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Does the Global Spread of English Have Any Influence on the Learner’s First Language?

Does the Global Spread of English Have Any Influence on the Learner’s First Language?


In the modern world, the links between languages and national or cultural affiliations weaken and multiply. Knowing several languages allows a person to expand the social relations, understand and accept the changing cultural characteristics and to diversify the sense of belonging. Most people have formed a special relationship with the first language (mother tongue). Knowledge of other languages does not jeopardize the existence of these same links with their native language, because it was the first language to speak on. One of the most important in modern education was the fact that English has acquired the status of lingua franca, becoming generally recognized as a language of international communication. The expansion of the English language and the Anglo-American culture can not be denied. However, English is so widespread that languages can not resist its impact assimilating English vocabulary, especially neologisms. The impact of English on mother tongue is unavoidable because it is already a language that is recognized and spoken in the whole world. The purpose of the paper is to analyze how English can affect first language of the learner.

Role of English in the Globalized World

Modern world undergoes the process of globalization. At the heart of globalization is, above all, the Anglo-American model of society, its economy, politics and culture. Such a model of society and culture is closely linked with the English language, which claims to be the first in the history of the universal language of mankind (Baker, 2016). English is one of the most commonly used languages on the TV, international conferences, workshops, business meetings, and in an entertainment arena. Although other languages have found their way into these areas, translation to English is always necessary because of the ever growing quantity of people and nations that speak and understand this one language that is considered international. Increasingly, we face a situation where modern information technology is based entirely on the material of English language; on international scientific conferences all the reports are published in English, and international negotiations are not conducted through an interpreter but in English on both sides. Research indicates that English is one of the global languages that heavily influences other languages (Baker, 2016). The corruption and changes in the accentual system of learner’s first language, the emergence of slang and pidgin are some of many examples of the spread of English language and its major impact. The first languages can no longer be original as they undergo constant transformation due to the presence of another more powerful rival. However, it is complicated topic as sometimes it is hard to compare how knowledge of other languages impacts learner's mother tongue. We do not know even our first language perfectly, so the cases when a person knows one or several languages at the same level, are extremely rare. We can not know the vocabulary in a given area in a given language. A person can have a good understanding of one language and communicate it orally and in writing, while another language he or she can understand perfectly, but can not speak in it well. One of the languages can gain greater development in the professional life, while another language may be easier to use at home.

Nevertheless, people observe how more and more English words are being used in daily life and how such processes and borrowing, language blending and even language loss are taking place (Baker, 2016). The easiest way to change the language is the borrowing of words. Speakers of different languages start to use the words of a foreign language in the cases where the means of the native language are not efficient. Interestingly, borrowing occurs mainly between languages, which are similar in their typology, regardless of the order in which they were memorized. Despite the wide spread of English, the other language can resist borrowing words. This is mainly due to the historical events, cultural relations and how much the language is open to foreign borrowing. However, there is no reason to be afraid of borrowing fighting it is pointless. Language is a natural phenomenon that is difficult to control and manage.

The loss of language means forgetting a mother tongue for some reason. For example, new lexical or syntactic units of a foreign language are attached to knowledge of their own language; over time, if the person primarily uses foreign language and/or has long lived in a country where he or she uses foreign language all the time, the person can stop using alternatives to these words or linguistic constructs in  native language. That can lead to loss (forgetting) of the equivalent. An individual starts to forget the words of the first language, which leads to an increase in the use of word-substitutes, for example, «like», “ok” and «thing» from English. The merging of languages refers to the erosion of the native language under the influence of a foreign language, which is observed mainly in the lexicon, when the words of a foreign language are inserted into syntactic native language design. Therefore, it is necessary to analyze whether the global spread of English has  any influence on the learner’s first languages.

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To start with, every language has its unique linguistic features like accentual system and structure. However, the global spread of English affects the general order, thereby initiating linguistic deviation as seen in pronunciation, stress, intonation, and general articulation of words that form the native languages around the world. People find it easy to borrow from English language and sometimes mix their language, thus adding to a major deviation in terms of pronunciations and word articulations (Baker, 2016).

Moreover, research analysis indicates that the global spread of English leads to the emergence of various forms commonly referred as corrupted languages that are usually used in informal communication and other interactions (Fishman, 2000). Creole, slang, and pidgin are accepted all over the world and widely used by the younger generation. For example, global spread and usage of English has influenced the Haitian language leading to the formation of the Haitian-creole now used by the Haiti youths and young adults. Sheng is another example of slang that is a corrupted form of Swahili and other native languages in East Africa communities. In West Africa, particularly in Nigeria, a pidgin has been formed where the Hausa language has been influenced by English. Therefore, the eminent global spread of English corrupts and leads to the formation of new informal languages (Hilgendorf, 2007).

In addition, the interference into the linguistic structure and formation of corrupt languages can make the learner’s first language become less recognized and less popular than the corrupted languages, which will, consequently, contribute to its disappearance. Accordingly, when the languages die people remain with their corrupted forms and usage of English will keep increasing even in formal communications. English is a global language, thus it is far from being inhibited from spreading as compared to national languages that are geographically and historically restrained within their boundaries. As such, English is capable of leading to the demise of the latter as people can easily switch to speaking using more popular though corrupted languages (Rapatahana & Bunce, 2012; Fishman, 2000).

Furthermore, many learners embrace English because they have discovered its global popularity. They have a positive attitude towards the language as it is and are proud to learn it in contrast to their first language to which they were born and raised. Therefore, the expansion of English creates a positive attitude towards its acquisition and limits the use of other languages in the communication as users prefer widely used English to their own (Hilgendorf, 2007).  That means people in countries with various cultural and linguistic backgrounds want to learn English as it is lingua franca required for success in studying and work (Chowdhury, 2013). Therefore, the more popular the language is, the more people use it and the more it permeates native language, Alternatively, children are being born and raised within their native languages. They acquire it much earlier than they are introduced to English. In countries that prioritize languages apart from English, learners will find it easy to acquire and use them throughout their entire lifetime. English will just be a second language used in formal communication and learning. From this point of view, if it is a matter of influence, it is a native language that impacts and limits English (Soler & Jorda, 2007).

Knowledge of any foreign language including English influences the breadth of thinking. In addition, people who learn English, are much more sensitive to their mother tongue and literature. After all, language is often taught not only for practical purposes, but also to read the works of art or non-fiction. From foreign language are coming concepts that can not be translated, and which are not present in reality of a learner. The study of these concepts significantly expands horizons. Learning foreign languages, especially English, is required for those who are engaged in science, since many materials are now not translated, and have never been translated in its entirety. We all exist in the same world, and foreign language introduces us to other civilizations. This does not happen on someone's selection: a person begins to freely navigate in the fact that he or she wants to know. Translation can not cover or convey everything, so some things are necessary to know in the original.


However, nowadays, communities become aware of their culture and they promote it in diverse spheres. Subsequently, efforts are made to revive and ensure the language existence over generations as it is a part of the cultural identity. Such efforts include oral speech and reading along with written literature that contribute to revitalizing language existence. In other words, the spread of English does not have considerable influence on the learner’s first language because these languages are embraced and transferred in the desired form over generations (Pan, 2014). There are also “closed” countries that are mononational, such as Japan, trying hard not only to make young generations learn own culture and language but also spreading the awareness of mother tongue in other countries popularizing it. Apparently, the sphere of language here shows some common Japanese behavior model. As a country Japan, has always been isolated from the world and spontaneously developed a pattern of behavior that allows both fit into globalization and preserve their traditions and their culture. The model here was the development of Japan in the past of Chinese culture that has never formerly associated with the active knowledge of the Chinese language. There are examples of Americanisms, invented in Japan, formed not only by the rules of English word formation, but according to the rules of linguistics in the Japanese language. Another example is France that promotes French in the international organization called Francophonie (Chowdhury, 2013).

Learning English has other aspects, one of which is political. The spread of the "second native language" violates other natural human need - the need for identity, that is a tendency to use mother tongue in all situations as it was developed in early childhood. People are forced to learn a foreign language, but not all people are equally capable of consciously studying the language. Moreover, the imposition of English adds two aspects of the problem, which was not the case of international languages such as Latin and Esperanto. Firstly, the English language is the mother tongue of many people who are at globalization in a better position: it is further not necessary to learn any language (the developed countries of the world like the United States are least interested in foreign languages). Secondly, the English language can be associated with US policy of westernization and that the US impose system of values is causing millions of people to have a sense of dissatisfaction (Fishman, 2000).

Worth saying that English has a unique linguistic structure as compared to other languages. It is hardly possible to alter other languages, especially with diverse structures and historical development. Word formation, articulation, and pronunciation aspects cannot be altered by another language. In other words, English words can be mixed with native words, but that does not mean alteration, corruption, or formation of other corrupt languages (Chowdhury, 2013). That may mean that English is rather enriching or modernizing other languages often bringing words that do not have analogues but that does not endanger the learner's native language.

Response to counter-argument

Nevertheless, when English is learned, and one finds the possibilities of its wide usage and, as a result, tends to use it more in communication. As a consequence, while using both languages at the same time and mixing them one would form a corrupted form of the original first language through the change of accent and articulation style at least. Therefore, there is a heavy influence of English on the learner’s first language. Learning English also changes brain activity of learner. Learning a foreign language, like any other experience,  does not pass unnoticed to our consciousness and brain function. Any information coming into the brain from the outside at any moment of its activity modifies neuronal connections. Human consciousness, which knows two or more languages, will never be equivalent to consciousness of monolinguals - someone who speaks only one language.

In addition, cultural diversity is one thing that is embraced universally. Even though we identify ourselves culturally, global language and interactions will affect this process. Culture awareness can in no way hinder the global spread of English, therefore, it will expand, penetrate into communities and influence the languages over generations, especially through interactions within and beyond the social groups.  A society in which learning a foreign language is restricted or prohibited, will be one-sided and dull. Languages enrich each other, and without interaction with other systems they will not develop. After all, in other languages, there are concepts and description of the phenomena, which simply are not in other linguistic environment's reality. A person who was forcibly restricted only to his native language and native culture, would lose the opportunity to understand the world around, because the language is the key to the perception of a foreign culture.

It is true that every language has its own structure. However, in informal communications and interactions, learners usually find themselves mixing words, borrowing accentual systems, and articulation styles while encompassing their speech with general language knowledge. All these will eventually lead to the formation and usage of the new language and its forms as well as the demise of the first language due to minimal usage. As a consequence, the global spread of English will have an influence on learner’s first language.

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All things considered, despite the efforts communities are making to revive their languages and prevent them from being swept away by English, the latter will find its way of influencing because it is already a language that is recognized and spoken throughout the world. There are many factors that regulate how English can impact learner's native language and they include: the status of language and attitude of people to this language; the distance between the native and foreign languages (structural and geographic); continued stay in the country, which uses a language foreign to a learner; age, when the study of a foreign language started; type of training (immersion in the language environment or school); duration of training; the frequency of use of a foreign language on a daily basis by the person. English is capable of corrupting first languages so that a learner is left with no choice but to adapt the corrupted form. Its global spread and usage ensure the demise or corruption of others and adds to the formation of corrupted languages. Therefore, everyone has to be able to comprehend its possibilities and embrace the outcomes by ensuring positive application.


Learning a foreign language does not imply ideological "reorganization" of person's outlook. It does not involve the creation of a system of axiological patterns. During the mastery of a foreign language the individual does not form a second conceptual system (image of the world) in the likeness of that what exists in the native language and is associated with the native culture. The knowledge behind the language learning is the integration of components from different cultures.

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