English First - Nashville

Dennis Baron debaron at ILLINOIS.EDU
Mon Jan 12 19:17:33 UTC 2009

The question boils down to "what does speak English mean?" -- in
India, estimates are about 5% speak English in a recognizable way:
there are the America and UK- returned (the been to's), and those who
have gone to legitimate English-language schools in India; those who
can read and write in English on a daily basis (nespapers, business
documents). It's a lot of people, numbers-wise, but not
proportionally, for a country where English enjoys special status.
Don't know the score on Nigeria, but I doubt that 79 million Nigerians
actually use English regularly, effectively. And while millions study
English in China, Chinese proficiency remains fairly low, in general,
with obvious exceptions.  And so despite obvious English dominance in
US, UK, Australia, NZ, there are those in Nashville, Texas,
California, Miami, who shout that English must be protected or it will
disappear, who believe what the late Samuel P. Huntington wrote, that
the American dream can only be dreamt in English (though the sacred
texts of Christianity can be freely translated from their originals
without loss of comprehension or salvation).


Dennis Baron
Professor of English and Linguistics
Department of English
University of Illinois
608 S. Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801

office: 217-244-0568
fax: 217-333-4321


read the Web of Language:

On Jan 12, 2009, at 12:59 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: English First - Nashville
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 12:05 PM -0500 1/12/09, Laurence Horn wrote:
>> At 3:22 PM -0800 1/11/09, Dave Wilton wrote:
>>> I too disagree. Unless you lower the standard of what qualifies as
>>> "speaking
>>> English" to an absurdly low level, there is no way that there are
>>> more than
>>> 300 million English speakers in China.
>> Why would that many be needed.  The claim reported by Wilson (not
>> that I'm endorsing it, or even that he is) concerns which country has
>> the most English speakers *after* the U.S., so the likely competition
>> would indeed be India, followed I assume by the U.K.
>> LH
> Oops.  Just found this:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_English-speaking_population
> Apparently U.K. trails Nigeria, as well as India and U.S., even as a
> first language.  I wouldn't have guessed there were 79 million
> Nigerians who speak English as a first language.  On this table,
> China comes in at 15th, with 10 million speakers of English as a
> (non-first) language, basically tied with Spain.
> LH
>>> That's one third of the population.
>>> Personal observation: when I was in Beijing, we had to use an
>>> interpreter to
>>> communicate with wait staff in restaurants, even those that catered
>>> primarily to foreigners. (Hotel staff, on the other hand, pretty
>>> much all
>>> spoke English.) Interpreters were a must in most business
>>> meetings. I was in
>>> environments that would be particularly favorable to finding English
>>> speakers, but they were relatively rare. Once outside of Beijing,
>>> Shanghai,
>>> and Hong Kong, I'm sure the percentage of English speakers drops
>>> precipitously. Compare this to Europe where most service workers in
>>> metropolitan areas speak English quite well (even Parisian
>>> waiters, who
>>> choose not to) and where business professionals virtually all
>>> speak English
>>> pretty much fluently.
>>> India, on the other hand, I would be more inclined to believe, but
>>> even
>>> there, 300 million would be a lot.
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On
>>> Behalf Of
>>> Benjamin Barrett
>>> Sent: Sunday, January 11, 2009 2:56 PM
>>> Subject: Re: English First - Nashville
>>> I find this difficult to believe. It would surprise me if it weren't
>>> the case that applying the same criteria to the US would find that
>>> America has the largest population of French speakers in the world.
>>> After all, we do say adieu, double entendre, prix fixe, moi?, etc.
>>> BB
>>> On Jan 11, 2009, at 11:58 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>>> Not to mention that English is the (foreign) language of choice
>>>> world-wide. Isn't China reputed to be the largest English-speaking
>>>> country after our own?
>>>> -Wilson
>>>> On Sun, Jan 11, 2009 at 9:00 AM, David Metevia <djmetevia at chartermi.net
>>>>> wrote:
>>>>> From today's NYT:
>>>>> http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/us/11english.html
>>>>> Councilman Eric Crafton hopes to make Nashville the largest city
>>>>> in
>>>>> the
>>>>> United States to prohibit the government from using languages
>>>>> other
>>>>> than
>>>>> English.
>>>>> I don't understand the concern as we will continue to be an
>>>>> English
>>>>> language country as long as the majority of the population is
>>>>> monolingual.
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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