It can be argued that English has been called a world language for over 150 years, having enjoyed a dramatic growth from its early origins and influences. These included the Anglo-Saxons of Northern Europe, the Vikings and the Norman French, whose language was itself heavily derived from Latin. However, at the time of Shakespeare, there were only five million people who spoke English. In subsequent centuries, English has been influenced by ‘borrowings’ from other languages, consisting of words and phrases brought back from the countries of the Empire and by large-scale immigration into the UK itself. English is now well established in international organizations, such as the UN, where, along with French, Russian, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic, it is one of the official languages. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the academic world, popular music and culture, and increasingly international business in the globalized economy also use English as the main means of communication. In the world of science, papers are often first published in English before being reproduced in the author’s mother tongue.
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Brian J. Hurn
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