I have more or less the same opinions as you regarding the past.
The speakers of English in these countries may have these opinions, too. This does not mean that they do not, today, consider the language an essential part of their personal and societal identities.
Well, I wouldn´t call English an "essential part of my personal identity" (I wouldn´t say that about German either, btw) but speaking English is a nice, little "add-on" to my life. I´m not "against English". I have spend muuuuuuuuuuuch more than with English than I had too...
Anyway, to some extent, the "imperialism"-argument applies to French, Spanish, Russian etc.
I´m just saying that if we have to push a language...down people´s throats...all around the world...it should be a language that is more neutral and easier than any "natural language" I can think of.
Since we´re talking about science...
I wonder how many cool stuff would happen if all these brilliant minds in Asia were able to comfortable communicate with the rest of the world (and use all they time spend learning English for other things, like doing their job...). Just imagine going to a university where you have to do pretty much everything in Chinese because it´s "the international language":..holy shit...
@Colin: "...Should an 18 year old German going to university with a C1 knowledge of English have to learn Russian from scratch?"..."
The little scroats wouldn't be happy about it - that's for sure. But it'd be good for their souls, IMO :-D
BTW History has a way of playing funny little tricks on us: for all we know, German kids (or even English kids!) in 20 or 50 or 100 years time from now really could be learning Russian! It seems unlikely now, but I'm sure that stranger things have been known to happen on the banks of River Time...
I just have to look at my family...my older siblings learned Russian and I learned English...so maybe my children or my grandchildren will learn yet another language (or Russian again...)
My grandparents and their ancestors spoke Polish and Sorbic (and maybe other languages) too...
I see the practical side a lingua franca offers but what is happening with English nowadays is that it is not considered a lingua franca anymore but some sort of replacement for other languages and that's what I am opposed to.
To me that is comparable to the situation with dialects and so-called standard variants of a language. I speak both standard German and my local dialect. I use standard German in certain situations, mostly to ensure communication between me and people who don't speak and/or understand my dialect.
However, I will never give up my dialect. It is neither less nor more important than the standard variant of German I speak at my place of work or with people who have studied German as a foreign language or other native speakers who otherwise would have difficulties understanding my local dialect.
Unfortunately, however, dialects are considered a "less prestigious" variant by many people for various reasons.
It is the same with English in many cases. It is considered to be "cool" to use English. People are too lazy to come up with German expressions and words because supposedly their English counterparts are easier to understand, shorter, more concise whatever. This is a ridiculous excuse. German, and any other language for that matter, is just as powerful as English. Languages are different, they are neither better nor worse per se in my opinion.
There were scientists before WWII and they cooperated quite successfully as well and I guess hardly anybody will question the fact that English became the dominant language in many fields only after WWII. The reasons are mostly political ones.
So, yes, a lingua franca is a great tool when it comes to bridging certain linguistic gaps, I don't think it should be viewed as a means to further push back other languages. As powerful and useful as it may be, a lingua franca in my opinion is only an additional asset that needs a sound basis it can be docked onto. And that basis is getting lost if we keep (self) imposing English as a replacement for other languages.
Especially scientists, technicians and other "experts" are all too ready to use English terms for a supposedly better understanding even while speaking German. I'm convinced there is nothing you can express in English which you can't express in German too. People just have become lazy. In German I'd say they have become "denkfaul" (too lazy to think, to reflect).
I might start a thread on the dominance of the English language in German ;-)
"It is considered to be "cool" to use English. "
I remember during paintballing last year somewhere near Vienna I had some guy pinned down in a little house and was waiting patiently for him to try and get out. I was on the edge of the field and a group of youngsters, maybe around 15 or 16 years old, turned up to play on the neighbouring field. The guy in the house found a little hole that I didn't notice and was able to hose me down with paintballs. I stood up with my mask completely drenched not being able to see a thing. The group of kids were laughing their asses off and I heard of lot of stuff of the form 'whoa, nice shot!' coming from them.
"There were scientists before WWII and they cooperated quite successfully as well"
Sure, but there are shades of grey here (hopefully not fifty of them or this post is gonna get weird). The sciences were nowhere near as interconnected before the war as they are now. Sure there were plenty of scientists who could work with a small number of scientists from other parts of the world. There were British scientists who knew German and could work with German scientists and read the literature published in German. Having learned one language, they were then able to work with scientists who knew German and would have been useless for working with, say, Russian scientists who didn't know German or English. For that, they would have had to have learned Russian, which they likely wouldn't have done.
My own group in Vienna contains several Austrians, a German, a Swiss, a Brit, a Russian, a Greek, and a Chilean. This is possible only because we all know English (lucky me). The Russian guy, for example, works closely with a group of Japanese combining his particular expertise with theirs. This is only possible because they can speak with each other in English. None of the Japanese know any Russian and he certainly doesn't know any Japanese. Several of the Japanese visited our group last year (I think these were actually the first Japanese people I ever met) and we were all able to sit down and chat about their work. And why were we able to chat about their work? I think you can all guess...
"I guess hardly anybody will question the fact that English became the dominant language in many fields only after WWII. The reasons are mostly political ones."
Sure. I don't know, but if I was to make a guess, I would say that if WWII had gone the other way, German would have likely become the dominant languages in the sciences. If this had happened, I would be writing now about how great it was that scientists are all able to communicate with each other in German.
"...Sure, but there are shades of grey here (hopefully not fifty of them or this post is gonna get weird)..."
Very good! That would have gotten 3 roses from me - if it were possible to give more than one :-)
"...I would say that if WWII had gone the other way, German would have likely become the dominant languages in the sciences. If this had happened, I would be writing now about how great it was that scientists are all able to communicate with each other in German..."
Mmm, I dunno. On this 'spoils-of-victory' reasoning it could be argued that Russian should now be the dominant language of science. We don't like to acknowledge the fact in the West, but it was Russia that did far more than America and the British Empire to knock out Hitler. (Even after D-day, there were far more German forces on the Eastern front than the Western front....)
Besides, even in a nightmare world where Uncle Adolf would have been the master of Europe, you would still have had a massive English speaking block in North America...