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November 09, 2011

Is English The Language Of The Future?

English, like all languages, is in a constant state of...

...flux. New words, and new uses of words, constantly emerge.

There are all kinds of debates, arguments and fears about what the English language is becoming.

What happens when a language, any language, become used on every continent and in almost every professional and academic community?

Perhaps every language does this, but as I talk with and connect with people around the world, I see the English language used in ways that I never would have guessed.

The language itself has come to represent all kinds of things.

For example a recent study has suggested that among students in the United Arab Emirates “Arabic is associated with tradition, home, religion, culture, school, arts and social sciences,” whereas English “is symbolic of modernity, work, higher education, commerce, economics and science and technology.”

In all kinds of settings, English, for better or worse, is the vehicle, and embodiment, of the future, of globalism and the abandonment of the traditional.

But what would we guess English will look like in the future?

I would suggest that our language is likely to take on the attributes of the niche communities and industries that will make English fit and express its individual, particular needs.

If you are wondering what English might look like in the future, checkout this article - http://www.salon.com/2011/11/06/whats_the_language_of_the_future/.

If you are a language nerd, as I am, be sure to check out the new book "The Language Wars: A History of Proper English" by Henry Hitchings.

Here's an excerpt from a review - "The Language Wars examines grammar rules, regional accents, swearing, spelling, dictionaries, political correctness, and the role of electronic media in reshaping language. It also takes a look at such details as the split infinitive, elocution, and text messaging. Peopled with intriguing characters such as Jonathan Swift, Lewis Carroll, and Lenny Bruce, The Language Wars is an essential volume for anyone interested in the state of the English language today or its future."

Send us any links or other resources that you think any teachers, students or even just regular people might find interesting or useful.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


Posted by mmorf at November 9, 2011 11:24 AM


Robert McCrum comments in his book, Globish, that English is a subversive language. Its role in global communication puts societies in a dual relationship in regards to how individuals within a culture perceive their relationship to their own culture as well as their partricipation with the rest of the world.

Add English to the encroachment of Western-style capitalistic economic development and you have a recipe for creating huge social tensions within countries looking for a way to compete in the global marketplace where English, like Latin was before it, is the language of language of this multi-national empire that, differently from Rome, has no center of political power, really. English belongs no more to England or America than it belongs to those who speak it in India, Argentina or China.

And whatever cohesiveness, mutable as that may be, the language has is owed to the the engine that has permitted it its global access--the Internet. Oh, English became the global language long before Google, but the world wide web has solidified English as the global language.

There are regional variations, of course: Singlish in Singapore; Spanglish in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, but the Internet along with globalizatiuon helps the language to take on a certain permanence of style, I think, that will not allow it to develop strong regional variation that, say, happened in the Roman Empire, where regionalization of Latin led to the various Romance languages. A constant need for its use all over the world assures its survival--simplified survival, but a lasting presence, nevertheless.

But it does create a very real sense of social dislocation in societies. In one example, South Korea, where learning English is almost synonymous with upward mobility, and accompanied by a rapid adoption of a Western capitalist model, there are divisive rifts, not only generatioal, but also gender-based divisions that result in a social upheaval that tears at the fabric of traditional Korean society and its values.

Everywhere where learning English is seen as the ticket to a better life is seeing similar negative social disruptions within their respective cultures, societies and traditional ways of doing things.

English is here, it would seem, to stay, but its influences and, yes, subversive, infiltration into everyday life are not without signifcant dislocation and painful adjustments.

Posted by: LewisLynn at November 14, 2011 07:58 PM

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