Every language has the same chance to grow up and become dominating language in the world and also can be dead because of lost of users. Economic, politics, partnership, and culture have important role to decide which language will dominate in globalization era. For example the growing of Muslim population supports the growing of Arabic language; the growing of China in economic and influence triggers people to learn Chinese; Spanish mostly spoken by people in South America countries, and English continue its influence in the world because of pop culture spread, economic influence from US and UK, and growing of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT).
English as an international language which mostly spoken in the world has its own challenge in facing globalization era. David Crystal from British Council talks about the future of English. He said that the future of language is that way madness lays. Who would have predicted 1,000 years ago that Latin would no longer be used in 1,000 years time? Obviously, Latin is still used in certain circumstances, but it would not be the normal education to be fluent in Latin. In addition he said that if you had said that 1,000 years ago, people would have said you were mad. So in 1,000 years time will English still be a global language? We could all be speaking Martian by then if they land and take over. Who knows what’s going to happen?
To ask about the future of language is to really ask about the future of society, and futurologists are just as unclear about what will happen eventually as I am about language. Because language, you see, is global for one reason only, and that is the power of the people who speak it. Power always drives language. There is no other reason to speak somebody else’s language other than you want to improve your quality of life or you want to influence them in some way, or whatever it might be. I mean the tradition in English, of course, English became global for a whole variety of reasons. First of all, the power of the British Empire. Later, the power of American imperialism.
Later, in the 17th century, the power of the Industrial Revolution, which meant that the language of science and technology became English predominantly. In the 19th century, the power of money. Money talks, and the two most productive nations of the world were Britain and America, both using English. So the language of international banking became the pound and the dollar, English once again. And then in the 20th century cultural power, as you all know, because every aspect of culture you’ve encountered has some sort of history in the English language.
Like pop songs, for example, international advertising, air traffic control, the development of radio and television, the development of the internet – 100% an English language medium when it started, though today, only a fraction of the internet is English. Internet has become multi-lingual. So what’s going to happen next? English will stay a global language as long as certain things happen. First of all, that the nations that are recognized as the most powerful nations in the world continue to use English, and all the other nations want to be like them, or want to interact with them, or want to sell things to them, and so on.
And so English will stay like that for as long as those nations retain that kind of power, and we’re talking mainly America here, aren’t we, predominantly? On the other hand, it isn’t rocket science to think of scenarios where, for whatever reason, American power diminishes, the power of some other nations grows, and you get other parts of the world becoming more dominant. People say, well, what about Chinese? Well one day maybe. At the moment, there’s no sign of China wanting Chinese to be a global language because they’re all learning English in China for the most part. But you could imagine a scenario where it was the other way around.
You could imagine a scenario when Spanish, Spanish is the fastest growing language in the world at the moment population wise, because of South America and Central America, and increasingly in North America, Spanish is becoming very widely used. You can imagine a scenario where one day we might all end up speaking Spanish. In another scenario, you can imagine one day we might all end up speaking Arabic for reasons that are perfectly obvious to anybody who looks at the world. So all of these things could happen. At the moment, there’s no sign of a diminution in the prestige of English, the desire to learn English. The figures are going up and up and up every year.
At the moment, over 2 billion people speak English. There’s never been so many people speaking one language before, and there’s no sign of any slackening off in that progress. So the long term future, no idea. The short term future, no change. Now what kind of English will it be? Well, if you join the club, as it were, the English speaking club, you will, as joining any club, you will look to the senior members, as it were, the most established members. And you look at the statistics. You’ll speak the English that you most often encounter in the world. And that, of course, is American English.
And so that is one scenario, that American English will ultimately dominate all other varieties of English. And we already see this happening in small ways, don’t we? In British English, for instance, you see the impact of American English in all sorts of ways. On spelling, for example. Once upon a time you’d spell the word “encyclopaedia” with and “A-E” the middle, in a traditional British way. The American way is to spell it with an “E” in the middle. And now in Britain, virtually everybody spells it with an “E” in the middle. But there is a different scenario, as well, and it is this. Why is their American English in the first place?
Because the Americans wanted to identify themselves as American and not as British. It was a quite conscious decision. When America became independent, Noah Webster, amongst others, said we want an American English for an American identity for the new nation. And that’s where American spellings started, you see, and how new American vocabulary got into dictionaries. Now what happened in America then is now happening globally. So all over the English speaking world people are saying, well, you can be British if you like, you can be American if you like, but we want to be Indian, or we want to be Nigerian, or we want to be Ghanaian, or what have you. And the English that we use will reflect that cultural identity.
Now we’re not talking just a few people here, you see. In India, nobody knows exactly how many, but there must be at least 400 million people speaking English in India, speaking Indian English. Not speaking British English or American English or anything like that. And therefore, could the few English of the future be some sort of amalgam of all sorts of English from around the world? Bits of Indian English, bits of Australian English, bits of American English, bits of British English, who knows, bits of Serbian English.
Everybody can put something into the melting pot of English so that when people meet from a whole variety of nations, as you get so often in business meetings and international conferences or just in a hotel in any part of the world, and English is being used as the lingua franca, could a lingua franca English, and that’s the term that’s often used these days, which is culturally not identifiable with any one place because it’s a mixture of everything, could that be the norm? And I think, probably, that’s the way it’s going to go.