As the British Library charts the evolution of English in a new major exhibition, author Michael Rosen gives a brief history of a language that has grown to world domination with phrases such as "cool" and "go to it".
The need for an international language has always existed. In the past it was about religion and intellectual debate. With the technologies of today, it's about communicating with others anywhere in the world in a matter of moments.
As a translator and linguist, I've always felt soooo lucky that English is my first language. It can be learned at so many levels; it can be massacred by English MT and foreign language speakers alike, and still keep its basic meaning relatively intact; it is quite mutable and adaptable -- can be concise and brutal or expansive and flourish-ridden. It's not easy to truly learn well -- few people have a ferrous-like grip on the grammar -- and yet the basics can be picked up quickly by speakers of many different language families.
Upon a quick search for a quotation that was printed in the NYPL Writer's Guide -- one decrying nobly and eloquently the need for good grammar in order to be a good communicator, lest the creative human mind read any other meaning into what you have written other than the one you intended to express -- I found instead a much more succinct, if less eloquent, expression of this:
Grammar is important. Capitalization is the difference between helping your Uncle Jack off a horse, and your uncle jack off a horse. Rather lurid, but the point hits home quickly.