The Americanization of the Globe
February 1998By Thomas Storck
Thomas Storck is a librarian in Washington, D.C., and a Contributing Editor of the NOR.
Some years ago I was involved with the Esperanto movement. Esperanto, as most people know, is a planned language designed to supplement the existing national languages for purposes of international communication. During my involvement with Esperanto, I was puzzled about why it had never obtained greater acceptance. I was convinced of the utility of an international language from the example of Latin in the Middle Ages, and I thought that the benefits of a tongue that united mankind would be evident, especially to intellectuals and educators. I even hoped that some of these educators might want to experiment with a university curriculum entirely in Esperanto, just as higher education in the Middle Ages had been entirely in Latin.
The benefits of Esperanto -- the lessening of noxious nationalism, the elimination of linguistic barriers to the advancement of knowledge -- would be such, I thought, as to appeal to modern, educated opinion. But educated opinion showed little or no interest. Why?
Gradually I began to see why, among Americans, there was a lack of enthusiasm about an international language to unite mankind. We believed we already had one. And this language was none other than English.
English has indeed become widely spoken, and in some sense can be called an international language today. It is at least the international language of commerce and technology. But it has become clear to me that English is not simply a convenient linguistic tool. On a deeper level, English -- especially American English -- is both a symbol of and an agent for the spread of a universal civilization or culture. English has become a visible, audible sign of the new world order that the globalization of commerce is fast creating.
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