Approximately 350 million people speak English as a first or native language. Another 400 million (estimates vary from this number to a billion!) more people have English as a strong second language or other language. English is the language of over half of the internet. English circulates through mass media channels: films, music, viral internet postings. English has become so widespread, and is so frequently used as a method of communication between speakers of different languages (a lingua franca) and for global networking.
What does all this mean for the future of English? Some see a future in which English becomes even more dominant – but others suggest a change in the position of English. For example, if translation technology improves, what will be the point in learning English to do business? What happens if global corporations continue their preference for employing people who speak two (or more) languages? If Hindi and English, or Mandarin and English speakers fill more and more posts, will modern-day Creoles emerge more strongly to replace ‘standard’ English? Have a read of some of the following articles and find out more:
- And Now (extract from The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg)
- The English Language is the World’s Achilles Heel (article on The Conversation)
- Can English remain the world’s favourite language? (BBC article)
- English or Hinglish? (blogpost)
- Is English or Mandarin the Language of the Future? (BBC article)
- Renaming English
- The Future of English (extract from Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson)
- The Future of English (from Encyclopaedia of the English Language by David Crystal)
- Who Owns English in a Global Market? (from the Financial Times)
- How the English Language is Taking Over the Planet (from The Guardian)
- Have We Reached Peak English in the World? (from The Guardian)
What do you think will happen to English in the future? Will it continue to dominate the world? Or do you foresee a change in the global status of English? Write up your ideas as a one-two page journal entry.