V. C. GOLOVACHEV
Candidate of Historical Sciences
Even in the recent past, the English language was branded as a symbol of colonialism. But times have changed. Today, it serves as a unifying language for many Asian countries.
As the most widely used second language, English has long been the first language in Asia. It is the official language of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) forums, international air traffic controllers and maritime agreements, international contracts, and technical journals. It is the language of new opportunities, the language of money.
In the Philippines, if you only speak national dialogue, you can only be a bus driver. But if you know English, you can be the boss, says Maximilo Suliven, publisher and CEO of the Philippine Star, the largest local English-language newspaper.
Both in Asia and in the wider world, English owes its rise mainly to two factors: the legacy of the British colonial Empire and the ubiquitous dominance of the American media. Both of these factors are very noticeable in Asia, where they are complemented by a third and decisive factor: commerce. Over the past three decades, the Asian economy has been largely export-oriented. This, in turn, stimulated the demand for English. It is indispensable in the transport industry, which is the basis of any trade. Its role is likely to increase even further in the future as the volume of international trade, in particular e-commerce via the Internet, increases.
Following the growing share of Asia in world trade, largely due to trade between Asian countries themselves, the English language is the only thread connecting the very different peoples of this region. It communicates with a worker at a factory in Thailand and a Japanese manager, a Taiwanese exporter with a South Korean buyer, a Hong Kong or Taiwanese Chinese with his Filipino housekeeper, or a Singaporean Indian with a Singaporean Malay.
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