Every time I check Zingcreed’s stats page, a map of the world comes up with all the countries where readers live highlighted. Underneath is a list of these same countries with a flag and the number of viewers in that land on that day. That’s how I know that many of Zingcreed’s visitors are not native speakers of English. For their sake I avoid British colloquialisms and slang, and I keep my grammar and syntax simpler than I would for a London audience. This may cramp my style – when chatting with my mates my language is strewn with cultural references and colloquialisms – but it does facilitate communication. And that’s the name of the game.
Like it or not, English is now the dominant world language with about 2 billion speakers. None of the lingual franca’s of the past, Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, had anything like its currency. Here in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago where I am visiting relatives, place names reflect how successive waves of European colonisers swept over the original occupants: Naparima (Amerindian), Rio Claro (Spanish), Blanchisseuse (French), Princes Town (English). Very few people now speak anything but English or a Creole version of it. My family, like half the population here are of Indian origin and watch the Bollywood channel on TV; but even though the actors use English words from time to time, and even though the Trinidadians watching have a smattering of Hindi, they’d be lost without the English subtitles.
Only about 20% of English speakers are native speakers like me. Most are speaking it as an additional language..English has spun out of the native speakers’ control. Not only do these speakers hardly ever learn English from a native speaker, they rarely encounter them. These world Englishes are often markedly different from those spoken in England or the US. In India, as I’ve observed on ZeeTV, or in Nigeria, people incorporate local words and switch between tongues in ways that make their languages incomprehensible to outsiders.
According to Braj Kachru there are 3 circles of English:-
1/ The Inner Circle. The UK and the transplanted British communities of the US, Canada, Australia and NZ.
2/The Outer Circle made up largely of former British colonies such as India, Malaysia, and Nigeria.
3/ The Expanding Circle, which takes in the rest of the world, including China, continental Europe and Latin America, where the ambitious, whether in business,science or academia, see English as the key to advancement.
As people move up the ladder of prestige, and interact with English speakers elsewhere, they adopt the internationally comprehensible world language of today’s global business, scientific and cultural exchanges.
If you have any comments on Zingcreed’s use of English, please get in touch.
Michael Skapinker “English spun out of native speakers’ control” book review of “World Englishes and culture wars” by Braj Kachru. Cambridge University Press £85.00
Financial Times 6 March 2017 p.12