Francisca Hartanti/B Class/136 332 021/FOEL

I. Introduction

Evaluating “Global English: gift or curse?”(2005) by Ross Smith discusses English as a poor lingua franca due to English weaknesses as a global language. According to Smith, English has some weaknesses that makes it fails to fulfill its functions as a lingua franca. English is difficult to learn because English is unpronounceable, irregular, complex, and ambiguous. Meanwhile, one single primary purpose of lingua franca is to resolve the ambiguity in communication between people with mutually unintelligible tongues. This journal is using linguistics approach in order to reveal English weaknesses. This article provides awareness that instead of all the advantageous of English, it has weaknesses especially when English is positioned as a lingua franca.


“Global English: gift or curse?”(2005) by Ross Smith objects an issue relates to English as the world’s lingua franca. It begins with Cyrstal opinion who states English possibility of being a winner as English is the only suitable candidate language as a lingua franca in this global era. The next part Smith discusses English imperialism history which makes English nation is superior, including the superiority of their language. This superiority idea is supported by the statement of Newmark. He states that English is the best world language (The Linguist, Vols 41:2 & 41:6, 2002-03, the journal of the Institute of Linguist). Thus, in the other hand, Smith establishes objective qualities which more rational persons would wish to possess as the quality of their lingua franca. In this journal Smith stresses on the ideal of lingua franca should be easy to learn and free from ambiguity.

In discussion chapter, Smith talks about the debate whether English is an appropriate choice as a worldwide common language or not. There are at least four reasons that English fail to accomplish namely unpronounceability, irregularity, over complexity, ambiguity. Smith discusses it deeper in four parts. First, he compares vowels and consonants of English with vowels and consonants of other languages for example Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Chinese and so on in order to find out the pronunciation difficulties. Second, in order to discover the irregularity, Smith analyzes English verb. Third, Smith discusses the complexity of English grammar and compares it with Spanish’s. Fourth, the last part is discussed English ambiguity. Smith states that English ambiguity mostly appears in range of literature and article, especially when it is related to translation.

In conclusion, Smith admits English as a great language. Smith sees that English has broad range of phonemes, enormous lexicon, inherent onomatopoeia, and morphological laxness. However, Smith realizes that these strengths also become weaknesses when English is considered as candidates of international language. In other word, English is a poor choice of lingua franca. In addition, there is another candidate which also has pre-eminent language, China. There for if economic competence should be matched with linguistics strength, no doubt that English will share the stage with China or maybe China will return to be a merely regional linguistics power.

III. Discussion

It has been stated that Smith shows the English weaknesses through linguistics point of view. He also compares English linguistics components with other language. These weaknesses have already formulated into four sections. However, this journal has failed in showing strong evidences in order to against English as a lingua franca. Thus this review will analyze both positive and negative points from the article in the relation of the case against English as the world’s lingua franca.

First, in the negative side, the foundation of the journal is not strong enough. The qualifications of international language are not supported by scholar statements but it is based on rational person opinion (Smith, 2005, p. 57). Or we might say that this journal based on writer opinion. Meanwhile, at the introduction of the journal, the writer mentions some scholars’ opinions about the strength of English. Thus, the comparisons between two sides are imbalance.

Second, in the negative side, the writer, on the last page, mentions about Chinese as the challenger from Asia which is predicted will replace English because of its economic power. This statement shows that international language especially lingua franca is not determined by the linguistics component inside the language but merely by the contribution of the language to the world (Cable, 1978, p. 3). Thus, in order to against English as lingua franca, writer should give evidences which are related to socio economic evidences rather than see the weaknesses through linguistics point of view.

The third negative side is about the English pronunciation. According to Jenkins, RP (Received Pronounciation), which is related to British or American accent as NS (native speaker) is not relevant any more. Speakers of ELF communication who will communicate especially with non NS should be free to pronounce English with their own first language accent influence instead of the NS way, without being seen as making pronunciation errors (Ranta, 2009, p. 13).

In fact, the numbers of people who learn English are still the biggest among other language. Moreover many countries are planned to make English as second language and no longer as foreign language. In Asia, for example China and Thailand, they are intended to be English model country (Graddol, 2006, p. 94). In a relation with this idea, English is taught in primary schools in some countries since 1990s (Graddol, 2006, p. 88). Thus, all those English linguistics weaknesses seem not really influence the intention to learn English.

In positive side, this article provides awareness that instead of all the advantageous of English, it has weaknesses especially when English is positioned as a lingua franca. This journal reminds the reader that there is no absolute position of a language as a lingua franca. There are some possibilities that English position as the most well-known language will be replaced by other language such as German, Chinese, French and so on.


The journal does not give strong evidences to show that English is a poor lingua franca. However, it brings awareness to the readers that English also has weaknesses especially when it is applied as lingua franca. Moreover, the journal states that lingua franca is dynamic. Due to this condition any other languages have possibility to be a lingua franca especially when it has significant contributions to the world.

V. References

Cable, A. C. (1978). A History of Engish Language 3rd edition. New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc.

Graddol, D. (2006). English Next Why Global English may mean the end of English as a Foreign Language. United Kingdom: British Council.

Pennycook, A. (2007). Global Englishes and Transcultural Flows. Oxon: Routlegde.

Ranta, A. M. (2009). English as lingua franca: studies and findings. Newcastle: Cambridge Sholars Publishing.

Smith, R. (2005). Global English: gift or curse. English Today 82 Vol.21 No,2, 56-61.