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some facts and figures about the english language

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Some facts and figures about the english language

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Trimis de aurel
din 27 Martie 2006

According to research by the British Council, "English has official* or special status in at least seventy-five countries with a total population of over two billion. English is spoken as a native* language by around 375 million and as a second language* by around 375 million speakers in the world. Speakers of English as a second language will soon outnumber those who speak it as a first language. Around 750 million people are believed to speak English as a foreign language*. One out of four of the world's population speak English to some level of competence. Demand from the other three-quarters is increasing."

* Native- the language you learned at home with your family when you were small.
* Official- the language that is used in official documents, spoken on the radio and on television
*Second language - language you learn because you have to live in the country where the language is spoken.
*Foreign language - languages spoken abroad, a language you can choose to study at school.

The British Council says "English is the main language of books, newspapers, airports and air-traffic control, international business and academic conferences, science, technology, diplomacy, sport, international competitions, pop music and advertising.

Over two-thirds of the world's scientists read in English. Three quarters of the world's mail is written in English. Eighty per cent of the world's electronically stored information is in English. Of the estimated forty million users of the Internet, some eighty per cent communicate in English, but this is expected to decrease to forty per cent as speakers of other languages get online."

"English is an easy language. There are no accents, the tenses of verbs are simplified and the adjectives are invariable", says Gustavo O. after three years studying it at school. Anaelle S. agrees with him but she finds the many different ways words are pronounced and the spelling difficult to cope with. Nicolas de F. finds it interesting and cool because through it he can understand many films and songs. "You need English to travel around the world - it's a language almost everybody understands - so it's easier to communicate with people from different cultures", says Daniela K. . According to Aldebaran D., "you must speak English if you want a good job especially if you want to work with computers".

English is part of the Germanic branch of the Indo-European family of languages. By year 1000, the English language consisted of approximately 40 000 words. Nowadays, the number has grown to more than 500 000. If we calculate the average of words created per century, this comes to 46 000. A great number of words found in the English vocabulary was borrowed from Latin, French, Low German, and the Scandinavian languages. We also know that some periods were more fertile than others: invasions, contact with other cultures, inventions, technological progress, music, fashion are some of the factors which have helped to enrich the language.

British colonialism in the 19th century and American capitalism and technological progress in the 20th century were undoubtely the main causes for the spread of English throughout the world. From around 1750 to 1950 the British Empire covered about a quarter of the globe. It was one of the most powerful empires the world has ever known. The colonies gradually freed themselves but about fifty countries chose to keep a connection with Britain by belonging to the The British Commonwealth. English is spoken all over the Commonwealth either as a native or an official language, and the British monarch is the symbolic head of the association.

The USA has played a leading role in most domains for the last hundred years. At the end of the 19th century and first quarter of the 20th, it welcomed millions of European immigrants who had fled their countries ravaged by war, poverty or famine. This labour force strenghtened American industries and development. The Hollywood film industry also attracted many foreign artists in quest of fame and fortune and the number of American films produced every year soon flooded the market.

Before the Treaty of Versailles(1919), which ended the First World War between Germany and the Allies, diplomacy was conducted in French. However, President Wilson succeeded in having the treaty in English as well. Since then, English started being used in diplomacy and gradually in economic relations and the media. During the II World War, America intervened both militarily and economically to save Europe from chaos. From then onwards, the United States have consolidated their cultural, economical and technological power: inventions, rock and roll, the first man on the moon, the revolution of the Internet, the country's growing prosperity and commercial aggressiveness have contributed to the further expansion and importance of English in the world today.

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