English Language and Cultural Homogenization

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14th Jul 2017 English Language Reference this

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Abstract

In this paper, I will look at the subject matter of English language and the relative importance it stages in the sphere of globalization and cultural homogenization. The usage of English language has intensified the ongoing process of the modern communicative world amidst the impact of socio-cultural globalization. Its competency in the global scenario is highly sought in communication as also in occupying better positions in the market economy as an inter-linkage of understanding between two or more countries that inhabit cultural attachment of one’s own language. However English language is criticized on account of heterogeneity that exists in the world countries which often provoke conflicts, along with the varying cultural settings through different practices and physical characteristics, and for which language is one that define their cultural background. Despite the fact that English language being the most influential panorama in the global language field, especially on the socio-cultural aspect, it has been argued that its impact has devalued certain cultural norms and practices which is meant to have a negative impact on the language and culture of certain countries, especially of those colonized countries and the non-English speaking cultures. Nevertheless English language has a great impact on how people view themselves and others in the diversity of cultural background and within one’s own cultural milieu. Furthermore, English language and its mode of education have a greater impact on our culture and relevant understandings. Despite being critiqued in many aspects, it establishes a dominant feature in the process of globalization with the subsequent effect it has on the socio- cultural exchange and learning.

Introduction

Language is one of the most important tools that greatly distinguish the capacity of human beings, placing humans at the ‘top of the evolutionary ladder’ (Neuliep 2006: 246). Anthropologist and linguist like Edward Sapir argued that the language of a culture has an impact on the people belonging to that particular area on how they think, how they perceive the world around them, how they view their natural and social environments; Similarly, Whorf also stress on the idea that the languages of the people determine different types of observations that helps perceive the world differently (Ibid.). This led to the Sapir- Whorf Hypothesis that rests on two principles- the ‘principle of linguistic determinism’ which believes that what one thinks depends on what language one speaks and the ‘principle of linguistic relativity’ which determines that the different views of the world as seen by the speakers are based on the different languages they belong to. While there are linguists who believe that the language of the people is determined by the vocabulary and the grammar structure that corresponds to the ‘nonverbal’ culture depending on the ‘geographic, climatic, kinesic, spatial, and proxemic aspects’ of culture that shows itself to the culture’s language (Ibid.246-248).

On one hand, the varied forms of vocabulary and the meanings attached to the language is a form of culture and as such language and culture are inextricably linked; while on the other hand, a group’s language defines their cultural group and cultural identity that enable social bonds stronger [1] . Language make possible, people belonging to different cultures, to communicate effectively that are in a way enriching one’s personal and professional connectivity. It is an important tool for a knowledge based skills attitudes which incorporate ‘ideas, customs, habits, and values’ that enable oneself to participate in the local and international subjects, while enriching one’s personal and professional life [2] that characterize its impact in the process of the socio-cultural globalization. Language determines the historical tradition of people and their respective culture that are rooted in their attitudes and behavior through varied form (Ibid)

In the domain of socio-cultural perspectives, Waters (1995: 3) defines globalization as “a social process in which the constraints of geography on social and cultural arrangements recede and in which people become increasingly aware that they are receding” (in Sengupta 2000: 3140). Certain terms that attributes to the global culture effects are ‘Westernization’, ‘Mcdonalisation’ or ‘Cocacolonization’ which are much talked about in the discourse of globalization, to which ‘Westernization’ draws much of its critique on account of the relative effects that draws upon the rest of the world as much as cultural diffusion is concerned (Ibid.). In addition, those factors that influence the process of globalization are met ‘through symbols of values, preferences and tastes, and not through economic materials and political power exchanges’ (Ibid. 3141).

In the domain of establishing English language as a global practice, Britain and United States seem to have an upper hand because of its strong political and economic power for the past two centuries. The use of English Language in the fields varying from ‘publishing, science, technology, commerce, diplomacy, air-traffic control and popular music’, are drawn mostly by the aforesaid countries to forming a well known ‘world language’ more popularly [3] 

English Language in the Globalization era

. In the earlier times, there was an indication with regard to English as a world language, i.e., ‘The International Herald Tribune’, the former New York Herald Tribune described as ‘The world’s daily newspaper’ (Phillipson 2001: 188-89). English language is perhaps the most well known language in the world spoken by native as well non-native speakers. Globalization is the buzzword the world is talking about and there are extensive literatures that relate to it but there is not much literature that specifically relates to globalization and the English language as much as the study on the global English is concerned (Ibid.).

English competency is regarded as an essential tool for survival in the era of globalization, which is predominantly used in the computers when the world is largely interpreted through it [4] . The language of English is very popular worldwide that it has an immense role in specifying the dominance of communicators in the present globalization times that affects socio-cultural identities. The language of English is also a central part in the dominance of ‘international politics and commerce’ [5] while also in the military links [6] and culture [7] (Phillipson 2001: 187). In the European Union too, there is much visibility on English being its dominant language, while in the central Europe the knowledge of English language is now a basic skill for a modern adaptability just like any other skills like driving a car or using a computer [8] .

It is therefore acknowledgeable that English language is regarded as an ‘international language’ that enable people to understand the ways of the world better and even communicate more smoothly [9] . It enables people belonging to different cultural background to come closer and to understand each other better through the communicative mode of interaction. English language is now regarded as the dominant language in the world, more popular than French because the latter is seen to be losing its ground of priority in its studies and in the everyday usage [10] .

Further, Arnold (2006) stresses on issues as to how in the global world the English language implicates the non-English speaking culture or countries to construct itself to a form a global culture, while denoting that the globalization effect on socio cultural aspect is also caused by the colonization influences and power. Then there are instances where, about 6000-7000 spoken languages and many more ‘sign languages’ and hundreds of languages across the national borders, in addition to the role of the monolingual speaking nation states that greatly affected the marketing systems and the consequent threatening affects caused by globalization (Phillipson 2001: 188-89).

Critical aspects of English Language in the globalization era

There are a lot of controversial issues as much as the conceptualization on English as the global language is concerned. Even though the language has marked its potency as an essentially standardized form in the speaking languages of the world, it has been critiqued for its limitations because it cannot be applied to every country or speaking communities in the world. Phillipson (2001) mentions that ‘majority of the world’s citizens do not speak English, whether as a mother tongue or as a second or foreign language’ and as such, urges upon scholars to analyze things in this particular matter as to whether the English language really do serve the need of the citizens in the world or, if its use serve the better of everyone in the world if it is being considered as the world language.

A lot of decisions that affect the world’s population are taken in English including the educational academics and including the scholars , and as such it is questionable as to whether it serves the interests of people in the world or whose interests does it actually serve? (Ibid.189). In addition, the colonial legacy in India is considered as capturing not only the region’s economy and territory but in conquering minds that further states that the educational policy of the British was based to create ‘A class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect’ (Ibid. 189). Likewise, we can find the dominance of the English language at every educational institutions and universities, as also of the distance educational policies and purposes.

On critiquing the diffusion and domination of the English language, it entails that ‘the promotion of one language (English) and one culture (the USA’s) at the expense of others’ through ‘linguistic imperialism with a system of production and ideologies’ brings about ‘an economically expansionist and exploitative world order’, while Agnihotri and Khanna (1997) argue for a need to shift language planning paradigms so that English would sustain and not destroy ‘the multi-lingual ethos of India’ (Ibid. 193).

While there is a prominent diffusion especially on the part of English language spreading throughout the world, it is also important to preserve one’s language that incorporates its cultural settings. On account of this, it well known that apart from one’s mother tongue there are numerous people who speak English which has an enormous effect on one’s identity. In this regard, it has been argued that the cultural attachments in a language dies once there is a prominent and constant use of English while the local one diminishes, and as such, there is a need to stress to preserve linguistic diversity so that one’s culture be prevailed (Arnold 2006)

In the process of globalization, the World Bank also retains the usage and role of English as the pioneer of educational policy along with other transnational corporations including the European Union (EU), while there are certain corporations that aid and provide funding projects [11] in order to upgrade their business for the purpose of English and likewise, making use of English education for business purpose (Phillipson 2001: 190-92). David Blunkett, the British Minister for Education and Employment alleged that they make use of English language as a tool for economic development and competency, while they also intends to expand their culture overseas from the viewpoint of cultural globalization (Ibid.).

With the globalization as the spark of the various ongoing factors between the world countries, even the usage of the present Information Technology (IT) characterizes English as the e-language of the world. English language being supposedly the ‘language of electronic globalization’ at the present world was also ‘the language of geographic globalization’ in the earlier times which has an impact on the related ‘cultural imperialism’ (Arnold 2006: 2). This effect that it has on the colonized countries and their relative cultures is understood to have a negative impact as far as preserving one’s original identity and culture is concerned. In this connection, it has been critiqued that English language as global language destructs the non-English speaking communities [12] , which is understood to be affecting their local culture’s lives. It is therefore assumed that considering English language as a global form of language will be like ‘one world: one dictionary’ or questions if it could also mean ‘one world: one language’? [13] 

The British culture is considered as the most dominant in the cultural imperialism effect, as also because of the fact that it has influenced the culture of the world education that lines through Africa, America, Asia, and Australia; it has enabled to form a sort of community different [14] from its own cultural background (Ibid. 3). Hence, the English language is criticized on the base that it has led to a devalued form of our own languages in the community practices that involves our customs and beliefs, laws and preferred form of lives, which in turn has made our culture strayed from its original belonging. Nevertheless, the English language is considered as the strongest of all global influences as far as the diffusion of languages are concerned (Ibid.). The imperialistic attitude of English language in the globalization process is also seen at the two theories namely ‘Exploitation Theory’ which is the imperialistic form of approach and the ‘Grassroots Theory’ that takes a neutral role in the cross border communication process [15] 

Impact of English Language on globalization and cultural homogenization

After the II world war, the globalization effect brought with it the free trade agreement [16] that further led to transfer of goods and services (economic as well cultural); the economic front were the production, trade and transportation while the cultural transfer in the form of music, art, fashion and lifestyles, communication through World Wide Web and Language [17] . This aspect of goods and service transfer in the globalization process places English language as one important aspect, that in turn has a huge impact on the level of communicators’ linkages, locally and internationally, and this criterion makes English as the dominant form of communication process in the globalized world.

With the globalization effect and the role of information technology that has ushered in, the earlier definition of ‘geographic colonization’ has terminated to formation of an ‘electronic globalization’ that has now role to play in the socio-cultural aspects of people’s life, in a way that geography does not matter anymore, however that, local lives can be lived and stretched out through electronic ways of communication and sharing ideas and knowledge (Arnold 2006). English language is predominantly used as the global mode of communication that has a greater affect in the global culture characterized by a form of modernized ‘e-language’ throughout the diffusion of culture sharing. Hence, English language is characterized by its impact on the homogeneity and heterogeneity of world cultures despite being critiqued that it is based on its colonized mission and strategies that furthers the problem of non-English speaking communities. Its enables one to identify the different cultures that exists in the world and also to view one’s own within the cultural background and the diverse set of practices in the world on account of it.

Redman (2002) have argued that, communities that express their languages and cultures are learning to become homogenized and for which ‘English spans the divide between people and cultures. It isn’t owned by Britain and America: now it belongs to everyone’, in addition, Burnett (2004) argues that English language could belong to everyone and all the practices and cultures of other languages vanish or of no usage any longer (in Arnold 2006: 3). The globalization and technological intervention has brought about a most popular form of a web-based language- English language that has initially led to a formation of a new form of culture and language authenticity (Ibid.). Hence the web-based English language is intensifying the process of communication and in sharing world wide cultures across various communities.

The role of English language has a great impact on various aspects such as political, economic-business, education, socio-cultural and other factors that vary from local to international perspectives. Its usage is like opening windows to the wider world that is believed to bring about economic progress and a better means of communicating for any kind of international understandings [18] . English language is taking over the world communicative process and hence, the local culture too (Arnold 2006). Arguing on a topic as to whether English language is a killer language or not, it has been observed that it is not necessarily a killer language because it acts in accordance to situation or dominance, while another important aspect of it is that, it does not merely impose applications of vocabularies to other countries; it has also been adopting itself to the expressions of other languages and cultures [19] 

Eventually it has led to the formation of a borderless world, a techno-driven on the global real/virtual basis of online connectivity, a global culture, often described as the culture of global village (Arnold 2006). According to Krishnaswamy and Brude (1998), the English language and its spread in the global world of developmental aspect after the two world war was that “It is almost as if God said, “Let there be language”, and there was English”, while it is also seen as a necessity and a form of key to success in the process of globalization (Kak 2005: 39)

Conclusion

English Language has brought about an immense cultural interlink age through the communicative process along with the role of the educational system that it hinges upon in almost the entire world. As such, it stages a relative importance in the sphere of globalization and cultural homogenization process. The mode of communication has greatly intensified the sharing of ideas and knowledge of the world cultures. The Information Age has made the means of communication a lot easier and the cultural homogenization stronger. It has globalized countries that inhabit their own cultural attachment through the diffusion of languages and most importantly specifying the dominance of English language in the process. Even though it has been criticized on account of the conflicts that arise because of heterogeneity or being blamed for devaluing certain cultural norms and practices, it has a great impact on the cultural homogenization in the form of blending knowledge, ideas and cultures through the effects of information and communication process, be it virtual or real and vice versa. The globalization era has therefore greatly enhanced the role of English language and its impact on the cultural homogenization enabling people to come closer beyond boundaries in the diverse set of different cultural backgrounds into forming a cultural homogenization.

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