English – will it remain an international language?


Long before the domination of the English language, Latin was the lingua franca of the western world. Gradually, Latin became Spanish, Italian and French, but it took almost twelve centuries for this change to happen. Along with the fall of the Roman Empire came the fall of Latin. The rise of English as a worldwide lingua franca can be attributed to one key fact – The United Kingdom and The United States being the successive global superpowers. Both the U.K and the U.S have English as their vernacular language. The question is whether English will remain an international language despite Brexit, the post-colonial world and increasing powers of eastern countries. One might suppose that English reign will end just as Latin did, but the available data would seem to suggest that this might be anything but a forgone conclusion.

There is no denying the fact that the world goes through such a rapid change as never before. These changes occur not only in technology but also in language. Globalization has a huge impact on how we speak. Due to widespread migration, English goes through a linguistic and cultural change. Such is a case of mixing English with other mother tongues, for instance, Indian English, where it is common for foreign words to become English, such as „blightly” or „pyjamas”. Not only a new vocabulary, but also foreign accents emerge from globalization – Indian accent, African accent, and even American accent. The point I am trying to make is that English evolves into so many different forms that one might wonder whether there is a potential need for a standardized version. To take the argument further I will present an example of the Dutch language. Standardized Dutch, known also as ‘Standaardnederlands’, is an official version of this language. It is taught in schools, used by officials and spoken in media. It is tempting to ask, why such a small country needs standardization. The reason is hidden in history, more specifically in colonialism. Dutch variations are spoken not only in The Netherlands but also in Belgium, Aruba, Curacao, Surinam and Sint Maarten. Africaans emerged from Dutch during Apartheid and remained the language of South Africa. Such a situation pushed officials to make one official language. But globalization is not the only threat to the modern lingua franca. 

It is safe to say that nowadays English is a language of business. Along with the increase in the global power of China, there might appear a question regarding language and a possible necessity of learning such. With the largest manufacturing sector, the highest number of exported goods and the world’s fastest-growing consumer market, it is no wonder that the language has become an essential skill in almost every workforce. Chinese or, to be more specific, Mandarin is the most popular language on the Earth, but only thanks to the great number of its native speakers, not necessarily second-language users. China as a business leader might set the rules and expect the potential partners to use Mandarin in negotiations. Learning Mandarin might significantly improve business relations and having the ability to communicate with the major role-players in the Chinese language will help to establish one’s company as a leader in any field. Another major threat might be just around the European corner – modern versions of Latin – French and Spanish. It is beyond doubt that the popularity of these languages is caused by colonialism. The first one is the most spoken language in Africa, but also among French overseas territories. From the figures, it is clear that the latter may come very close to becoming the new lingua franca. With 450 million native speakers, 600 million second-language users and 20 million learners, Spanish is the third most spoken language by the total number of speakers and second in terms of native speakers. Spanish might not be the future language of the economy, but without doubt important for a touristic sector and for general communication around the world. 

 It is hard to escape the obvious conclusion that language is a living organism, which reacts to social, cultural, political, financial and historical changes. While it may well be that this is nothing but a natural course of action, there is no reassurance that English will remain the international language. Changes do not happen overnight, it is a tip-toe process. Will English, hundreds of years from now, share Latin’s fate and become a dead language? It can only be speculated, but the arguments shown above prove that its future is not as stable as one might think. 

The only thing that is constant is change. 



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Author: Ola K. from Talkersi

Edited by: Magda O. from Talkersi


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