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English as a Global Language Paperback – July 28, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0521530323 ISBN-10: 0521530326 Edition: 2nd
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Editorial Reviews


"This is a fascinating and useful book....a fine introduction for a wide variety of potential users." Choice

Book Description

David Crystal, world authority on the English language, presents a lively and factual account of the rise of English as a global language and explores the whys and wherefores of the history, current status and future potential of English as the international language of communication. This new edition of his classic book contains extra sections (on subjects including the future of English as a world language, English on the Internet, and the possibility of an English 'family' of languages), footnotes, new tables, and a full bibliography. There are updates throughout.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (July 28, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521530326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521530323
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,101,647 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Crystal is honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor. He has written or edited over 100 books and published numerous articles for scholarly, professional, and general readerships, in fields ranging from forensic linguistics and ELT to the liturgy and Shakespeare. His many books include Words, Words, Words (OUP 2006) and The Fight for English (OUP 2006).

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 33 people found the following review helpful By F.R. Norris on October 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
As I read this book, I had the impression that the author has never tried to use international versions of English for complex tasks like working with foreign business and technical partners. I work for a multinational corporation myself. We are discouraged from taking time to learn foreign languages because we are told that English is the official language of our company. Then we arrive at our overseas branches and discover that our counterparts can say hello, goodbye, and thank you to us, but little more. I think Crystal is overly optimistic about how much English people are really learning overseas.

He also dismisses the cultural chauvinism wrapped up in the belief that English is the perfect global language. Actually, Spanish grammar is much easier to learn, and is much easier for non-native speakers to pronounce.

English *is* an international language, but it is only an effective one in the most basic communication situations. A few years ago author Barbara Wallraff wrote an excellent article in the Atlantic Monthly entitled "What Global Language?" (Nov, 2001) which made the point that while international English may be useful for very simple purposes, more complex communication tasks will require something other than English.

Author Edward Trimnell (Why You Need a Foreign Language and How to Learn One ISBN: 0974833010) rips the international English argument to shreds by pointing out that a.) cooperation between peoples who don't speak English as a native language is increasing; and in these situations, it makes sense to use a language other than English, and b.) the hubbub about international English has made native English-speakers very complacent in recent years--- such that we are now entirely dependent on the language skills of others.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David Ludden on May 30, 2007
Format: Paperback
In Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, space travelers can communicate with beings from other planets by inserting a Babel fish in their ear. The Babel fish takes in what is spoken and modifies the brain activity of the user to effect a translation. Universal translators are standard equipment in science fiction involving space travel, since it is reasonable to assume that extraterrestrials will not speak English or any other earthly language. Indeed, given that there are over six thousand mutually unintelligible languages here on Earth, it seems that the technology is badly needed now. However, by the time the technology is available, there may no longer be any need for it. According to David Crystal in his book, English as a Global Language, everyone on Earth will soon speak English.

Currently English has the status of a lingua franca, a language that is used for international exchanges. Through history, different languages have served as linguae francae on a regional basis. In Europe, Latin served this role across the Roman Empire, and continued in this function for centuries after the fall of Rome because it was the language of the Catholic Church. In China, where dozens of mutually unintelligible dialects are spoken, Mandarin serves as the common language of government and intellectual exchange. And starting in the seventeenth century, French served as the international language of diplomacy until its fairly recent replacement by English.

The status of English as a lingua franca, however, is quickly transforming into that of a global language, one that nearly everyone in the world can speak. This is an unprecedented event, although there has been a trend over history toward linguistic consolidation as a result of political consolidation.
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48 of 65 people found the following review helpful By "daniel_sp" on July 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Crystal's book is the exact counterpart to Phillipson's "Linguistic Imperialism". While the former has been called an "alarmist" (because of his view that English has been used for imperialistic purposes) the latter apparently sees no problem what so ever (and has thus been called "triumphalist"). Crystal seems to suggest that all linguistic cross-cultural problems could be solved if everyone would learn English from an early age onwards. He apparently sees nothing wrong if Asian farmers cannot read the instructions on fertilizer bags because they are in English.
Rather suspiciously, Crystal disregards Phillipson completely in this book. While there are some good arguments against Phillipson, Crystal refuses to enter the debate. More generally, it seems to me that he refuses to deal with the more unpleasant facts of the global spread of English. Better to continue writing about the happy family of English speakers!
The book is thus rather naive in its evaluation of the role, status and attitudes connected with the English language.
For those who would like to read a really damning review I can recommend Phillipson's "Voice in Global English: unheard Chords in Crystal loud and clear." which appeared in Applied Linguistics 20/2: 265-276.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By T. Hooper on July 3, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this book, David Crystal presents the future of the English language. According to Crystal, non-native speakers of English outnumber native speakers of English, so it could be said that English has become global. Add to this the fact that English has become the de facto language of business, science, technology, and diplomacy, and it becomes apparent that English belongs to the world. Crystal argues that English will become more influenced by non-native speakers in the future, so we will have to rethink the idea of the "native speaker". As a world language, English doesn't belong to the native speakers in countries such as England and America, but to all who speak it. To speak a language gives you the right to use it as you will.

This is a very interesting book on the spread of world English. I really recommend it.
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