By: AMER RIZWAN KHATTAK
Celtic was the first Indo-European language to be spoken in the British Isles. However, by and by, with the onslaughts from the southeast, and indeed, the native Britons were pushed further and further north and west into the more rugged and mountain area of Scotland in the south, Wales in the west, and Cornwall in the south-west. Romans first did that but could not leave indelible impact on the language of the Isles, because the Latin language, which was brought by them, was confined to the oligarchs. In fact, after the fall of Rome, and the subsequent loosening of its control on England, the Romans left a vacuum, which was left but quite after some times, by a wave of invaders from North-West Europe. These invaders were principally the Jutes and the Angles from what is part of Denmark today, and the Saxons from what is Northwest Germany and Holland, and they entered the East England. The English language of today is largely developed from the three similar Germanic dialects of these three invading tribes. In fact, it is from the Angles that the name England or Angleland derived. The period of old English is said to have existed between the years 450-1150 AD. Old English differed from modern English in spelling and pronunciation, but chiefly in grammar. The grammar of old English was exceedingly complex. The vocabulary of that time showed little influence from the Latin language, and differed from that of modern English.
The Norman conquest of England in the 11th century brought England and France together politically. As a result, French language replaced English as the language of administration, and, in fact, of the educated classes, both French and English. In spite of all this English did not stop to evolve. Ironically, it grew more rapidly in this period owing to quite a number of factors. The growing feeling of hostility towards the French people, the Englishness of the Norman French who had been in England for few centuries coupled with the ascendancy of middle and peasant classes brought about the decline of French Language. The trend also ensured a rise in importance of the language they spoke i.e. English. The English language underwent great change during that period. The grammar was simplified and most of its inflections were lost. This happened because at that time English was largely unwritten, and was used only by the ordinary people. Some ten thousand words were introduced into the language from French in order to supply the deficiencies of the English Language with regard to cultural and administrative matters. The invention of press increased literacy, and resulted in fixing of the English language which was resistant to change. There was also a development and increase in the vocabulary stock of the language as worldwide exploration began, and frontiers of scientific knowledge were pushed back.
The start of global spread of English began in the period between 1600 and 1750, as explorers, colonizers, traders and settlers went out from the British Isles to various parts of the world. The goddess of fortune was on the side of the British, because the power of existing colonial powers i.e. Portugal and Spain was fast dwindling, and the only close rival to the British i.e. France was contained, and in some cases evicted with clever maneuverings, for instance from that of a large tract of Central North America. Even after the American war of independence, in which Britain lost her American possessions, the U.S has to this date remained an English speaking country. In fact, all the immigrants to the U.S need to learn this language in order to get service. Similarly in 1600 East India Company sought trade concessions from the Moguls. By and by with the weakening of the House of Moguls, and virtual balkanization of the Mogul empire, the British got their hold stronger, eventually making almost the entire Indian sub-continent to be the part of British empire. In the 18th century mass migration to the continent of Australia began whereas Africa was started being discovered in the 19th century. Now, English is being spoken throughout the eastern and southern parts of Africa, and in large tracts of West Africa.
The current stage in the development of English concerns the emergence of a number of activities, movements and subjects that are carried out predominantly (though not exclusively) in English, across the world. One of the earliest examples was the international agreement to adopt English for air traffic control; another, which began with the establishment of the United Nations was the use of English in the numerous bodies providing international aid and administration. As the telecommunication revolution got underway, English became dominant in the international media, radio & T.V, computer & Internet, magazines and newspapers. The international pop music industry relies on English; so do space science and computing technology. The importance of this strand within the recent development of English has been not just the vast number of people who now read or want English for these activities, but the fact that using English has suddenly nothing to do with one’s nationality, or the historical facts of the spread of English speaking colonies. Peter Strevens aptly says in his article, “ English as an International Language” appeared in “Forum” in its October 1987 issue,
“The Peruvian air pilot, in a country relatively untouched by British or American expansionism, nevertheless, needs English for his job; the polish doctor, spending two years working for W.H.O in tropical countries, also needs English; pop music cults generate mania – using English language in the Soviet Union; as well as in Germany, Hong Kong or in the United States………….”
It is interesting to note that even the quadrilingual Switzerland could no longer remain insular in the face of this trend. It is so, because the Swiss-German dialect i.e. Alemmenic – which is spoken by 63.7% of the Swiss people -- is mostly used in informal way. Besides, the aversion of the young generation from learning French or Italian, the relegation of the minority ‘Romanish’ to a virtual extinction and the global dominance of English as the language of business and technology, English has displaced the use of the Swiss languages in many contact situations. For many people, English is increasingly becoming a ‘library language’. In the age of expansion of knowledge, it s essential that new ideas should be communicated as quickly and as efficiently as possible, and it is English through which this knowledge is propagated and spread. English makes such knowledge readily accessible to scholars in every part of the world.
Situation in Pakistan:
The earlier referred to onslaught of M.N.Cs has ‘anglicized’ the serving personnel almost everywhere including Pakistan. Advertisement campaigns, both in print and electronic media, are usually run in English. People living in cities are more attracted because they have access to these sources, and because they come across these tall signboards with catchy jargon more often. Monolingual signs in English at petrol stations are advertising their services in English because they can reach the local consumers as well as the visitors from abroad. Leisure activities and food and drink items pertaining to the American way of life are now widely advertised through the medium of basic English. Posters on bill-boards promote English brand names with short texts in English - cigarettes, soft drinks, watches, fashion items, sports goods, holiday packages. In most instances there is no need for more than a rudimentary knowledge of English required by the viewers. The use of English is prestigious and effective as the main message of these posters and advertisements is carried by the visual message and the brand name. Needless to say that this trend has influenced the urban ‘posh’ people the most. It is no denying the fact that the impact of this trend can be said to be all-pervasive yet these well-off urban people, or the so-called no-riche class, can afford to have access to these means of communications.
As per Govt. of Pakistan’s statistics, literacy rate in Pakistan is on ascendant curve i.e.25% - 27% - 31% - 37% - 39% - 46% - 53.5%. Accepting that to be the yardstick, there shall be a trend of general increase in the use of English as well, because courses in Pakistan invariably contain English as a subject. Moreover, new English medium syllabi, introduced now even in the rural-based private schools, can also be held responsible for popularizing English among the young folk.
Armed Forces in Pakistan enjoy high public image, and the same is considered to be the agent of modernization in Pakistan. The institutionalized form of army is getting strength and expansion both vertically as well as horizontally. It has also been observed, that in order to keep fresh blood being injected in the rank of the forces, more officers ranks have been given to less privileged rural areas as well. Against this backdrop, we may also recall that English is the official and communicational language of army. General people try to imitate their life style and terminology. The feudal lords in Pakistan, for that matter, are traditionally considered to be the drivers of the machinery of Government and politics in Pakistan, and in order to be able to be in a better maneuvering position vis a vis both the civil and military bureaucracy, they have started getting their juniors educated in American, Australian and British institutions. They are the relatively new users of English in Pakistan. Moreover, as the professional jargon and terminology is in English, so with the general increase in the working class people, particularly those of private sector i.e. banking, finance, I.T, medicine, the use of English is automatically on the rise everywhere.
It is no use escaping from the hard reality of the increasingly competitive ‘Brave New World’ i.e. achieving command over the basic skills of English language. Our traditional arguments, for our laggardness in this regard, are anachronistic in the changing realities. We can no longer claim it to be a foreign language, because it is an international lingua franca; we can no longer attribute the progress of the French, Germans or, for that matter, the Chinese to their linguistic insularity, because, willy nilly, these nations have let their lingua-cultural identities be diluted.
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Comments and suggestions would be welcome on