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H.L. Mencken (1880–1956). The American Language. 1921.

Page 381

  Meanwhile, it remains a plain fact that, if only because of the grammatical simplicity, it is easier to obtain an intelligible working knowledge of English than of any other living tongue. This superior simplicity, added to the commercial utility of knowing the language, will probably more than counterbalance the nationalistic objections to acquiring it. In point of fact, they are already grown feeble. All over the Continent English is being studied by men of every European race, including especially the German. “During my recent stay in Berlin,” says a post-war English traveler, 13 “nothing annoyed me more than the frequency with which my inquiries of the man in the street for direction, made in atrocious German, elicited replies in perfect English.” This writer accounts for what he observed by the fact that “the English-speaking nations own half the world,” and asks, “what language should they study but English?” But the spread of the language was already marked before the war. Another Englishman, writing in 1910, 14 thus described its extension in the Far East, as observed during a trip to Japan:
It was only on reaching Italy that I began fully to realize this wonderful thing, that for nearly six weeks, on a German ship, in a journey of nearly ten thousand miles, we had heard little of any language but English!
  It is an amazing thing when one thinks of it.
  In Japan most of the tradespeople spoke English. At Shanghai, at Hong Kong, at Singapore, at Penang, at Colombo, at Suez, at Port Said—all the way home to the Italian ports, the language of all the ship’s traffic, the language of such discourse as the passengers held with natives, most of the language or board ship itself, was English.
  The German captain of our ship spoke English more often than German. All his officers spoke English.
  The Chinese man-o’-war’s men who conveyed the Chinese prince on board at Shanghai, received commands and exchanged commands with our German sailors in English. The Chinese mandarins in their conversations with the ships’ officers invariably spoke English. They use the same ideographs in writing as the Japanese, but to talk to our Japanese passengers they had to speak English. Nay, coming as they did from various provinces of the Empire, where the language greatly differs, they found it most convenient in conversation among themselves to speak English!
  If, as some aver, the greatest hindrances to peaceful international intercourse