TOEFL: The second clip about how English became the dominant world language and the (unfair) advantages it gives its speakers.
You can download the file [ HERE ].
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There are obviously many reasons you might want to learn another language, but the primary driver seems to be economics. We looked at this in an earlier episode called “Is learning a foreign language really worth it?” One European study found that a second language could increase your wages between 5 and 20 percent depending on which language and country. The biggest boost, perhaps not surprisingly, went to those learning English. There are still plenty of places where English won't do you much good, but at something like 1.5 billion speakers, it has certainly become what John McWhorter calls “a big fat language” which is even more striking when you consider that only about 400 million of them are native speakers.
The reason why English is so popular around the world or so widely used has to do with the British Empire.
Michael Gordon again.
Otherwise, it's the language of a small island in the North Sea that happened to spread fairly globally, whereas Chinese is the language of a very large landmass that's contiguous.
But the rise of English isn't all tied to British colonialism.
So the story is partially about the rise of American power and the attractiveness of American higher education - the desire of people to get to postdocs in the US and to publish in US journals.
Consider science, previously dominated in the West by Latin and in the east by Sanskrit and Classical Chinese.
Today there is basically one common language for communication in the elite natural sciences, like physics biology chemistry geology, which is overwhelmingly English. By overwhelmingly, I mean over 95 percent of world publication in those sciences is in English. And there's never been anything quite like that before.
This requires more than just a familiarity with English.
What we now demand of people is an extremely high level of both written and oral fluency in English. So it's very hard to get that fluency, and it imposes an educational burden on them. And you have people in Japan who spend years learning English when their counterparts in Canada are just learning more science. And so that creates a mechanism that reinforces the elite status of Anglophone institutions. There probably are people in the world who would be wonderful scientists but can't get the English and therefore can't quite participate in the international community.
And if they can't participate, what kind of science is the rest of the world missing out on? The massive leverage of English in the scientific community and in other communities is something you probably don't think about much if you are a native English speaker.
So that native speakers of English learn English for free from their parents and the community around them and they benefit enormously from everybody else spending years putting this language into their heads.
For a native speaker, that's the status quo.
The problem with the status quo is it's not fair. The people who benefit the most from it pay the least for it.