Why do other languages borrow from English?

November 5, 20110 Comments

Years ago I frowned when I first heard someone say that English was the most efficient language in the world.  I remember when I heard my Junior College English teacher say that English had the largest vocabulary in the world.  “How could that be?”  I thought.  Well, one reason is that English has borrowed from other languages, especially from Old French.  The other is that English has been an avenue of delivery of ideas, concepts, science, research in many areas, aviation, international affairs, international law, international commerce and business, etc.  The driving force behind the success of the English language was not a result of any superiority of terms of its grammar or beauty, nor was it ever a result of any superiority of the people who spoke it as their native language.  It had nothing to do with any false concept such as “language of the King”.  For that matter, Portuguese, Spanish, French, for example, were at some point all “language of the king” as well.  In fact, the English grammar was developed by people who did not speak English as their native language.  These were Latin people who developed a grammar so that they could better learn and use English.  This is the main reason that English grammar is full of Latin rules.

Montage of languages. Prototype header for the...

Montage of languages. Prototype header for the language portal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


As all languages, English is also a peasant language — it’s full of terms used by everyday simple people.  For example, “goose bumps”, “cowlick”, “cherry pick”, “to be put on the back burner”, etc.  English, like any other language is a living, real people’s language; it’s simple, real, and extremely efficient.  Contrary to all Latin-derivative languages,  English does not have an Academy.  English is driven by its own merits and success — Typically a word enters the lexicon by usage — plain and simple.  Words usually find their way into the dictionaries by writers, and not by some group of “academicians” deciding what words are real and how they have to be spelled in order to become a legitimate word.  Evidenced and testament to this is the fact the basically the whole world is willing to adopt English words into the vocabulary of their own languages.  I will use as an example the Portuguese and the Spanish languages.  Brazil is a huge nation with almost 200 Million inhabitants — As mentioned previously Brazilian Portuguese is full of English words, adapted and assimilated linguistically to one degree or another.  Mexico is the largest Spanish speaking country in the world, with a population of more than 113 million people as of 2010.  Mexican Spanish is also full of English words.  The northern states of Mexico is famous for the so called “Espangles”.

Evidently the success of the English language is a phenomenon — in the same way that it has been humble enough to borrow from other languages, it has been kind enough to lend and to enrich other languages.  Language is a tool, an avenue of delivery of ideas.  Part of the success of English has been the tremendous success and generosity of the United States in the global arena and the willingness to share ideas, research, inventions, innovation, and business.  One single example is the phenomenon of the Internet, which originally started as the Intranet and was a tool developed and used for national defense.  As we all know, the Internet has changed the world in an unprecedented way.  The fact that other countries, such as Brazil and Mexico, are willing to accept English words into their everyday language is testament to the influence of English.

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O English4Brazil vai muito mais além do “the book is on the table” e do “verbo to be” que são “aprendidos” no colégio. Aqui, compreendi que, além da gramática e da ortografia, saber COMO se fala o Inglês é fundamental. A fonética, até então por mim desconhecida, passou a ser uma das principais ferramentas de aprendizado, aliada à interação constante com os professores e colegas e curso.

Daniel PennThales Delfino - Analista de Sistemas – IT industry; João Monlevade – MG, BrazilEnglish4Brazil

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