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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.

English is available not only to rich businessmen. Ordinary people also use it. For example, although the role of English in the Philippines was deliberately understated during the presidency of Corazon Aquino (1986-1992), the command of this language remains one of the main advantages of many residents of the country. It guarantees Filipino migrant workers a better chance of getting a job abroad compared to competitors from other non-English-speaking countries, such as China and Indonesia. It is this fact that explains why almost 1.5 million Filipinos annually go to work for hire in other countries and almost 270 thousand more sail today on international merchant ships around the world1.


In its role in Asia, English closely resembles the fate of Latin in Europe. For a whole millennium, there were no natural Latin speakers in Europe. But every educated person could speak and read the language. In 1689, China signed the first treaty of Nerchinsk with Russia, the main text of which was written in Latin.

The comparison of English with Latin is all the more appropriate for Asia, because English, if it has a future outside of Great Britain and North America, will enter the language environment of this continent not by replacing local languages, but by complementing them. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of English states that English is the native language of only 375 million people in the world2, or 6.25% of the world's population. More than half of them (240 million) live in North America. As for those for whom English has become the second spoken language, their number is completely different.

About 2 billion rubles. a person, or about a third of the world's population, regularly uses English in everyday life, regardless of whether they know it well or poorly. Even more than 1 billion rubles. According to the British Council, which promotes the spread and study of English throughout the world, by the beginning of the XXI century, people were learning this language. Given the size of the population, Asia makes a significant contribution to these figures.

Unlike in Europe, where French jealously defends its equal official status in all pan-European organizations, English does not have a similar opponent in Asia. Although 1.3 billion. It seems that Chinese people can create "competition" in the form of Chinese, but in fact most Chinese people speak different dialects of it and often do not understand each other. In addition, Chinese carries a clear political burden, which makes it fundamentally unacceptable as a unifying language in Asia, especially in Southeast Asia (SE).

In a stark contrast to the days before, Asian peoples learn English not to talk to Americans or Englishmen, but to communicate with each other. This happens for the simple reason that in the free market of languages, the English language today is like the most highly quoted currency. The value of such a "currency" is especially noticeable in the field of science and technology. According to the British Council, it now provides 3/4 of the world's mail and 80% of all stored electronic information. In addition, 2/3 of the world's scientists read in English3.

What distinguishes English from other vero languages?-

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potential rivals? It has long since transcended its national borders. While it is difficult to imagine the French language without attempts to consciously control its use by France, the very idea of such control over the English language by the United States or England would be simply ridiculous and absurd. Today, fewer people associate it with America or England. In some ways, it becomes part of the identification of the new middle class in Asia.


By voluntarily mastering English, Asian peoples are simultaneously engaged in its "domestication". Gradually, Asia is beginning to be distinguished by an increasing number of derived dialects and language hybrids, which may eventually endanger the role of English as a common language. Within Asia alone, distinct forms of regionally distorted English have flourished for decades. For example, Japlish( Japanese-English), Chinglish (Chinese-English) or Singlish (Singapore-English) with all their local jargon and constructions, from the exquisite prose of Indian novelists to instructions-booklets for Japanese electronics and the market dialect in Singapore Singlish.

Singlish is an exotic mix of English with elements of Chinese, Malay and Tamil. When speaking Singlish, English articles, prepositions, and pronouns are often omitted.

It is significant that the potential threat of this hybrid pollution of the English language is increasingly understood by Asians themselves. Thus, in August 1999, Singapore's Minister-Elder Lee Kuan Yew, who served as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1990 and still remains the country's most respected statesman, in a speech on the occasion of Singapore's Independence Day, touching on this topic, said that the local version of English - Singlish-interferes less well-educated citizens need to move up the career ladder. As Lee Kuan Yew pointed out, the more local media spread this "hodgepodge of English" with other languages, the more economically and socially disadvantaged Singapore's poorly educated citizens will be.

"We will feel this difference in just one generation," Lee Kuan Yew predicted in 1999. In his opinion, to clean up the English language in Singapore, the government should take advantage of the experience of standardizing the Chinese language, which is spoken by the majority of Singaporean Chinese. "25 years ago, we decided that we would not speak special Singapore Chinese, which includes elements of Cantonese, Hakka and other dialects of southern China, combined with Malay vocabulary. Thanks to our use of the standard Beijing dialect on television, radio, and in schools, we now have a generation of young Singaporeans who can speak Standard Chinese. And the Chinese-speaking world outside Singapore is able to understand what we're saying." Singlish should not be used in television programs, except for humorous programs and educational methods that encourage people to speak standard English, " urged the Minister of State-Elder of Singapore.

The only question is, how effective can these efforts ultimately be?

Although local dialects of English are booming in Asia today, just half a century ago it seemed to many that a wave of national movements for political independence would sweep it out of the region altogether. In those years, English was often seen as a symbol of colonialism.

After India's independence in 1947, the new Delhi authorities tried to replace English with Hindi. But this provoked riots from non-Hindi-speaking Indians. In Malaysia, the Bahasa Malaysia language was introduced, which became official in 1967.

Since 1943, the Philippine authorities began to develop the local tagalog as a future alternative to the official Spanish and English in those years. And in the 1987 Constitution, the Filipino language (99.9% Tagalog) was declared the national language (while English is the official language) .4

Today, the challenges of the global economy have already forced almost all of these countries to change their approach. The results of this process are palpable throughout Southeast Asia. Under President Fidel Ramos (1992-1998), English once again became the dominant language in the Philippines. It was more actively implemented in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and Indonesia. Japan is multiplying its efforts on the English-speaking front, especially as it expands its exports and increases the number of managers working abroad. In Malaysia, Bahasa still retains the role of the official record-keeping language. But since the late 1990s, educational reforms have been underway to increase the adoption and use of English 5. As former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad admitted, " whether we like it or not, this language is understandable to most people."

English is being introduced not only as a means to communicate with the outside world. Within polyethnic countries such as Singapore and India, it is recognized as a neutral intermediary, especially after their decolonization. On the other hand, in relatively mono-ethnic Japan and Korea, the absence of national minorities was one of the reasons that hindered the penetration of the English language.


Even where there are no racial or national problems, the establishment of one of the dialects as the dominant state language generates discontent and contradictions. For example, the Cebuano people of the Philippines, who make up 40% of the population - 20 million people-oppose the introduction of the Filipino language based on Tagalog, considering that the Cebuano language is more national than Tagalog (15 million people). its carriers) 6.

Considerable efforts are being made to spread the English language in Taiwan as well. These efforts

page 78

They have become particularly prominent in recent years as Taiwan has been further opened up and the middle and younger generations of local politicians have come to power. These include, for example, Ma Ying-ju, a doctor of law at Harvard University and now President of Taiwan, former Foreign Minister and current mayor of Taichung (the third largest city on the island with a population of about 1 million people), Jason Hu (Zhi-qiang) and other politicians.

In recent years, the Taiwanese authorities have taken a number of measures to switch to teaching English in lower secondary schools and even in preschool institutions. Another radical innovation was the decision of the Ministry of Education to officially allow foreigners to teach this language in secondary schools. In the past, this job was closed to foreigners.

In Taiwan, measures are also being taken to organize English language teaching using the latest modern telecommunications, in particular, using satellite television. This program is designed to reduce the gap in teaching quality between urban and rural areas.

During the summer holidays, thousands of students from dozens of elementary schools in remote mountainous areas of Taiwan, as well as on the islands of Penghu and Jin Men, receive English lessons. The special feature of these lessons is that they are taught by professional native - language teachers, and they are broadcast from a studio in Taipei on a special satellite TV channel. Classes are held on weekends from 8 am to 11 am, the image is projected on large screens. Local teachers assist students in these interactive lessons. This form of teaching English in schools in remote areas using satellite television is very promising, since even today hundreds of Taiwanese schools either do not have cable connections, or have low-quality cable and non-cable reception. Along with schoolchildren, Taiwanese military specialists are also increasingly studying English.7

Today, anyone in Taiwan can get complete and timely information in English about the activities of any of the government departments by visiting the official website. The island's authorities are trying in every possible way to encourage its study by employees of state institutions who have to have direct contacts with foreigners. And the Taipei City Hall even went on to organize free English language courses for taxi drivers.

Of course, in Taiwan, English is still a long way from becoming the second official language of office work and communication. But the island's residents, like those of other Asian countries, are clearly aware that proficiency in English will contribute to better integration into the global economy, especially after Taiwan's accession to the WTO in 2003.

Kim Seok Jo, general counsel of South Korea's Daewoo group, envisions a time when Koreans on both sides of the demilitarized zone will communicate with each other in English. Obviously, South Korean legal language is more suitable for writing contracts, Kim said. But South Korean legal terms may be less politically pleasing and acceptable to North Korea than English ones.


The greatest incentive for the spread of English in Asia remains the economy. This dynamic is particularly noticeable in Vietnam. For centuries, Vietnamese have learned different languages (Chinese, French, Russian, and English) to deal with powerful friends and sometimes conquerors. Not so long ago, the country's accession to the ASEAN bloc means, among other things, the inclusion of Vietnam in the study of a common language for the countries of this bloc. This is precisely why a government decree issued in 1994 ordered Vietnamese officials to learn English. Now a huge number of Vietnamese people, from shoeshine boys to well-off families and officials, teach it with incredible zeal.

Vietnam is the only Asian member of the International Organization of la Francophonie*, an association of 55 members of French-speaking countries and territories. France is aggressively trying to maintain its former influence here. At the end of 1997, the seventh summit of the Association was held in Hanoi. About $ 15 million was spent on its implementation, some of which was spent on the construction of a new congress center. In turn, the Vietnamese sent 1,500 people to France to study French. The Vietnamese may look to France as a nice snack, according to one local official. But when it comes to the main course, they're no different from the rest of Asia: they want English.

In Asia, with rapid economic growth, the use of English is growing at an equally surprising rate. In a recent survey of senior Asian CEOs conducted by Dow Jones Asia Dialogues magazine, 93% of them agreed that English would retain its place as the main international language of Asian business.

English is no longer the language of colonialism, but a medium used by the peoples of Asia to communicate with each other and the rest of the world.

* This name was given to the association in 2005 at the Conference of Ministers of la Francophonie in Antananarivo (Madagascar) (editor's note).



3 Ibid.


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