- James Tam
English under the New World Order
One good thing which came out of the Anglo and American colonial empires is the spread of English as de facto international language, laying the communication foundation of a truly globalised world. The present structure of planet-wide exploitation is unviable, wobbling due to its inherent blood-sucking design. A multi-polar global network is emerging to replace it.
Against the wish of linguistic nationalists and Esperanto dreamers (if there are still any left), English will remain the most widely used language in the new world order. Notwithstanding the historically distasteful origin of its popularity, the use of English should be maintained and reinforced for pragmatic reasons. Attempting to change the international language every time there’s a shift in world political and economic balance would be vain and impractical, working against the functioning of a fairer multi-polar framework.
However, global English of the 21st century should be properly positioned and realigned as World Putonghua of the new age. Putonghua is the quotidian Chinese promoted after 1949 to remove literary classism. It means ordinary language — for ordinary people.
English as World Putonghua is driven by pragmatism. It’s already here, working well in a wide geographic area. Some may perceive unjustifiable Anglophone advantage if the global use of English is maintained. In reality, it’s quite the opposite.
Non-native English users will continue to benefit from the mind-broadening effects of being multi-lingual. Besides having their private tongues in business and diplomacy, they will also have better access to the mindset of monolingual native English speakers, but not vice versa. Language is after all useful in promoting understanding and accessing the mind, including that of rivals.
It’s important to note that English would be the World Putonghua, not some snotty lingua franca. The two are fundamentally different. The realignment process requires understanding, and adjustment in attitude.
World Putonghua should be an ordinary language for ordinary use. There are already many regional variations in English even among Anglophones. Be proud of them as long as they don’t become too obscure and defeat the purpose of communication. BBC will call it Chinglish or Singlish or Hinglish and snigger as usual. And what about it? Don’t like? Go cry and beat chest lah!
Mimicking the Queen’s la-di-da speech is comical. Classifying people according to accent is fatuous and primitive. In most situations, pidgin is all we need when travelling the world to meet new friends, to learn, and discover.
The main purpose of promoting World Putonghua is to facilitate civil communication and everyday business for the overwhelming majority. It is not meant to overshadow the native language by any means. The technical talents of engineering students in China and Iran must not be prejudiced by the need to learn a grammatically ridiculous foreign language. English should be encouraged as a non-credit elective in the education system — not more than that — for example.
A note of caution in adopting English as World Putonghua though: be vigilant!
A wonderful fringe benefit in learning a foreign tongue is better understanding of the history and culture behind the language. But care is required when that language is English. Due to the necessity to whitewash a long list of colonial and imperial atrocities, English is extremely rich in historical negationism, containing more distortions, fabrications, and twisted interpretations than probably any other language. Many psychotic supremacists, slave traders, opium drug lords, and genocidal pirates had been powdered up, put on a top hat, and remodelled as heroic explorers, wartime ministers, and champions of free trade and democracy. Beware of mind-bending deceptions and hidden ‘values’ when entering the parallel universe within the English info-sphere. Some of them are highly toxic.
James Tam 2022.7.2