Part 1: Introduction

In February 2012, I proudly handed in my university dissertation – 20% of my final Graphic Design degree. It was entitled “How an increase in world transport and tourism has created a greater demand for concise cross-cultural signage”. (Quite a mouthful, I know.) In this dissertation I explored the relationship between language, culture, visual communication and navigation. There was a large focus on signs and pictorial language – not technically language, as language must be spoken – because design for wayfinding was something I was very interested in during my studies. I also found the evolution of the written word and spoken language, in a globalised and modern world, to be fascinating. Although not a typical visual element, I have always believed that language and the written word are important parts of graphic design. In particular, my dissertation covered attempts at creating an international and universal language and the idea that English was, and is, the global language.

“There has never been a time when so many nations were needing to talk to each other. There has never been a time when so many people wished to travel to so many places. There has never been such a strain placed on the conventional resources of translating and interpreting.”  – David Crystal (from, the book, English as a Global Language)

Now, 2 years later and having re-read my dissertation for the first time since graduating, I have decided to compile and re-write certain sections of it. I feel the knowledge that I gained when researching and writing my dissertation has had an influence on my role as a designer at emc and makes me passionate about the English Language Teaching books that we produce. It is important to me to have a certain grasp of the historical context of the English language and how it is evolving into a new kind of English, a global English.

There is now a far greater demand for English Language learning resources than ever before but equally there is more availability. We understand the need for ELT and how important this is to students the world over. With advancements in technology – plus the books and materials we produce here at emc! – there are more opportunities for people to learn English. It’s great to be a part of the ELT world.

So, in a five-part blog series I will be:

  • Exploring the idea of universal and international language – not just English – and whether it is a viable concept.
  • Assessing when it is that people are confronted with the need to be able to communicate with one another, in a language that is not their own, and just what that universal language should be.
  • Looking into how technology and the Internet are changing the way we communicate – and what language it is that we use to do our global communicating.
  • Reviewing what that means for the ELT industry, as well as what it means for a designer, using visual as well as written language, within emc.
  • And asking (hopefully answering too!) the ultimate question: is English the ultimate global language?