I have been witness to many occasions in which groups of non-native speakers of English will converse in English as it is the common language between the two. For example, I was in Venice and over heard German tourists and the Italian waiter conversing in English to understand the menu. Neither the Germans nor the Italian waiter spoke perfect English, but they both knew enough to place the order without either of them reverting to their native tongue.
This is just one example of English as a global language. Other examples include air traffic, politics, technology and science, all of which use English as their primary language. While English is not the most widely spoken language, it is the most commonly taught second language (Wikipedia, p 4). English is also an official language of many countries in which it is not the native language, including India, Malta, Fiji and many others (Wikipedia, p 3). Oddly enough English is not the official language of America, as America does not have an official language.
Is English as a global language the way forward? Many will argue yes, in order to communicate globally that English is the most common language and many industries already use English as a common language. According to Jacques Melitz, English is much more likely to be translated than any other language and therefore, authors writing in the English language will have a greater chance of being translated into another language (p 2). In addition to translation purposes, the use of English in global industries such as travel, marketing, communications and entertainment are primarily in the English language. In order to get a job in any of these industries, English is a required language.
While English as a global language has its advantages of global communication, it also has its downfalls. In the takeover of English, native languages can be lost. Many languages are on their way out due to the dominance of English, such as Gaelic and Native American languages. Some countries, such as Romania have adopted linguistic protection for its national language (The Global English Newsletter 10). The protection requires that all labels and information be sent via the native language as the primary means of communication to ensure that the Romanian language is not lost to English.
If the trend of English as a global language does continue, which English will be taught and which will be acceptable? There are many dialects and accents within the English language that can cause difficulty amongst native English speakers. English is the primary language in more than thirty countries, all with their own accents and variations. In addition to the dialects within the English language, new languages have formed from combining the English language with the native tongue to create a pidgin language. So the argument of English as a global language has developed into a need for universal communication, but also trying to keep the native language as a part of the culture.
While I believe that having a universal language is helpful, it should not be required. I have met many other native English speakers who do not bother with learning another language as it is either not required in school, or not necessary in their daily life. With English as my mother tongue, it may be a bit egotistical to say that knowing the English language is not necessity, but a convenience for most.
Thanks to Dawn Vogel