English as a Global (Not Foreign) Language

By Andrea K. Iskandar

Andrea K Iskandar

* is Global Class Program Manager at Binus University and is now teaching Business Communication Class at English department.

Learning resources abound on the Internet. Most of them are in English. This can be clearly seen from the homepage of Wikipedia where as of today entries in English amount to more than 4.6 million articles, 4 times that of the second rank language, Russian, with 1.156 million articles. Mastering English is a very important skill to gain access to tap the world’s vast resource of knowledge. Learning English is so different than learning other languages, for English isn’t just a foreign language, it’s a global language. English is no longer just the English people’s language, it’s the lingua franca of the world.

When you learn French or German or Japanese you would be taught not only the language but also the culture. The main contexts of your learning would take place in the native societies of these languages: France and other French-speaking countries, Germany, and Japan. That is not the case with English.

English isn’t tied within the British culture anymore. It’s now the vernacular of the world that most likely you won’t be taught British culture as part of learning English. In fact, I think one of the signs of a person’s English mastery is one’s ability to proficiently tailor a proper English grammar with local uses. In Indonesia, for example, it would be the use of “Bapak” and “Ibu” in lieu of “Mr.” or “Sir” for the first and “Ms.” or “Ma’am” for the latter.

I’ve heard of people who make demands that when a forum is promoted as “conducted in English”, British English must be used. What they may not realize is, even in England there are at least 17 different accents of English. Yes, there isn’t just 1 British accent! So, don’t feel intimidated when you don’t have the English accent people assume to be the perfect one – for there isn’t such a thing.


I’ve experienced that one of the most sure way of offending a Briton is by telling them that they have an interesting accent. Or a sexy accent. Or a lovely accent. Or whatever complimentary and lovely type of accent you may think of. Many Britons would be offended, obviously because of the dominance of Hollywood in our screens and cinemas that we often consider American English to be the standard English pronunciation while their version of English is only considered an “accent”. Some would respond in the line of, “Well, the Americans have accent. We don’t.”

Now if you ask, “Then which English accent is the most common one in the world? Would it be the American or the British?” Answer: none of these. The proper answer would be: the Indian. Yes, by its sheer number of population alone, Indian English has easily become the most-spoken English accent in the world for quite some time now. And you know what? The Indians, in their version of English, have numeric system that include the terms “lakh” and “crore“.

“Lakh” means “hundred thousands”, but 1 lakh isn’t written numerically as 100,000. Instead, it’s written as 1,00,000. “Crore” means “ten millions”, but 5 crores isn’t written numerically as 50,000,000. Instead, you should write it as 5,00,00,000. You want to do business with Indians? Yes, they speak English. They have even produced prominent literary figures such as Salman Rushdie, Jhumpa Lahiri, and V.S. Naipaul, but you’d better know these numeric terms as well.

English has evolved in many different ways, adapting to its local uses in many different parts of the world. It’s wise not to expect for a single and pure version of English for there may not be such a thing. But this is also an encouraging news for mastering English is about being able to communicate better with more people. That’s what matters, for a good communication skill opens many doors.


re-posted from : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20141128000437-28462474-english-as-a-global-not-foreign-language

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