Lingua Franca


The term lingua franca (the name comes from the historical sense) refers to a language learned, beyond its native speakers, to use in international commerce or other extended intercultural interactions. English is the current lingua franca of international business, and people with foreign dealings around the world are fast becoming acclimated to its use. Despite superficial differences, such as accents, an overall proficiency in English is steadily growing. Accents simply bear the tonal qualities of the regional dialects. India, for example, speaks with a distinct accent, yet maintains a high level of literacy and proficiency.

In the past Koine Greek, Latin and French have all served as a lingua franca in the Western-dominated world. German served as a lingua franca in large portions of Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries, especially in business. In some regions of the world, there are other languages that perform this function; for example, Swahili in Eastern Africa, Hindi in most of India, Malay in South-East Asia, Bislama in the Pacific Islands, and various other Pidgin languages in other locations and times. Portuguese served as lingua franca in Africa and Asia in the 15th and 16th centuries, especially. Mandarin Chinese also serves a function of providing a common spoken language between speakers of different and mutually unintelligible Chinese dialects.

Esperanto and Ido are constructed languages that some people propose as a replacement for English as the global lingua franca. Their supporters argue that a lingua franca should be as simple as possible, while still being highly expressive. They claim that English and other natural languages, being ethnically derived, are not suitable for a common language, since each ethnic language contains caveats and idiosyncracies that hamper their ability to be learned, and since ethnic languages confer an automatic advantage to native speakers in interaction between native speakers and non-native speakers.

Also, a natural language carries a people's culture and values. When French was the dominant language of Europe and the world, French culture and values were also dominant, at the expense of the other cultures. The hegemony of a single living language inevitably leads to major inequalities among linguistic communities. Linguistic competence is for example a major advantage when competing for top managerial positions. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lingua_franca [Aug 2004]


From the 17th to the 19th centuries, French was the lingua franca of educated Europe, especially with regards to the arts and literature, and monarchs such as Frederick II of Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia could both speak and write in French. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_language [Dec 2004]

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