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    #1

    Universal Standard English?

    Economist Debates: English: Statements

    This is a link to an excellent debate on whether or not American English should become the universal standard for English, and we used this to foster discussion with our students about how language evolves and spreads.

    Personally, I think having any kind of universal standard English is somewhat presumptuous and restrictive, but the debate brought forward some great ideas from the debaters and from the comments section.

    I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this! (If this link has already been posted, then you can ignore it!)
    Last edited by RMislander; 13-Oct-2010 at 08:50.

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Universal Standard English?

    Quote Originally Posted by RMislander View Post
    Economist Debates: English: Statements

    This is a link to an excellent debate on whether or not American English should become the universal standard for English,

    It's not an excellent debate. It's a rather mediocre debate, the like of which could be generated on this forum any day.

    and we used this to foster discussion with our students about how language evolves and spreads.

    Personally, I think having any kind of universal standard English is somewhat presumptuous and restrictive, but the debate brought forward some great ideas from the debaters and from the comments section.

    I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this! (If this link has already been posted, then you can ignore it!)
    About the debate:
    You could change the instances of "American English" in the proponent's argument to "Australian English", make a few cultural changes, and the argument would be the same. He is not even presenting the argument for American English. He is arguing that there should be a standard variety, and apparently he feels it not worth serious argument that it should be AmE rather than any other dialect.
    About the topic:
    In any case, American English is already too diverse to be a standard.

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    #3

    Re: Universal Standard English?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    In any case, American English is already too diverse to be a standard.
    Not only is it too diverse, but too regional too. A variety of a language is standard when it's so considered in the main cultural centres which use the language. American English is not.

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    #4

    Re: Universal Standard English?

    Well I wouldn't consider it mediocre. Despite the fact that I disagree with a lot the points, I thought it did exactly what a good debate should do, which is foster discussion, even if it is lopsided.

    Definitely there are huge regional differences, which would make a national standard English difficult. Then to try and universalize it would be ridiculous.

    Also, I don't necessarily think that Australian English could be substituted, purely because of the huge spread of American English internationally through media and entertainment.

    Still, the guest debaters and "comments from the floor" came from all around the world, and I enjoyed reading their responses, many of whom mirrored both of your responses.
    Last edited by RMislander; 14-Oct-2010 at 12:40.

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    #5

    Re: Universal Standard English?

    I think the main problem is the weakness of the first speaker's arguments more than the weakness of the case for AmE. As an international language, for instance, its literary heritage is pretty much irrelevant, and as Raymott says could simply be changed to Australian, South African or many other variants, and indeed if this were a serious argument, it is likely that Ireland, for instance, would be ahead in the queue. People do business, travel, etc, in English regardless of the writing of Shakespeare or Hemingway.

    Also, one major problem for his argument is that the EU, which is for the moment the largest economic grouping around, has an inbuilt legal prejudice against AmE through its employment laws. The idea that universal adoption of AmE is so feasible is naive.

    There are other practical issues- when I was in Cambodia, Australian English dominated because ad IDP subsidiary was the number one school. Indian English is a force of its own to be reckoned with. This debate is based on a decades-old two-horse race that no longer reflects the realities of the English language, and current changes in the pattern of economic development are likely to accentuate this IMO.

    (Robert McCrum's argument is confused - "I would go further and express the idea in a quasi-scientific formula, English + Microsoft = Globish" is just moronic - and I disagree with some of his analysis, but agree with the point that languages take orders from no one- they are community determined.)

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    #6

    Re: Universal Standard English?

    I agree about his language "equation." It's kind of non-sensical.

    Lynda Mugglestone's (a Harry Potter character if I ever heard one) argument is definitely spot on. The idea of adopting American English implies subjugation, as one of the main ways of controlling foreign nations is to eliminate their language or version of a language.

    John McWorter's argument about how there really isn't much in the way of communication barriers with different forms of English is also accurate.

    Where I am in South Korea though, there is a preference for American and Canadian teachers, which is discriminatory, but illustrates how AmE is highly regarded here (I definitely don't think this should be the case, but it is currently the situation).

    I didn't know that the EU had laws that insulated their nations against AmE, nor was I aware of the situation you mentioned in Cambodia with Australian English. Very interesting!

    I'm a fan of one of the commenters in the debate though, saying that with EFL learners, it doesn't matter what form of "standard" English they learn. If they could adequately master any one of them, he'd throw them a party.

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    #7

    Re: Universal Standard English?

    It's not that the EU has laws to insulate member nations from AmE. It's just that EU employment laws mean that people from non-member states cannot take a job in the Union if there is a citizen of a member state who can do that job. This means that the large number of Americans (and Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders) who used to teach in many European countries now find it difficult to so so.

    So, unless clients (learners) state specifically that they wish to learn American English, the teacher who gets the job will be British or Irish if a native speaker is chosen. Even where instruction in AmE is required, an EU citizen who proved the ability to teach that dialect would be chosen in preference to an American.
    Last edited by 5jj; 16-Oct-2010 at 16:28.

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    #8

    Re: Universal Standard English?

    Quote Originally Posted by RMislander View Post
    I agree about his language "equation." It's kind of non-sensical.
    Yes; it strikes me as one of those things designed to attract attention rather than saying anything.


    Quote Originally Posted by RMislander View Post
    I didn't know that the EU had laws that insulated their nations against AmE, nor was I aware of the situation you mentioned in Cambodia with Australian English. Very interesting!
    Sorry- I didn't explain the EU situation well but Fivejedjon has done it properly. In Cambodia, there was a vacancy and both Britain and Australia wanted to fill it, and the Australian set-up comprehensively won.

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    #9

    Re: Universal Standard English?

    American English should be the way to go. Students shouldn't have to put up with the numerous spelling inconsistencies and redundant characters of other varieties of English. The different American English dialects are not a problem, if anything they can help the student choose whichever dialect they find easier, without really impairing comprehension.

    There's simply no reason not to study AE.

    The EU's employment laws are revolting.

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    #10

    Re: Universal Standard English?

    Quote Originally Posted by thatone View Post
    There's simply no reason not to study AE.
    AE? Australian English? Albanian English? American English? AfroAmerican English? Aboriginal English?
    AmE is a popular descriptive term for American English.

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