Christian Long

Jay Walker: World’s English Mania

In TED Talks on May 3, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Reflection by JACKSON H.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Jay Walker: World’s English Mania

Often, when we think of conquering new territories, we think in one of two ways.

We often think of older times, when explorers in sailing ships would cross the seas in search of new lands. These explorers would often maltreat the native inhabitants of these lands, forcing them to hand over valuables that could be brought back to their home countries. Exploration and claiming land also comes in the form of space exploration – reaching out to new planets and foreign environments. Negative comments abound also about this new type of exploration, due to complaints that governments are allocating too much money to space programs in lieu of private expeditions. Even the word “conquer” can often carry a negative connotation, because of associations with cultural repression. However, a new form of imperialism has emerged, and in this case, the connotation is completely positive.

This new wave of territorial expansion comes in the form of language. Normally, it is the people of a country who enter the new land, bearing their foreign ways. However, with language, nobody needs to move at all. Because of innovations such as the Internet, language can flow from one area to another. English, in particular, is particularly “viral,” spreading from country to country through ideas and innovations.

English, as a language, is not the easiest to learn. Not only do we have strange irregular pluralities, we also use a strange system of articles, and countless other irregularities. Combined with the most difficult sound of any language for non-native speakers to pronounce (the “th” sound), these strange obstacles make learning English a formidable task. However, overcoming this task yields great rewards. Because so many people already speak English, it’s in the best interest of other countries to encourage the speaking of the language as well. This way, everyone is on the same page. And when you’re on the same page with someone who can offer you an opportunity, that’s when the real usefulness of the second language comes to light. English is becoming a bridge to connect people, breaking down the language barriers by offering common ground on which to do business.

“English,” Jay Walker says, “is becoming the language of problem solving.” And he’s right. By removing the language barrier, the world can concentrate on the more important points. And this is why so many people are absolutely desperate to learn English. When you take into account the rewards that come with learning English, it’s no wonder that people work at the pace they do to get to a level of fluency. Because the common ground of English is becoming such a promising location, billions of people are striving to learn it. With this new interest in English, the world will be able to discuss its issues in new depth, and that’s something worth working for.

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