The unprecedented spread of one language as an international lingua franca has socio-economic, political and ideological consequences.
Two key issues debated include:
- whether the spread of English as an international means of communication serves to sustain the privilege and power of its native speakers (what Phillipson refers to as ‘linguistic imperialism’ (1992)) or whether reasons for learning English now are more pragmatic than ideological in nature (Bisong 1995)
- who, if anyone, ‘owns’ English, now that is used on such an intensive scale globally – for example, does the term native speaker still have relevance when large numbers of people have a very high, nativelike level of competence; when many children in countries outside the traditional ‘native speaker heartlands’, i.e. the US, UK, Ireland, Canada and Australia etc., are learning English as a first language; and when most interactions in English take place without a so-called native speaker even being present ?