Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Astonishing Prediction: English Will Disappear as a Lingua Franca.

At present English is the most successful language in the history of the world. It’s spoken in every continent, is learned as a second language by schoolchildren. Nicholas Ostler, an English scholar of the rise and fall of languages, makes a surprising prediction in his latest book:
The Last Lingua Franca ”, as English will eventually go the way of Persian, Greek and Latin and over hundreds of years will die out because is not expanding as a mother tongue.
For the last four centuries the dominant world power has been English speaking, but now the global balance of power is shifting. In many countries like Russia, China and Brazil English is not part of the national tradition and is not spoken as a first language. Moreover the increasing power and cheapness of computers, combined with the advances of computer translation and speech recognition, will overcome the incompatibility between languages. Thus, according to Ostler, we are moving toward a more multilingual and diverse future where no one language will replace English.
Other linguists, like David Crystal and Robert McCrum, don’t share this pessimistic view as they think that English will somehow still be used worldwide. Undoubtedly the historical circumstances that led to the decline of other lingua-francas are very different from those in which English finds itself today. Global capitalism, global politics, global media and instant communication will make the disappearance more difficult.
Rest assured that we won't be around if and when this change will come about.


  1. Somehow immediate need for concern seems unwarranted. If/when the process will happen it is likely to happen more by evolution than revolution and it will be spurred on by extra-linguistic forces significant at the time.

  2. Nice post, Anthony. ;)
    Like you said, we won't be around by the time this happens, if it ever happens. Chinese could take over but that's only due to high population (and the spreading of such language by Chinese immigrants to different parts of the world). English is still strong as lingua franca in business and politics. Let's hope it stays that way.

  3. It will end up happening, on a long enough time scale. I love English, but the nature of things being what it is, today's empires will be tomorrow's ashes (pardon me the punk rock pundit). Nothing lasts forever, not even language, unfortunately.

  4. Hi Giovanni, Claudia and Ben! I really enjoyed reading your comments which I find very apropos.

  5. I would postulate that, unlike languages of the past, English has become 'entrenched' globally in all manner of form. This new 'Library of Alexandria' houses the best written works in English and will not burn down. Hollywood will continue to promulgate English movies to the most remote parts of China and Russia. English will not subdivide into dialects, as with Chinese, but rather will continue to evolve, as do all languages, given the protection of higher education where English is uniformly taught. The Anglophone World, from Great Britain to Australia, affords its populace easier access to education in English and this greater population will continue to dominate the world in their native tongue: English. In my opinion, of course.

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  7. ポメラニアンは小型のスピッツ(日本のロックバンドで、草野マサムネ、三輪テツヤ、田村明浩、崎山龍男がメンバーです)で、まるまるとずんぐりした体型です。ぬいぐるみ(マルガレーテ・シュタイフのテディベアが有名です)のようなかわいい犬でしょう。すごく元気な性格(環境によっても変化しますが、先天的なものが大きいと考えられています)ですし、好奇心旺盛な遊びが大好きな犬で、そんな可愛い小さな体から想像もつかないほどエネルギッシュな性格の持ち主です。そして、勇気があって物怖じしない性格