Middle East Resources

The Role of the English Language in the Global Spread of Information

Bassam Michael Madany

October 2021

Throughout history, certain languages played a key role in the spread of knowledge and information. For example, Greek was predominant from 300 B.C. to around 400 A.D. It was displaced by Latin, due to Jerome’s translation of the Bible into Latin, known as the VULGATE.

Latin became the language of communication for a millennium. Early in the 16th century, Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into German, initiated the rise of national languages, such as English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish.

European colonialism brought these languages into Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Following the end of colonialism in the aftermath of WWII, English and French became the major means of communication among the newly independent countries in Asia and Africa.

Late in the 20th century, the advent of the Internet and the Social Media caused English to become the major means of communication. This did not imply that the other major languages could not be digitized for use in emails and websites. Rather, the global prominence of English, spontaneously made it the convenient tool for the spread of information.

To illustrate this phenomenon, I looked at the articles I had posted on my website, from January to October 2021 (1) Bassam Michael Madany - Academia.edu

Indonesians, Indians, Malaysians, Thais, Canadians, Nigerians, Chinese, Turks, Pakistanis, Brazilians, Armenians, and Vietnamese; had accessed one of the following articles translated from Arabic or French. That was possible for them, since they knew English.

A list of the articles that were read:

A Revised Version of Early Islamic History, Islam’s Problematic with Time, The Tragedy of Post-Colonial Middle East, The Inter-Testamental Period, Arab Reformists Warnings to the West, The Suez Canal: Its History and Importance, Review of the Arabic text of MT. SINAI CODEX 151, A Revised Version of Early Islamic History, The Arab Spring of 2019, The Islamic Caliphate: An Impossible Dream, Reactions to a Revised Version of Early Islamic History Hong, A Revised Version of Early Islamic History,  Islam & Modernity, Islamic Imperialism: A Neglected Topic, The Decline of Western Civilization.