The English Language and International Relations

The Benefits of Learning the English Language for International Relations

Every country, regardless of its size has equal standing in the United Nations (UN). Each Member State is entitled to one vote in the General Assembly. It does not matter how influential or dependent they are and hold one another in high esteem. As an organisation composed of an estimated 193 Member States however, there needs to be an accepted form of communication. It was established that this would be facilitated in six official languages. These are: Chinese, Spanish, English, Arabic, Russian and French.


Basis for the consensus

It is unclear why such languages were selected. There is a good possibility however that their wide use with the exception of French, is the reason. Noted linguist David Crystal has a more insightful view on the matter. He shares that, “a language becomes a global language because of the power of the people that speak it”.

Depending on the situation, the definition of power can change. It is not only confined to military might. There certainly is more to it than that. The English language for example has been exported around the world and has influenced various historical events. Its enduring global impact has been no doubt significant. This calls for its basic understanding not only in international relations but in common everyday interactions as well.


Kinds of ‘power’ which incorporated the English language:

●     Political (e.g. British Empire)

●     Science and technology (e.g. Industrial Revolution)

●     Economic (e.g. American money markets)

●     Cultural (e.g. movies and music)


Avoiding conflict

Countries relate to each other through their representatives and different modes of correspondence. It befits such nations to have a good understanding of a common language. English is one such choice. This allows parties to discuss pertinent issues more effectively without the need to translate from other languages. It can also aid in potentially breaking down cultural barriers.

People have different degrees of emotion when negotiating. How confrontational they could be in communicating how they feel can also play a part in the role. These vary not only when it comes to the individual but can depend on the culture they come from as well. The universality of the English language however can offer a semblance of a cultural bridge among such parties. They can openly agree or disagree on issues through this accepted mode of communication and will be better equipped to understand the reasons why.


Bring people together

The UN is a culturally diverse organisation. It promotes multilingualism in order to provide a more balanced communication. In line with this, it has become one of the world’s top employers of language professionals. English itself has its own language day which is celebrated every April 23rd. It is an opportunity to promote awareness of the historical and cultural accomplishments of such language.

This brings people closer by providing them a means within which to share their own cultures and rich history. English as a medium can advance a more inclusive work environment as evidenced on this international stage. It will certainly increase participation by making others more confident in their ability to communicate with one another.

Patricia C Prada Jimenez & The Blogs Team


Some useful sources:

UN languages

Ask UN


Cultural Diplomacy

UN multilingualism

UN English Language Day

Study Abroad with elephant Minds

Contact us for information and we will start you on your journey!