Could English be considered a universal language?

Once you hear the word “Universal Language”, does it ring a bell in your head? What comes to your mind most probably is English, isn’t it?

Breaking down the most basic idea of universal language is through its definition. When you come to the definition of the words, most online dictionaries will explain an idea of a language that can be understood in many different places. It will be highlighted in both the auxiliary and the expression of the language. 

A language hypothetically or historically becomes the universal language when it is spoken and understood by most people in the world. People intend to use the language to communicate with people who speak different mother tongues. Furthermore, the language itself won’t replace any mother tongue since it becomes the second language.

Nevertheless, there was never a language used or understood by the entire global society. Linguists mentioned that the concept would be only found for languages that were used together in certain large regions. Then, there are two languages such as Arabic and Chinese that fit this concept of universal languages. However, some argued that these languages were not even closely considered universal languages since the heterogeneity of dialects and variations that are hardly understood by each other. 

The Development of Universal Languages

After centuries of global commerce practice, the idea of universal languages was raised to tackle language barrier problems among traders.  A German mathematician, Gottfried Leibniz with his colleagues tried to develop a mathematical concept that could formulate ideas that would be understood by different language speakers. The concept used a calculus and analytic approach yet it never went any further.

In 1873,  Ludwik Zamenhof developed an artificial language called Esperanto. The language was meant to be a universal language that could be used to promote global peace. This artificial language is the most successful among other artificial languages since it reaches millions of global speakers today. Yet, it never reaches its original purpose as a universal language due to some reasons. 

English as Universal Language

English as Universal Language

As civilization went on, and after many great situations happened in human history, there was no language that could meet all characteristics and standards to be granted as a language for all. The universal language would become a key to all global activities and it is necessary to satisfy the needs of communication for people who serve different mother tongues. Then, the question is what language is it?

Nowadays, common people believe that English is the universal language. Yet, when we look up to history, the need for a universal language came far before English existed. Before, the choice of universal language is based on social or political factors. 

For example, Latin which served as the universal language in the ancient and medieval eras was chosen neither because of the structure of the language nor the beautiful vocabulary. The reason was mainly based on the use of language in political communication and the church. It was also spread by the soldiers and the trades in many western European cities. Then, it developed through the addition of many vocabularies which later became the root of modern-day roman languages, namely Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian.

It works the same way for English. When the sole reason for choosing a universal language lies in the linguistic factor, English will not cut it. It is due to the complicated phonology and phonetic sides and its lexicon. Although the idea is still under debate, some people believe that English is highlighted because of its simplicity, flexibility, and even funny. 

English has been considered the universal language because of power and money as result it has been an official language in more than 50 countries around the world. Since the era of British expansion throughout the world several centuries ago, English had been brought along with the soldiers, traders, and missionaries as a means of communication in every aspect of socialization such as politics, economy, and religion. The use of English in every communication made a massive spread in all colonial regions.

Moreover, the political influence that was raised with the US’s interest in the world has made English be used and understood by a large portion of the world population. The consistent use of it has made it even better in attracting many people to learn this language so that it is predicted to really reach its title as a universal language in the near future.

Although the reason in which people want others to jointly feel the same prestige of the language also exists, English still leads the overall score for acceptance in many global activities involving several countries. Chinese and Arabic, for instance, are two languages that have existed for centuries and have a large number of native speakers yet they are still unsuccessful in attracting foreign people to learn and use them for both formal and informal situations. English is considered better than those two because it uses the alphabet and has a simpler construction, making it more acceptable as a universal language.

English is brought to its popularity as a universal language by all factors in our daily life; business aspect, movies, music, books, and the internet. Every text and promotion always has an English version when they are intended for international consumption. However, there are also some reasons that made this language very successful.

  • Business – Business and English are inseparable. In the business world, communication is a vital aspect that drives the flow of business. With the language that is understood by most of all, people may come to the same ground before the agreement is made. 
  • Movies – The existence of Hollywood movies with English language as a medium of communication makes English familiar in our everyday life. People will easily get to know English vocabulary through movies with various themes. 
  • Music – A song can reach people’s hearts. English songs have influenced music genres in the world. In the same way as movies, English songs have a large audience. Through songs, people will associate their feelings with English expressions. 
  • Books – It is believed that English is the most preferred language for publication. Most books written in English gain more popularity than it is in local languages. 
  • Internet – It is mentioned that English is the most widely used language in the world of the internet. Then, the internet users may get more information when they are able to read English. It absolutely brings English to easily reach all communities.