Arts 17

Published on February 17th, 2006 | by Greg


It’s Not Just English

English – everybody's favorite lingua franca. Unbeknownst to most of the population, there is a war being raged out there. It's not over land, but language. Which form of English is the standard?

In many foreign countries, studying English is a prerequisite for success. It's a business prerequisite for talk with native English speakers, and also as the regional language. ASEAN, the Associate of Southeast Asian Nations, uses English as it's official language. For a fun look at the Korean obsession with learning English, check out the movie Teach Me English, one girl's struggle with 'why isn't being Korean good enough?'

With the decision to learn English comes another for educators and learners: British or American (or even Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand) varieties? The standard for a while has been British English, as it is the origin of the language. However, the US with its massive population, business prowess, technology and culture has been responsible for most of the spread of English. Tests, like the IELTS, vary between the two languages, with no clear winner.

In Hong Kong for example, American English is considered the non-standard version. Having been a British colony, they were instilled with British English as the norm. The same is true for some South African nations, and other former colonies. For the most part Britain thinks itself the standard. It even tried to pass legislation to make British the international standard, but failed. For the most part the language war can only be won by public opinion.

I remember during my time in China that Britain had surveyed the Chinese for their opinions of the UK. They found out that most Chinese felt they were 'stodgy', that the US had a much better hold on coolness and innovation. To counterattack, Britain sent in the cultural ambassadors: Morcheeba.

It remains to be seen whether America can overcome the long British history and origin of the language, or whether Britain and British colonies can encourage growth of "the language of royalty". Right now, American English appears to be winning, thanks largely to Chinese interest in studying the language. Time will tell whether Morcheeba's mission worked.

About the Author

Greg dreamed up the idea for the Truly Network while living in Hawaii, which began with a single site called TrulyObscure. In 2010, when advertisers and readers were requesting coverage beyond the scope of that site, TrulyNet was launched, reaching a broader audience over a variety of niche sites. Formerly the head technology correspondent for the Des Moines Register at age 16, he has since lived and worked in five states and two countries, helping a list of organizations and companies that includes the United States Census Bureau, TripAdvisor, Events Photo Group, Berlitz, and Computer Geeks. He also served as the Content Strategy Manager for HearPlanet, a multi-platform app that has reached over a million users and has been featured in the New York Times, Hemispheres Magazine, National Geographic Adventure, Fox Business News, PC Magazine, and even Apple’s own iPhone ads. Greg has written as a restaurant critic and feature journalist for a number of national and international publications, including City Weekend Magazine, Red Egg Magazine, the Newton Daily News, Capital Change Magazine, and an arm of China Daily, Beijing Weekend. In addition, he has served as a consulting editor for the Foreign Language Press of Beijing, as well as a writer and editor for the George Washington University Hatchet, the school newspaper of his alma mater. Originally from Iowa, Greg is currently living in the West Village of Manhattan.

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