Global English

October 28, 2013

I love English. As a language, I am constantly inspired by its power to convey, often beautifully, such a delight of ideas and senses. Of course, I recognize that power that other tongues have to fill in the gaps that English might have (the near-useless pronoun “you” with it’s inability to clear separate the individual from the group, or “to be’s” helplessness in really distinguishing existence from equivalence), but English has succeeded in it’s willingness to submit, both in form and sound, to the needs of it’s speakers and readers.

In other words, it is a language in a constant state of flux. Unlike French or Arabic, languages whose defenders have committed themselves to a purity of form and sound that protects them from the swirling currents of the world, English is a bit more liberated. It refuses to settle down and act right. It’s run off to all corners of the globe, and has shamelessly imposed itself on all manner of peoples. The truth of this is buried in our wildly diverse set of word origins (Pundit, Soju, Amuck, Tycoon). Even more inspiring (or terrifying) are the legions of young students who carry phrases like “pass the buck” or “touch base,” each secretly housing an element of history and culture that wait to be discovered in some future conversation with some fellow student or educator. English has become ubiquitous, and it revels in this role. English is an explorer who wants to find a place for every person and experience in its heart. And like the beautiful traveller that she is, offers something back to those she left behind; if only something to talk about. The memory lingers.

In other words, English has escaped from the confines of her “native” speakers. It belongs to the world now. English has worked it’s way into the consciousness of most peoples, whether whole-heartedly, or only in a few passing words and phrases (I’ve yet to meet anyone anywhere who doesn’t know the expression “okay”). More and more, the context of English is being pushed and influenced by those who seek to understand it better, and perhaps aim to perfect it by injecting some fresh piece of knowledge into an otherwise dead realm of speech.

Obviously, I am no purist of language. I love the roiling changes that constantly bubble across the literary landscape. I love writers who dare to try something just a little differently. I love speakers and learners who look for new meaning in old phrases, and I especially love those who reinforce the modern by seeking the old meanings of new phrases. After all, words have meanings that slide from one context to another. They do so with a slickness and a smoothness that most of us never really notice, until we are already deeply entrenched in our new usage. The passage of time and the joy of discovery makes English ever more indispensable. By sharing and recombining, English becomes an ever more potent and indispensable cultural tool. In this sense, English is like an ecosystem that become ever broader and deeper. With each passing moment, the language become richer and bolder, encompassing ever more of the human experience.

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