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Accent Reduction: Why did English Become a Dominant World-Language?

Accent Reduction: Why did English Become a Dominant World-Language?


Have you ever wondered why English became a dominant world-language?  Have you ever wondered whether Mandarin (China’s official language) would take the place of English as the globe’s most important language?

The answer to English becoming a dominant language lies in history.  The British Empire spread English to many parts of the world, first through colonization in the 17th and 18th centuries, then through its leadership in the Industrial Revolution.  After that, the U.S.’s subsequent economic superiority and political leadership established English as the first or second language of many countries.

Mandarin Chinese has the greatest number of native-born speakers – at 1.3 billion compared to US at 300 million —virtually all are in China.  China historically did not colonize.  Thus, there are no distant former Chinese colonies speaking Mandarin today.  That is in contrast to those former colonies of England, France, and Spain who still speak the languages of those countries.

What probably stops Mandarin from displacing English as the world’s most important language?  According to Lee Kuan Yew, writer for Forbes, several important features of Mandarin make it a very difficult language for the rest of the world to learn and master.  Even if you put Chinese words into pinyin form (roman characters), there are four tones to each character (often one syllable) that designate meaning.  He does not predict China converting its Mandarin characters for pinyin because of pride in their language, which has survived more than 5,000 years.  He points out that Chinese differs totally from most other languages used today because it uses pictographs and ideographs, with no spelling symbols to  indicate which of the four tones for each character is intended.

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Rerun from Feb 3, 2016

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