The History of English

It was 500 years ago, English was spoken by 5 to 7 million people, mainly in the British Isles. Today, nearly 1.8 billion people speak English in the world. How to explain this? The spread of English has nothing to do with grammatical structure or its linguistic characteristics. Everything is a matter of politics and history.

The British Empire

English already prospered for almost a millennium in the British Isles when the sailors, pilgrims, merchants and missionaries from the United propagated around the globe. Even before a semblance of language policy was not implemented, the English had already been around the world. Note however that the settlers who landed on the east coast of the United States were not all English: the New World, also spoke good English, as Spanish, French, Dutch or German. All these languages gained in importance over the following centuries, with the waves of immigration from Europe. Later, when the founding fathers of the United States wanted to unite the states, they quickly understood the importance of language in national identity. English is the majority language, it was encouraged. The first steps in this direction were not taken at the beginning of the 20th century, with the ban in several states, to teach foreign languages in private schools and at home. As for the US Supreme Court, she waited till 1923 to impose restrictions on language courses in the private sector.

Official Language in the United States

Today, English is not recognized official language in the United States, but there is no doubt that it is, in fact, the dominant language. The United States was not alone in welcoming English with open arms. In the early 20th century, the British Empire accounted for nearly a quarter of the surface of the planet (excluding the US). According to a popular saying of the time, “the sun never set on the British Empire”. However, in most countries of the British Empire, the goal was primarily to do business, not to settle. That’s why English has never won in Africa and Asia: it was the language of business, administration, and education, but not the language of the people. The English language has preserved an important role in the administration of these former colonies to date. For a long time, English speaking provided access to education, whether in African schools mission or in the early Indian universities. Thus, an English-speaking elite has emerged in some of the most populous countries in the world. And as everyone knows, the elites are equipped for self-preservation. After independence, many countries became officially multilingual first. But their different communities needed a language to communicate among themselves and with other nations. Naturally, they chose English. direct legacy of the British Empire, English is now the dominant or official language of 75 territories around the world. In countries where large settlements were formed, such as Australia, Canada or the United States, indigenous languages and cultures are found almost completely crowded out by English.