English is the most powerful language in the world

The World Economic Forum’s PLI (Power Language Index) ranks the Top 10 most powerful languages as: English, Mandarin, French, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, German, Japanese, Portuguese and Hindi. 

Source – World Economic Forum.

6 Posts
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedback
View all posts
April 29, 2022 4:07 am

English is very important in Indonesia. Bahasa Indonesia, our official language, is more important in my opinion because of bringing our diverse country closer together and strengthening national unity. Our country consists of 17,000 islands and 700 local languages. Bahasa Indonesia was declared our national language in 1945, when our country achieved independence from the Dutch, despite a very small percentage of speakers (less than 10%).

In our history we have not shared a national identity. Inhabitants of Irian Jaya did not feel they belonged to the same country as inhabitants of Sumatra. However in the early 20th century after 300 years of Dutch presence, the concept of a joint Indonesia was forming. But because we were different geographically and culturally, the goals of a new country called Indonesia were very different. The introduction of Bahasa Indonesia brought us closer together. We could communicate. This strengthened the idea that even though we were far away, we were one country. As our children’s song says,

Dari Sabang Sampai Merauke… Tanah airku Indonesia.
From Sabang (Aceh) to Merauke (Papua)… My homeland Indonesia.

Now Bahasa Indonesia is the native language of 40 million and the second language of 150 million Indonesians. It has helped bring unity to our country. For the world English is powerful. For Indonesia, Bahasa Indonesia is more powerful.

Hussaini Azri
April 29, 2022 3:16 pm

In Malaysia, English plays a strong role for communication among our main Malay, Chinese and Indian ethnicities. Although Malay (Bahasa Melayu / بهاس ملايو) is our official national language, English is regularly used to communicate among people whose primary languages are Malay, Chinese and Tamil. People can grow up here and still not speak or understand Malay properly. Manglish, a mix of English and Malay, is a “salad language” that the government has tried to restrict.

Not speaking the language linked to your ethnicity has caused problems for some people. Society is tough here in that respect. People have been abused by members of their own ethnicity and some parents even call their children embarrassments because of it. See this Reddit thread of a Malaysian of Chinese origin who can’t speak Malay or Chinese. He feels like a foreigner in his own country. I know a Chinese person who only spoke English and she felt so much pressure to speak Mandarin that she moved to Beijing to take a 1 year language course.

May 5, 2022 1:59 pm

Indian dude here. Some of these responses hit close to home. I was born in India but moved stateside when I was a kid. I’m probably at a conversational level of Hindi with my understanding of it being ten times better than my speaking. I feel a twinge of embarrassment when I meet Indian-born Indians and they know to speak English with me instead of Hindi.

One time I remember meeting an Indian guy at college. He had grown up in Germany but spoke Hindi fluently. He asked me if I could speak Hindi and when I told him no, he said it was important for his parents that he retained Indian culture. I don’t think he meant anything bad by it but I felt my pride wounded. I started taking Hindi lessons and considered moving to India for a year as well. When I met up with Indian-born Indians I’d deliberately try to speak in Hindi and do stupid things like laugh extra loud when someone made a joke in Hindi, just to show I understood it. I only realize it now but they must have been rolling their eyes when I did stuff like that; look at this guy trying so hard to fit in.

Something I learned way too late is if you pursue something for the approval of others, your motivation won’t last. I wasn’t learning Hindi for myself. I was doing it to stop others from judging me as ‘less’ Indian. I’m comfortable with my broken Hindi. It doesn’t make me any less Indian. The same should go for Chinese who don’t speak Mandarin and Latinos who don’t speak Spanish. Whether you speak a language or not doesn’t dictate your identity.

Luis Ortiz
May 7, 2022 12:29 pm

Opinion – English is the most powerful language in the world. All other languages should be discarded and everyone in the world should speak English. This will enhance communication and reduce conflicts because of misunderstandings.

Response – An interesting argument albeit not one I fully accept, for multiple reasons:

1] Languages are not static. They are continually evolving, adapting to the societies in which they are used. Oxford Dictionaries announced ‘selfie’ as word of the year in 2013, a word that didn’t exist in recent memory and is now as ubiquitous as it gets. Try reading scripts in your language from a few hundred years ago. Chances are you will have a hard time understanding it. By definition, you are reading the same language even though it is unrecognizable to you. So even if every country speaks English, the common language will diverge over time in other countries. This is evident with the strong and unique English accents in India, Australia, Philippines and Singapore, among many other countries. Although people are speaking English in these countries, they are evolving to include words and phrases from their native languages, hence terms like Hinglish (Hindi & English mixture). Even if English is a common language the world over, it will gradually evolve and diverge to form dialects and fully-formed languages. The idea of a single, global common language isn’t realistic.

2] Limiting ourselves to speaking English only will degrade, not enhance our expression. Not every word in every language is directly translatable. Inuits have over 50 different terms to describe wintry Arctic conditions and the Sami people of northern Scandinavia and Russia have around 1,000 words for reindeer! [Source: Pangeanic Blog]. Some words in other languages cannot be accurately conveyed by words in English. Do we really want to limit human expression and communication?

3] If you think speaking the same language will reduce conflict, I have to be the one to burst your bubble. Although English is widely spoken in the US, its is very divided in its social unity. Think of the last time you were involved in some form of conflict. Chances are you were speaking the same language.

4] The cool-smart factor! If the world only speaks English, we’ll be missing out on some awesome forms of communication. Xhosa language anyone? Finnish is epic too! Human beings are capable of multiple forms of communication. Let’s progress, not regress our forms of communication. Plus there’s evidence that points to better critical thinking and problem solving if you speak more than 1 language.

Taabia Ahmed
April 27, 2022 1:57 pm

This PLI list reflects language importance in Pakistan very well. In Pakistan we’ve Urdu and English as official languages with Urdu as our national one. There are around 74 living individual languages in the country. English is taught from preschool alongside Urdu and it’s considered the language of official communication. Laws and constitutional rights are all written in this international language. There’s also an ‘English inferiority complex’ among people having not studied at ‘English medium schools’. Other than English, important languages to learn here are Arabic and Chinese. Since Pakistan is a Muslim country, due significance is given to Arabic. Also after the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was established in 2013, learning Chinese is considered very important here.

Aaron Seleka
April 27, 2022 5:04 am

English is indeed a powerful language. South Africa has 11 official languages. They are English, Afrikaans, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, SeSotho, Sepedi, Setswana, siSwati, Venda, Xitsonga. English is the language of business, arts, and culture. Afrikaans, which is descended from the Dutch language from Dutch settlers, is a sort of lingua franca that a lot of people can speak in because Afrikaans was prioritised during the apartheid years.

Zulu is the most spoken true African language, spoken as a first language by about 22% of the population. Xhosa is also a dominant African language and is the second biggest by first language share – about 15%. Some people can speak all 11 languages, or at least hold their own. Most people are easily tri-lingual. I speak four but understand about 7!

Multilingualism is not essential though. You can even find a few people, especially the English speakers, who can get by in all walks of life speaking only one language, the all powerful English. Those people living outside the Anglophone world will know what I mean.