The Agenda

English as a Platform

Manu Joseph has written a fascinating Letter from India describing the pervasiveness of English in India, and the futile efforts by xenophobic nationalists to combat it. His basic argument is that India’s failure to embrace English as its true national language has stunted economic progress, particularly for the Dalit population and other marginalized groups that rely on state schools offering instruction in various indigenous regional languages. 

My first-cut thought after reading the piece was that the dominance of English is an enormous asset for the U.S. and the other Anglophone countries, and it doesn’t seem to be fading even as the relative economic power of the U.S. erodes. We often talk about the “exorbitant privilege” of the dollar’s role as the international reserve currency, but we can think of the English language as something akin to Facebook: a powerful platform on which we can build a slew of cultural and economic applications, and it’s a platform that we know better than almost anyone else. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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