Within the past 500 years english
has grown from being spoken by between 5 and 7 million people to around 250 million (“english
Language”, 2012). It is spoken on every continent, is learned as a second language by children
around the world and is the medium of the science and business
industries and the medium of pop culture. British colonialism commenced the spread of english
around the world and in the years since World War II it has become even more prevalent with the global span of American influence. Out of the 6,000 languages currently spoken in the world, half of the world's population speaks only 10 of them and english
is 2nd most common, currently spoken by around 1.5 billion people (Kenneally, 2007).
Despite the promising future that it seems may be in store for the english
language, some linguists argue that there will never be a single dominant global language. Although english
has definitely cemented its place as a lingua franca (a common language spoken by people with different native languages), they don't believe it will adopt the role of global language. They point out that there have been languages in the past that seemed to assume that role of global language only to end up dying off, including Persian, Aramaic and Phoenician. Another example of this would be the Latin language. As the Roman Empire spread, so did the use of Latin. In the 15th century it seemed that Latin would become a global language, however Latin is now numbered among the dead languages (“Latin”, 2012). Linguist Nicholas Ostler believes that the days of english
as a globally spoken language are numbered. He states that although the number of people speaking english
around the world is increasing, the number of people speaking it as a native language is not. More than 1 billion people speak english
worldwide but only about 330 million of them as a first language, and this population is not growing (The Economist, 2010).
Ostler is included among a group of linguists who believe that the spread of the english
language will slow and eventually the number of english
speakers in the world will decline. Their belief is that english
will not be replaced with another language poised to take the title of global language, but that technology will replace any need for a global language. With further advancements being made in the field of language translation software, it is possible that someday any necessary translation between languages will be done instantaneously. This however, is probably in the distant future.
Other linguists argue that there is more to learning english
than merely as a way to communicate with others. Interjecting a translator into a conversation, whether machine, software, or human, no matter how fast or accurate it is, will always remove naturalness and nuance from the conversation (“Machine translation”, 2012). Additionally, when a person knows english
as a first or second language it gives them a competitive advantage because they have better opportunities and higher earning potential. Even in an age where we rely so heavily on technology to do so much work for us employers that are engaged in business
around the world will still undoubtedly prefer candidates who speak english
Briefly, while there may be a case that english
will not succeed as a global language, and that no language truly will because of the advent of translation software, I feel that english
will be the language to come closest to that role. When it comes to communication, whether being used for business
or pleasure, a common language has huge social advantages.
as She Was Spoke." The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 16 Dec. 2010. Web. 07 Aug. 2012. .
Language." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 08 July 2012. Web. 07 Aug. 2012. .
Kennealy, Christine. Introduction. The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language. N.p.: Viking, 2007. N. pag. Web. 3 Aug. 2012.
"Latin." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 08 July 2012. Web. 07 Aug. 2012. .
"Machine translation." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 July 2012. Web. 07 Aug. 2012. .