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English as a world language

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Introduction

English as a world language: The first significant step in the progress of English towards its status as a world language took place in the last decade of the 16^th century and now, "322,000,000 people speak the English language." Information obtained from the 13th Edition of the Ethnologue (1996). It is strange that a language that started on a small island 1500 years ago as the result of the invasion of a few Germanic tribes is the international language it is today. English is widely regarded as having become the global language but will it retain its pre-eminence in the 21st century? The world in which it is used is in the early stages of major social, economic and demographic transition. Although English is unlikely to be displaced as the world's most important language, the future is more complex and less certain than some assume. The reason for the vast spread of English as a world language is also down to the British exploring and colonising many other islands and countries around the world. The ships that traded and explored on these faraway coasts needed small ports, so the sailors would stay in these areas to build the port whilst talking to the indigenous people. ...read more.

Middle

It is these trends that will shape the demand for English in the future, even though they interact in complex ways. Demography How many people will there be in 2050? Where will they live? What age will they be? Population projections exist for all the world's countries and answers to such demographic questions can help us make broad predictions about a question at the heart of this study: who will speak what languages in that century? The world economy The economic shape of the world is rapidly changing. The world as a whole is getting richer, but the proportion of wealth created and spent by the west will decrease markedly in the next few decades. This will alter the relationship between the west and the rest of the world -- especially Asia -- and will change the economic attractiveness of other major languages. The role of technology Advances in technology in the 19th century helped 'kick start' the long wave of economic growth, which is yet to reach some parts of the world. Technological change transforms the spaces in which we work and live, but it is difficult to predict precisely how technology will shape our future global patterns of language use. The legacy of history Britain's colonial expansion established the pre-conditions for the global use of English, taking the language from its island birthplace to settlements around the world. ...read more.

Conclusion

People often say that English has a rich vocabulary as if it were something to be proud of. The richness of the vocabulary results basically from word borrowing and implies that words for related concepts are typically not related to each other in any obvious, regular manner. Word borrowing makes a language more international in one sense, but in the essential sense it makes it less suitable for international communication, since learning the vocabulary is more difficult. Results from the questionnaire: Do you think the english language is in a stable and safe position within world languages? [image001.gif] Figure 1: Responses to the Global Questionnaire Cover of book The Future of English? is an imaginative glimpse of the linguistic world in 2050. Commissioned and published by the British Council's English 2000 project, this 'think tank' document will be the starting point for a significant debate amongst all professionals involved in English language services. The Future of English? is now available and carries a foreword by The Prince of Wales. Pre-publication comments on the book are shown below. The press release for the launch of the British Council's English 2000 project in 1995 summarised the position of English. A graph to show students visiting Britain to take english languages courses against the months of January and August [image004.gif] ...read more.

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