How English influences global pop culture
Welcome back, learners!
Do you like watching movies? Binge watching the newest show on Netflix? Singing your heart out to BTS or Taylor Swift?
If so, congratulations! You’ve indulged in pop culture! Indeed, nearly all of us indulge in pop culture in one way or another.
From the latest music sensations to the most watched movies and TV shows, from fashion trends to viral memes, pop culture informs and reflects our collective tastes, a shared enjoyment that traverses borders.
At the heart of this globally shared pop culture lies a language that’s been its dominant driving force – English!
When we explore the vast realm of pop culture, we can see how English has the ability to create change in a positive way. English is not only a means of communication, but it also serves as a cultural bridge, allowing ideas to travel across borders.
So, let’s explore how English influences global pop culture and how it has helped sculpt the dynamic and diverse cultural landscape we partake in today!
1. Movies and television
The impact of English in global cinema and television is undeniable.
Hollywood, gaining prominence since the 20th century, became the power player in the global film industry. But it didn’t just export the English language. American values and culture came along too, reaching every corner of the globe!
Think of major franchises like James Bond and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They’ve made lasting impressions worldwide. Their iconic catchphrases? They’ve woven themselves into our lingo!
But don’t forget about British broadcasting. The British Broadcasting Corporation, or BBC, has been instrumental in spreading British English and culture. Take “Doctor Who” and “Sherlock” for instance. These BBC creations command a formidable international audience.
American sitcoms have played their part as well. “Friends” and series like “Breaking Bad” and “Game of Thrones” have introduced American English and culture to a global audience. Not to mention the “Harry Potter” movie series. It’s brought British English to millions of fans across the globe!
The digital age, with streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and HBO, has accelerated this globalisation. They’ve made English language movies and TV shows even more accessible to audiences worldwide. Subtitles and dubbing in various languages ensure that non-English speakers can join in, while getting a taste of English.
However, the influence is not unidirectional. As these platforms recognize the appetite for diverse content, they are investing in non English language production, which, aside from being given English subtitles, are also often dubbed in English for broader reach.
Through movies and television, we can see how English, as a language and cultural transmitter, interacts with and shapes global pop culture.
Let’s now tune into the world of music, another significant dimension of global pop culture where the influence of English is greatly felt!
From the mid-20th century, artists like Elvis Presley and The Beatles have left an incredible mark on music, spreading English lyric and western musical forms to international audiences. Contemporary artists like Taylor Swift and Drake, and even non-English groups like BTS, who often incorporate English into their songs, continue this trend of English language music reaching global audiences.
But what about non-English speaking countries? English music’s global popularity shakes up their music industries too!
Primarily, English music serves as a significant source of influence on music styles and trends within these countries. Many artists from these countries have cited English speaking artists as having major influence on their crafts, whether in terms of sound, lyricism or performance style.
The result? A fusion of music genres, a new style that marries local musical traditions with international trends, usually led by English.
Not only that, English songs often create a benchmark for success that artists from non English speaking countries strive to meet or even surpass, which can result in them incorporating English into their music, performing covers of English songs, or even producing entire albums in English.
This influence extends beyond song lyrics or performance style. Non English speaking countries often adapt Western recording, mixing techniques, and songwriting structures as well as the established model of record labels, artist management, music distribution, and marketing.
Western music even impacts the way music is taught in these countries. Western music theory and instruments underpin music education across the globe!
In summary, it’s clear that the popularity of English songs extends far beyond just singing our hearts out to the latest Taylor Swift songs. We can see how English can greatly influence the entire music industry!
The English language boasts an impressive literary canon, from the sonnets of Shakespeare to the novels of Jane Austen, and more contemporary works of authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. These works, widely studied and celebrated, have had a profound impact on global literary trends and standards.
In addition, the presence of English in global literature extends beyond works originally written in the language. English also serves as a crucial bridge for non English works to reach a global audience, as it’s often the first language of choice for translation.
Consider the case of Haruki Murakami, a renowned Japanese author whose works have been translated into over 50 languages, with English often being the first. The success of his books in English has significantly boosted their popularity worldwide, allowing the books to be translated into other languages. This exemplifies how English can serve as a gateway, broadening the reach of non English literature.
But let’s remember, books are more than a pastime!
Take, for example, the impact of English literature on social movements. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, a novel that criticizes slavery, is credited with stirring anti-slavery sentiments in the mid 19th century, not just in America, but worldwide! Its translation into several languages allowed it to reach a global audience, illustrating the powerful role of English literature in driving social change.
From a cultural perspective, English literature has also been instrumental in spreading certain values. George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” have played crucial roles in fostering dialogues on the perils of totalitarian regimes and uncontrolled technological advancement. Their works, being widely translated, have influenced global conversations about individual freedom and societal control.
It’s not at all far-fetched to say that English literature has played a key role in shaping social and cultural perspectives, spreading certain values, and even aiding social movements. However, it’s also important to remember that literature from diverse languages and cultures also significantly contributes to these dialogues.
4. Internet and social media
Let’s now delve into the digital realm, where English reigns supreme!
The internet and social media platforms have grown to become integral parts of our lives, shaping how we communicate, access information, and interact with others globally.
Major internet platforms and social media networks such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, which originated in the US were initially centered around English. While they now support multiple languages, English remains the leading on these platforms. Similarly, the syntax of many computer programming languages used in web development is based on English, reinforcing its prominence in the digital world.
Unsurprisingly, English has a substantial footprint in this digital world, with approximately 60% of the top 10 million websites using English as their primary language.
The prevalence of English online plays a role in shaping digital culture and influencing internet trends. Memes, for example, often rely on English for their humor and spread rapidly across different cultures and languages.
Moreover, hashtags, which drive discussions and movements on platforms like Twitter and Instagram are frequently English based. A notable example of this is the #MeToo movement, which started in the US and expanded globally, highlighting the issues of sexual harrassment and sexual assault.
Social media has also played and continue to play a big role in climate change activism, with movements such as Friday for the Future and activists such as Greta Thunberg using social media to raise awareness about climate change and organize strikes.
Do you think the dominance of English on the internet and social media has changed the way you access information or communicate?
The English language holds a significant influence on the global fashion industry, a phenomenon largely stemming from the cultural impact of English speaking countries, notably The US and The UK.
These countries are home to globally recognised fashion capitals, New York and London, which host major fashion weeks setting trends that permeates the world. These cities are also the base for prominent fashion designers and houses such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Burbery, Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney, whose impact on global fashion is profound. These big names often originated or popularized English terms and ideas, from “preppy” to “punk” permeating global fashion lexicon.
The role of English extends to fashion media, with influential fashion publications such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and Elle originally rooted in The US and The UK. These publications have a worldwide reach and play a key role in defining fashion trends and beauty standards.
Moreover, English serves as the lingua franca in the international fashion industry, used for everything from fashion show notes to description on global e-commerce sites.
In the realm of fashion marketing and advertising, English is widely used. Global fashion campaigns often use English in their print advertisements and social media contents.
In terms of style, Western influence can also be seen in the way certain fashion items become global staples. Take, for instance, the blue jeans, a style that originated in the US and is now a wardrobe staple across the globe.
Western fashion trends also often shape the production strategies of global clothing manufacturers. For example, when “fast fashion” become a trend in the West, characterized by rapid production to capture the ever changing trends, many manufacturers worldwide shifted their processes to meet this demand. Recently, conversations started to emerge discussing the impact this has on the environment, as unsold clothes go to landfills.
6. Branding and advertising
In the global marketplace, English is often considered the default language for multinational branding and advertising.
Numerous multinational companies, such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Apple, have spread their English-language logos, taglines, and ad campaigns to every corner of the globe. The ubiquity of these English-language advertisements serves not only to promote the products but also reinforces English as a global lingua franca.
Advertising in English has also been viewed as a strategy to make a brand seem more ‘global’, ‘modern’, or ‘sophisticated’. This phenomenon is evident in non-English speaking countries where English phrases are often used in advertisements to appeal to consumers’ aspirational desires and for brands to differentiate themselves within the local market.
English-speaking countries, particularly the U.S., have also exported certain advertising styles and strategies that have reshaped approaches to advertising worldwide. Techniques like humor, emotional appeals, celebrity endorsements, or storytelling, which were popularized in English-language advertising, are now common worldwide.
Additionally, English language influences manifest in product naming. English words are frequently employed in industries like technology, fashion, and cosmetics in non-English-speaking countries to convey particular images or qualities. Similarly, visual components of ads, such as models, color schemes, or design elements, often mimic Western standards and styles.
Digital advertising has seen a significant impact from English language use, given the language’s prevalence on the internet and social media. Local brands might adopt English-language digital advertising trends or formats, such as specific types of social media posts or SEO strategies centered around English keywords.
Have you noticed any of these phenomena? How much do you think this influences consumer behaviour?
English’s influence permeates deeply into many facets of our lives, shaping industries and behaviours across the globe. It has grown beyond a mere communication tool to become a key driver of globalization. Its omnipresence in pop culture – be it movies, music, literature, internet and social media, fashion, or branding and advertising – influences how we perceive the world and even how we perceive ourselves!
Fluency in English is thus no longer a luxury but a necessity in our increasingly globalized world. It allows us to participate in and contribute to these global dialogues, shape our identities, and navigate the world more confidently and effectively
Moreover, being fluent in English empowers us to think critically about the global pop culture phenomena we consume daily, helping us to make informed choices and engage more profoundly with the world around us.
Indeed, the role of English in our lives has never been more significant. It’s not just about keeping up with globalization; it’s about being an active participant!
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