Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Eleventh Force

Thomas Friedman can be rightly called the Cheerleader-in-Chief of Globalisation. His unending enthusiasm, coupled with his great capacity to observe only the sunny side of things, makes his books a kind of sugary-syrup, something that feels good and cheerful while it lasts.

Whatever my attitudes towards his books, here is something I wanted to add to one of his lists.

He lists - in his 'The World is Flat' - 10 great flattening forces of globalisation: namely, 1. Walls coming down [Berlin Wall]; 2. Connectivity [WWW]; 3. Work Flow Software; 4. Uploading [Open Source Software]; 5. Outsourcing; 6. Offshoring; 7. Supply Chaining; 8. Insourcing; 9. In-forming [Web Search]; 10. The Steroids [Digital, Mobile, Personal & Virtual].

I wanted to add another, the eleventh, English Language.

If it was commerce that led the first and the second wave of globalisation [Globalisation 2.0 as Friedman calls it], it is global communication and cultural infusion and uniformity will lead the next. The big spread of English Language training in China [there are more school children in China learning the language than England, Australia, Canada and New Zealand combined], the gradual increase in popularity of English in Easter Europe over French, German and Russian - points a trend.

English Language and Internet necessarily fed each other's growth. But, as it seems, this is now reaching a critical mass, the point where it stops being just a trend, and becomes a force.

One last observation though: The spread of English Language will not necessarily establish the global superiority of the English speaking nations. As one of my English colleagues told me - they don't need to learn another language - this will essentially weaken, not strengthen these societies. It is the paradox of power - it always rests with the curious. English, in the next generation, will be a 'flattener' - the millions of global english speakers will now set out to rob the native english speakers of one last advantage they were complecent about.

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