppose that the reverse is also
true -- that Arabic- and Chinese-speakers find fluency in English to be more
of a challenge than Spanish-speakers do.
  A variety of restricted subsets of English have been developed to meet the
needs of nonfluent speakers. Among these is Special English, which the Voice
of America began using in its broadcasts experimentally some forty years ago
and has employed part-time ever since. Special English has a basic
of just 1,500 words (The American Heritage Dictionary contains some 200,000
words, and the Oxford English Dictionary nearly 750,000), though sometimes
these words are used to define non-Special English words that VOA writers
essential to a given story. Currently VOA uses Special English for news and
features that are broadcast a half hour at a time, six times a day, seven
a week, to millions of listeners worldwide.
  But restricted forms of English are usually intended for professional
communities. Among the best known of these is Seaspeak, which ships' pilots
around the world have used for the past dozen years or so; this is now being
supplanted by SMCP, or "Standard Marine Communication Phrases," which is
derived from English but was developed by native speakers of a variety of
languages. Airplane pilots and air-traffic controllers use a restricted form
of English called Airspeak.
  Certainly, the world's ships and airplanes are safer if those who guide
have some language in common, and restricted forms of English have no modern
day rivals for this role. The greatest danger language now seems to pose to
navigation and aviation is that some pilots learn only enough English to
describe routine situations, and find themselves at a loss when anything out
of the ordinary happens.
  Something else obviously implied by the ascendance of English as a second
and a foreign language is that more and more people who speak English speak
another language at least as well, and probably better. India may have the
third or fourth largest number of English-speakers in the world, but English
is thought to be the mother tongue of much less than one percent of the
population. This is bound to affect the way the language is used locally.
Browsing some English-language Web sites from India recently, I seldom had
trouble understanding what was meant. I did, however, time and again come
across unfamiliar words borrowed from Hindi or another indigenous Indian
language. On the site called India World the buttons that a user could click
on to call up various types of information were labeled "samachar:
Personalised News," "dhan: Investing in India," "khoj: Search India," "khel:
Indian Cricket," and so forth. When I turned to the Afternoon Despatch &
Courier of Bombay (some of whose residents call it Mumbai) and called up a
gossipy piece about the romantic prospects of the son of Rajiv and Sonia
Gandhi, I read, "Sources disclose that before Rahul Gandhi left for London,
some kind of a 'swayamvar' was enacted at 10, Janpath with family friend
Captain Satish Sharma drawing up a short list of suitable brides from
affluent, well-known connected families of Uttar Pradesh."
  Of course, English is renowned for its ability to absorb elements from
languages. As ever more local and national communities use English, though,
they will pull language in ever more directions. Few in the world will care
look as far afield as the United States or Britain for their standards of
proper English. After all, we long ago gave up looking to England -- as did
Indians and also Canadians, South Africans, Australians, and New Zealanders,
among others. Today each of these national groups is proud to have its own
idioms, and dictionaries to define them.
  Most of the world's English-speaking communities can still understand one
another well -- though not, perhaps, perfectly. As Anne Soukhanov, a word
columnist for this magazine and the American editor of the Encarta World
English Dictionary, explained in an article titled "The King's English It
Ain't," published on the Internet last year, "Some English words mean very
different things, depending on your country. In South Asia, a hotel is a
restaurant, but in Australia, a hotel is an establishment selling alcoholic
beverages. In South Africa, a robot is a traffic light."
  David Graddol told me about visiting China to consult on another English
curriculum project (one that had to do with teaching engineers in the steel
industry) and finding a university that had chosen a Belgian company to
develop lessons for it. When Graddol asked those in charge why they'd
Belgians, of all people, to teach them English, they explained they saw it
an advantage that the Belgians, like the Chinese, are not native speakers.
Belgians, they reasoned, would be likely to have a feel both for the
intricacies of learning the language in adulthood and for using it to
communicate with other non-native speakers.
  But by now we have strayed far beyond the relationship between
and the use of English. Technology has much to teach us too.

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