English is the language of business and science. The government in Rwanda, and many people in Tunisia, prefer it to French. Singapore makes sure every child is fluent in it. It is the world’s lingua franca, the key to success for every ambitious parent and a central part of the curriculum of every sensible school.
That is one way of looking at it. The other is that English is a “bully, juggernaut, nemesis”, an “unnerving border crosser, criminal and intruder”, an international conspiracy run by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation, Nato, the British Council and the massed ranks of Anglo-American capitalism. The worldwide spread of English reflects the “Washington linguistic consensus”, which is the “aggressive promotion of English to serve Western political and economic interests”. The supposed benefits of English to ordinary people around the world — better jobs, higher salaries, access to new technologies — have been vastly oversold. Only national elites and their foreign sponsors benefit from the penetration of English. For the vast majority, “English promises much but delivers little.” Read more