Global Culture

Global Culture

English as the Lingua Franca


In the 21st century, globalization has often resulted in the imposition of the values and culture of the United States and Western Europe on the rest of the world. For example, English is the lingua franca—or common language—used in the conduct of business around the world. But this is not happily accepted everywhere.


Learning Objectives

  • Examine the changes in culture and values in Western Europe and the United States in the late 20th century and their impact on the rest of the world.
  • Identify the different negative reactions to globalization.


Key Terms / Key Concepts

Boomers: people born between the years 1946 to 1964

Counterculture: a youth movement in the 1960s that rejected traditional values in the United States and the West, while glamorizing sexual relations outside of marriage, as well as drug use, which was a lifestyle that ran counter to traditional middle-class values ("Rock and Roll" musicians such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, propagated these new counter-cultural values. This movement also denounced war and Capitalism and demanded world peace.)

xenophobia: the fear of anything perceived to be foreign or strange


Lingua Franca


Lingua Franca is a term used now for any language regularly employed to enact communication between people who do not share a native language; however, it’s main meaning is associated with a language used by a good majority of people to conduct business throughout regions that do not share a language, which usually means they do not share a culture. 

Lingua Franca can be translated as “the tongue of the Franks” or “the language of the Franks.” When William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066 CE and took the English throne, he spoke French because he was from Normandy. As king, he made everyone who wished do business with him or England speak French. French became the Lingua Franca of that period and for quite a while afterward. However, the term can be retroactively applied to many such situations, such as when Aramaic was employed across Western Asia or Sanskrit across the Indian subcontinent.




English—or Anglish—is the term used for language that stems from the Germanic peoples who conquered the island of Britain after the Romans withdrew in 407 CE. The Angles, Frisian, Jutes, and Saxons actually spoke different languages that would be considered Germanic. However, when King Alfred of the West Saxons became the last Germanic king on the island with measurable power, he willingly accepted the term “Anglish” for his West Saxon language, which he ensured was preserved through written works. Compositions up to the time of Alfred were mainly affected through the use of Latin, but Alfred wanted his people to be literate in their own language. He started a campaign to not only have monks gloss Latin works with Anglish but also have them teach the people how to read and write in their own language. (Although these “people” being taught were mostly men with some measure of societal power.) Besides having works translated into Anglish, Alfred ensured the survival of the language when he was able to stop the invading Danes from entirely subjugating all of the Germanic people on the island. Had he not stopped them from overthrowing his kingdom it is likely that the Danes would have destroyed his Anglish manuscripts and the language would have been lost. Instead, the Anglish speakers picked up some Old Danish words and added them to their language, which was mainly West Saxon but became an initial mix of all the Germanic languages on the island, Latin, and Old Danish. That is now the language referred to as Old English (or Anglo-Saxon) and can be found in the original manuscript of Beowulf.

English today—or Modern English—is the product of a succession of cultural infusions dating back more than a millennium, such as that which occurred with the 1066 Norman conquest of England, which produced the Middle English of Shakespeare and the original King James Bible. In fact, it is believed that Modern English is only about 15% Anglo-Saxon because it is a flexible language in terms of accepting changes, such as newly created words. During William’s reign even those who did not speak the Lingua Franca of the time—French—started using French terms while speaking English and these became English words; this is a fact commented upon in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland when a character speaking English uses the term “adjourn” and is told to “Speak English!”

As the British traveled and tried to subdue the globe, they picked up terms from other languages that they kept, such as pajama from Persian and monsoon from Cantonese. While other languages, such as French, are less accepting of expansion, English is freely expanded through the many creation techniques it allows, such as blending, affixing, coinage, clipping, acronym, loan word, compounding, and zero-derivation. Therefore, it is no surprise that English appears to have the largest lexicon of any language, which means there are more words in the English language than any other.


Emergence of English as the Global Lingua Franca


The expansion of the British empire from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries exposed a growing number of peoples around the world to the English language, which they adapted in various ways to their own cultures and usages. In many cases this occurred without the subjected peoples having a say, such as in the case of millions of enslaved Africans and the people of India. In the latter case English began as an imperial language imposed on Indians, and, by necessity, evolved into a lingua franca for India, a consequence of British imperialism that served as a benefit to the English.

Over the last two centuries a number of factors and developments have contributed to the emergence of English as the global lingua franca. First, the Industrial Revolution beginning in Britain in the latter half of the eighteenth-century placed English at the forefront of technological development. England, along with other settlement colonies of the British empire, operated in an environment that encouraged competition in technological and organizational development among the privileged groups of these colonies. New terms growing out of both kinds of development not only increased the number of words in the English language, but also, for the sake of convenience and simplicity, encouraged other languages to adopt these terms, even if they were slightly altered to fit within the conventions of native languages. Institutions in the English-speaking world which participated in these technological and organizational developments tied to industrialization effectively cornered the market on such terms. To catch up technologically, civilizations in other areas of the world had to at least consider the templates for institutions, practices, and conventions in the English-speaking world, which contributed to the assumption of English on their parts.

The emergence of the U.S. as a leading world power and then humanity’s first and foremost superpower strengthened the predominance of English in global culture. This predominance included U.S. technological dominance in certain areas, such as aviation and its infrastructures. Consequently, English is the official language of aviation and air traffic controllers.The emergence of English as the global lingua franca has provoked a level of resentment, but also strengthened the linguistic skills of non-English speaking nations.


Culture and Values in the Late 20th Century


Since the mid-20th century, the global economy has impacted society and values. The development of mass media (radio, television, internet) and mass marketing of goods to consumers worldwide has resulted in rapid circulation of radical new ideas about religion, gender, and sexuality. In North America and Europe, the so-called "West",  the generation that experienced the chaos and disorder of the Great Depression and World War II embraced traditional values and religion. People in this generation largely married young, raised large families, and faithfully attended their churches. In the 1950s women, who had won the right to vote after World War I, still performed their traditional roles as wives and mothers. The postwar generation that came of age in the 1960s, the so-called “Boomers” however, largely rejected these traditional values. In this period, the "counter-culture" was popular among young people.This youth movement glamorized sexual relations outside of marriage, as well as drug use, which was a lifestyle that ran counter to traditional middle-class values. Radio and television broadcast music by "Rock and Roll" musicians, such as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, propagated these new counter-cultural values. This movement also denounced war and Capitalism and demanded world peace. During the Vietnam War in 1968 in Paris, New York City, Mexico City, and Berkeley, California, young people staged mass protests. 

In the decades following the 1960s, this large scale, generational rejection of traditional values has impacted society in the West. Membership in Protestant and Roman Catholic churches has declined drastically. Moreover, the percentage of married people in society and the size of families have also decreased. The percentage of children born to unmarried partners, however, has steadily climbed. Sexual activity outside of marriage is the norm rather than the exception, and often celebrated in mass media. Homosexuality has been decriminalized, as European countries and the United States have moved to legally equate marriages between homosexual couples with that of marriages between heterosexual couples. Since the 1960s women have cast aside their traditional roles, entering different and more advanced professions (i.e., professors, doctors, lawyers, engineers), as well as running for elected office in much greater numbers than earlier in the 20th century. In 1960 for example, only 19 women served in the US House of Representatives in Congress out of a total of 435 members, and only one woman served as a U.S. Senator out of a total of 100. In 2022, the number of women representatives stood at 121 and the number of women senators at 24.

In the "Global South" (Latin America, Asia, Africa), however, traditional values and religion still hold sway over many areas. In Brazil, for example, the Protestant Pentecostal Church, which emerged in the US and the United Kingdom at the beginning of the 20th century, was one of the fastest growing churches in Latin America in the late 20th century, with over 20% of Brazil's 200 million population as members. In Africa, the Roman Catholic and various Protestant churches experienced rapid growth in the late 20th century. One of the largest Roman Catholic churches in the world—the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace—was constructed in the Ivory Coast in West Africa between 1985 and 1990. In India, the current, fastest growing political party—the Bharatiya Janata Party—is committed to preserving traditional Hindu values and beliefs in Indian society. In Muslim countries, many people have rejected western, secular values and have espoused a return to a lifestyle based on the traditional teachings of Islam. Hasan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928 for this purpose; since the 1980s this organization has greatly expanded its membership beyond Egypt to other Muslim countries. Saudi Arabia has used its vast profits from its oil revenues to fund Islamic schools (madrasas) in countries with large Muslim populations, such as Pakistan and Indonesia. These schools have propagated Wahhabism—a very strict and conservative interpretation of Islam.


Reactions to Globalization 


The uneven spread of globalization’s benefits caused an anti-globalization movement to rise by the end of the 20th century. Proponents of economic growth, expansion, and development generally view globalizing processes as desirable or necessary to the well-being of human society. However, not everybody affected by globalization believes there are benefits to its spread. Many individuals within the anti-globalization movement have witnessed unrest within their home communities and the world at large and questioned the basis for continuing this trend. These critics question the sustainability of long-term and continuous economic expansion. They also oppose the social structural inequality caused by these processes and the colonial, imperialistic, or hegemonic ethnocentrism that underlie such processes. These critics argue that globalization requires nations to give up their political, economic, and cultural sovereignty and adapt to Western ways, including the speaking of English.

While globalization has eased the flow of international trade and contributed to greater efficiency within market economies, it has also been partially to blame for global economic crises and has spurred new instances of xenophobia. Xenophobia—the fear of foreigners—can and has manifested itself in many ways as a result of globalization. It involves the relations and perceptions of an in-group towards an out-group, including a fear of losing identity, suspicion of activities, aggression, and the desire to eliminate another group’s presence to secure a presumed purity.

Additionally, globalization is not simply an economic project; it also heavily influences the world environmentally, politically, and socially. While the forces of globalization have led to the spread of Western-style democracy, this has been accompanied by an increase in inter-ethnic tension, xenophobia, and violence as free market economic policies combine with democratic processes of universal suffrage as well as an escalation in militarization to impose democratic principles as a means to resolve conflicts. For example, as of Spring 2022, in Ethiopia democratic elections have allowed certain ethnic majorities to impose their will on other ethnic minorities, resulting in communal violence and civil war in East Africa.


photograph of building
Monument to Multiculturalism. Monument to Multiculturalism by Francesco Perilli in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Four identical sculptures are located in Buffalo City, South Africa; Changchun, China; Sarajevo, Bosnia; and Sydney, Australia.


Public Opinion


The number of newspaper articles showing negative framing rose from about 10% of the total in 1991 to 55% of the total in 1999. This increase occurred during a period when the total number of articles concerning globalization nearly doubled.In 1998, negative articles about globalization outpaced positive articles by two to one. A 2005 study by Peer Fiss and Paul Hirsch found a large increase in negative articles towards globalization in the years prior. In 2008, Greg Ip claimed this rise in opposition to globalization could be explained, at least in part, by economic self-interest.

A number of international polls have shown that residents of Africa and Asia tend to view globalization more favorably than residents of Europe or North America. In Africa, a Gallup poll found that 70% of the population views globalization favorably. The BBC (British Broadcasting Company) found that 50% of people in Europe believed that economic globalization was proceeding too rapidly, while 35% believed it was proceeding too slowly. In 2004, Philip Gordon stated that “a clear majority of Europeans believe that globalization can enrich their lives, while believing the European Union can help them take advantage of globalization’s benefits while shielding them from its negative effects”. The main opposition within the EU consisted of socialists, environmental groups, and nationalists. Residents of the EU did not appear to feel threatened by globalization in 2004, when the EU job market was more stable and workers were less likely to accept wage/benefit cuts. Social spending was much higher than in the U.S. In a 2007 Danish poll, 76% of respondents said that globalization was a good thing. Yet a 2016 referendum vote on whether to leave or stay within the UK saw a majority of British voters opting to withdraw from the EU. The world financial crisis in 2007-2008 resulted in a less stable job market, resulting in an increase in opposition to economic globalization and decrease in support for the EU.

Fiss and Hirsch also surveyed U.S. opinion in 1993 and found that more than 40% of respondents were unfamiliar with the concept of globalization. When the survey was repeated in 1998, 89% of the respondents had a polarized view of globalization as being either good or bad. Polarization increased dramatically after the establishment of the World Trade Organization in 1995; this event and subsequent protests led to a larger scale anti-globalization movement. Initially, college-educated workers were likely to support globalization and less educated workers, who were more likely to compete with immigrants and workers in developing countries, tended to be opponents. The situation changed after the financial crisis of 2007-2008. According to a 1997 poll, 58% of college graduates said globalization had been good for the U.S. By 2008 only 33% thought it was good at the time. Respondents with high school education also became more opposed.


Opposition to the Economics of Globalization 


The literature analyzing the economics of free trade is rich with information on its theoretical and empirical effects. Though it creates winners and losers, the broad consensus among economists is that free trade is a large and unambiguous net gain for society. However, some opponents of globalization see the phenomenon as a promotion of corporate interests. Many claim that the increasing autonomy and strength of corporate entities shapes the political policies of countries, crowding out the moral claims of poor and working classes, as well as environmental concerns. For example, globalization allows corporations to outsource manufacturing and service jobs from high-cost locations to low-cost locations, where workers are paid less and receive less benefits. Critics maintain that this actually disadvantages the poorer countries who tend to serve as the “low-cost locations,” as low paying, low skilled jobs remain located in these poorer countries, whereas high paying, high skill jobs are localized in wealthier countries.

While it is true that free trade encourages globalization among countries, some countries try to protect their domestic suppliers. The main export of poorer countries is usually agricultural productions. Larger countries often subsidize their farmers (e.g., the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy), which lowers the market price for foreign crops. Thus, globalization can be described as an uneven process due to the global integration of some groups, alongside the marginalization or exclusion of others.


Oppisition to Transnational Corporations


Globalization has fueled the rise of transnational corporations (i.e., Disney, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon), and their power has vaulted to the point where they can now rival many nation states. Of the world’s 100 largest economies, 42 of them are corporations. Many of these transnational corporations now hold sway over many nation states as their fates are intertwined with the nations where they are located. On account of doing business globally, transnational corporations have a huge influence in many nation states. Transnational corporations could offer massive influence regarding the Third World and bring about more pressure to help increase worker salaries and working conditions in sweatshops.

Globalization is non-democratic, as it is enforced through top-down methods. In the process of implementing globalization in developing countries, the creation of winners and losers is often predetermined. Transnational corporations typically benefit from globalization while poor, indigenous locals are negatively affected. Globalization can be seen as a new form of colonization, as economic inequality and the rise in unemployment have followed its implementation. Globalization has been criticized for benefiting those who are already large and in power at the risk and growing vulnerability of the countries’ indigenous population.

Globalization requires a country to give up some sovereignty for the sake of executing Western ideals. As a result, sovereignty is safest with those whose views and ideals are being implemented (the U.S. and Western European nations). In the name of free markets and with the promise of an improved standard of living, countries give up their political and social powers to international organizations. Thus, globalization carries the potential to raise the power of international organizations at the expense of local state institutions, which must in turn diminish in influence.

The world of the early 21st century has witnessed the heavy imprint of the culture of the United States, and to a lesser extent Western Europe, across the globe. Its language (English), values (as reflected in mass media and the Internet), and corporations circulate widely across the world and crowd out local, indigenous languages, cultures, and businesses.

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