Here are 3 reasons why so many people speak English all over the world.
The British Empire
The first obvious reason why English has become worldwide is the British Empire and its colonization efforts all over the planet, comprising around a quarter of the world at some point.
English was initially only spoken on the British islands, but through different events like trade with Asia and Africa and more brutal tactics like colonizing lands and countries, the language spread.
You might imagine that, even if a country is colonized, local people would continue living their lives in their native languages and use English for government dealings and business. But crucially, getting a “proper education” in these colonized countries meant speaking in English. Hence, the language took an elitist position as the language spoken by the higher-educated. And the more educated the person, the more power they had. The result was a need to speak English to pursue wealth and well-being.
The Postwar U.S.
The postwar era of the U.S. saw the country’s businesses booming and the rise of international trade. This cemented English as the international language for global business. At the same time, the American film and music industries gained popularity abroad. All kinds of American music, from jazz to rock ’n’ roll, found audiences across the world. This made English not only the language of business, which it had been already for centuries, but also a language of entertainment.
After the U.S. had established itself as the world’s leader in business, the internet was invented in the U.S. This brought about technological progress the likes of which had never been seen, as most computer-related technologies were also developed in the country. As the tech sphere grew, the English language again traveled around the world.
The world of science is led by the English-speaking world for the same reason. Most universities that publish research do so in English. In becoming a tool for the spread of innovation the world over, the English language has solidified itself as the world’s lingua franca or common language.