Thursday, December 16, 2010

English around the world

I don't usually read BoingBoing any more, but some pals shared this link about a billboard in Pakistan. I also don't usually read comments on anything, but these raised the interesting question of why a billboard in Pakistan is in English, as well as some more complex discussion about women and sexuality in Pakistan, and perception vs. reality. I know almost nothing about Pakistan, really, so this is kind of cool.

I do know one guy from Pakistan, a longtime friend of my friends here, though I've never met him in person (and probably won't for a while, unless I go to Pakistan). I've often wondered why he speaks native-level English, or why all his Facebook posts and their comments from other Pakistanis are all in English. If a big chunk of the country reads English and even more of them speak it, that pretty much explains it, and in fact English is Pakistan's official language, along with Urdu.

This reminded me of an old link about why Chinese will not become the next world language (short version: as a language, it's too hard, and there are few native speakers of Standard Mandarin), and I started to think about why I'm surprised that much of Pakistan would speak English. I realized that my time overseas has been spent partly in Europe, where it seems that people have always been habitually multilingual by necessity, and then in Mexico and Chile, where very few people speak English. While I know intellectually that English has just grown and grown as the world's lingua franca, my experiences outside the U.S. have nonetheless left me surprised to discover people in other countries speaking English.


  1. I'd love to learn Chinese even if it won't become the next world language, but I have trouble with the tones. My brother's taken a year and a half of it, and he can manage the basics.

    How's home? I ate sweet and spicy chicken today. Fabulous flavor!

  2. I took it for a semester in college. It was really interesting, but once I realized the scale of raw memorization involved (something I'm really bad at), I moved on to other things.

    I had a burrito on Tuesday, a full omakase sushi lunch Wednesday, and we've been cooking our usual foods with lots of spices. I have challah proofing in the fridge for a small potluck tomorrow--it's really nice to cook again.