The forces of globalization have ushered in chaotic change to metro areas around the world. It is becoming more and more difficult for a place to remain isolated from the costs and benefits of this new global order. Cities and their surrounding suburbs have no choice but to manage globalization or be managed by it.

July 29, 2013

With his remark, "The English language has caused a great loss to the country," BJP president Rajnath Singh threw a stone in the pond before he set off for the US to try out his own brand of the language. The ripple was not long in coming. There was a statement in support by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who deplored the "illusion that English is the only means of progress" as well as a counter-statement by a Congress leader, slamming Rajnath Singh's stance as smacking of "medievalism or hypocrisy".

Drive along Atlantic Boulevard in Monterey Park and you'll see signs of every shape and color written in Chinese characters. It's a testament to the city's large Asian American population. Most also have wording in English – and officials in the San Gabriel Valley city want to make that a requirement.

The relaunch of BBC Afrique, the World Service’s French language service for Africa, has increased the hours of transmission and introduced a new more interactive style of presentation. However an Over to You listener says that it also means he no longer hears English language programmes – we hear from BBC Afrique’s editor why the service has changed in response to developments in African radio, and the balance between French and English programmes.

Why pulling people in is more successful than pushing them on board. The second lesson I learned was about soft power or the ability to "influence nations far beyond the hard edge of traditional balance of power politics," a concept developed by Harvard political theorist Joseph Nye. As one would imagine, soft power rests on foreign policy and political values. It also relies on culture. The U.S., for example, exerts soft power by exporting over a half a million U.S.-educated foreign students each year. Having lived in Latin America, I was on the receiving end of soft power.

The Voice of America has its very own "mockumentary"-style comedy series – “English Off the Mic.” The program, by the VOA Mandarin Service, aims to teach American English and culture to viewers in China. The show's hosts/actors Lin Yang and Michael Bond and director Chenxing Zhang invite On Assignment's Alex Villarreal to a taping and tell her all about their fun approach to an important need.

English tends to be conceptualised as a monolithic entity, more like a planet than a galaxy. We talk about ‘the’ English language, ‘the’ grammar of English, and ‘the’ vocabulary of English, as though it was all one neat system. But linguists have long understood that this is no more than a convenient fiction. In the 21st century, the global diversity of Englishes and uses of English is revealing that the fiction can be rather inconvenient on many levels, especially in parts of the world where native speakers are scarce.

So it's not that just by teaching in English you completely cut off French as a language. On the contrary, you get more people interested in France, more people interested in the ideas that French intellectuals have," he says. "They get passionate about the place. And so France carries on living in their imaginations when they've left France again." That, says Gumbel, is the very definition of soft power.