How the English Language Conquered the World – The New York Times – DC Initiative on Racial Equity
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An English language class, South Carolina, 2015
Credit…Mike Belleme for The New York Times

Global Politics and the Power of Language
By Rosemary Salomone

“Every time the question of language surfaces,” the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci wrote, “in one way or another a series of other problems are coming to the fore,” like “the enlargement of the governing class,” the “relationships between the governing groups and the national–popular mass” and the fight over “cultural hegemony.” Vindicating Gramsci, Rosemary Salomone’s “The Rise of English” explores the language wars being fought all over the world, revealing the political, economic and cultural stakes behind these wars, and showing that so far English is winning. It is a panoramic, endlessly fascinating and eye-opening book, with an arresting fact on nearly every page.

English is the world’s most widely spoken language, with some 1.5 billion speakers even though it’s native for fewer than 400 million. English accounts for 60 percent of world internet content and is the lingua franca of pop culture and the global economy. All 100 of the world’s most influential science journals publish in English. “Across Europe, close to 100 percent of students study English at some point in their education.”

Even in France, where countering the hegemony of English is an official obsession, English is winning. French bureaucrats constantly try to ban Anglicisms “such as gamer, dark web and fake news,” Salomone writes, but their edicts are “quietly ignored.” Although a French statute called the Toubon Law “requires radio stations to play 3

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