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The Role of English in the 21st Century

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The Role of English in the 21st Century The world is in various stages of social, economic, and demographic transition. Economically and politically, the world has changed more rapidly in the past few years than at any time since 1945. The emerging global economy is both competitive and interdependent. It reflects the availability of modern communications and production technologies in most parts of the world. So, do we need to be concerned about the future of the English language in the 21st century? According to The Economist (1996), English continues to be the world standard language, and there is no major threat to the language or to its global popularity. But, changes are coming. An international economy Two factors drive this global marketplace. First, many manufactured products have one or more foreign components. Ford cars and IBM computers are just two examples of this. Second, more than half of all imports and exports, which governments label foreign trade, are transacted between domestic companies and their foreign affiliates. The increasing globalization of the marketplace is forcing companies to pay more attention to international developments. Domestic firms are adjusting their structures and methods of operation to fit a broader and rapidly changing economic environment. ...read more.


Three factors continue to contribute to this spread of English: English usage in science, technology and commerce; the ability to incorporate vocabulary from other languages; and the acceptability of various English dialects. In science, English replaced German after World War II. With this technical and scientific dominance came the beginning of overall linguistic dominance, first in Europe and then globally. Today, the information age has replaced the industrial age and has compressed time and distance. This is transforming world economies from industrial production to information-based goods and services. Ignoring geography and borders, the information revolution is redefining our world. In less than 20 years, information processing, once limited to the printed word, has given way to computers and the Internet. Computer-mediated communication is closing the gap between spoken and written English. It encourages more informal conversational language and a tolerance for diversity and individual style, and has resulted in Internet English replacing the authority of language institutes and practices. English, like many languages, uses a phonetic alphabet and fairly basic syntax. But most importantly, it has a large and extensive vocabulary, of which about 80% is foreign. ...read more.


But within the next 50 years, substantial language shifts could occur as economic development affects more countries. Because of these shifts in allegiance, more languages may disappear. Those remaining will rapidly get more native speakers. This includes English. Internal migration and urbanization may restructure areas, thereby creating communities where English becomes the language of interethnic communication?a neutral language. Universities using English as the medium of instruction will expand and rapidly create a generation of middle-class professionals. Economic development will only increase the middle class, a group that is more likely to learn and use English in jobs. While languages such as English, German, and French have been international languages because of their governments? political powers, this is less likely to be the case in the 21st century where economics and demographics will have more influence on languages. Conclusion English has been an international language for only 50 years. If the pattern follows the previous language trends, we still have about 100 years before a new language dominates the world. However, this does not mean that English is replacing or will replace other languages as many fear. Instead, it may supplement or co-exist with languages by allowing strangers to communicate across linguistic boundaries. It may become one tool that opens windows to the world, unlocks doors to opportunities, and expands our minds to new ideas. ...read more.

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