Will English as lingua franca suffer as a result of the financial crisis

Well not just the financial crisis, but as a result of a general US decline. I think English is very well suited to serve this purpose, being both fairly easy to learn the basics of, and with a very large vocabulary. However it’s not very old for that and seems closely tied to rising (& falling?) US power. Only 60 years or so has it been so widespread outside the native English speaking population. Before that in Denmark we’d use French or German and of course further back, Latin for science. And even further back there have been many other languages. Will English be able to hold on as lingua franca of the world despite falling US power?

And what would supplant it? Neither Chinese and Hindu would fit European language populations very well. Too different. Spanish perhaps, but the widespreadness of Spanish is not coupled with financial or military power. The same can be said for Arabic. French, German or Russian seems unlikely.


Spanish is very widespread and easier to learn than English… I’d say it’ll probably be some kind of Chinese.

Although I have my doubts that English will be supplanted any time soon.

Since when is the US in decline. They only recently achieved sole superpower status and when their economy gets shaky , the whole world quakes.

What’s so special about Europe?

We are all locked into English, and now that we are a global village we will all participate in the evolution of that language.

I believe the answer is closely related to that part. English has enormous momentum because so many people - including many who never deal with America directly - have invested so much in it and there is no really compelling alternative. I think the American decline won’t matter much until there is a specific language that is important enough to displace it.

French was a secondary lingua franca for a long time. Have a look at your passport- if it’s in English, then there will be a secondary translation in French. If it’s not in English, then the secondary language will be English.

New Zealand, I believe, has Passports with Maori on them as well, but we won’t get into how stupid I think that is…

[quote=“Martini_Enfield, post:5, topic:469189”]

French was a secondary lingua franca for a long time. Have a look at your passport- if it’s in English, then there will be a secondary translation in French. If it’s not in English, then the secondary language will be English.


Up until the 20th Century, French was the primary lingua franca of the western world; educated Europeans of different nationalities spoke French among themselves, not English.

The US has been in decline relative to other powers, since they have consistently been able to outperform the US economy.

European language populations, Europe + North / South America + Australia / NZ, etc. will remain the dominant or a very strong part of the world’s financial power.

We are not locked into anything we can’t step out of. Non-native English speakers don’t participate much in the evolution of English. Nor will they become native speakers.

Yes. That’s what I wrote. French used to be lingua franca in Europe, but I find a return of that unlikely because French speaking countries lack the financial, cultural and military strength. Same with German and Russian.

It seems to me you are underestimating fixed costs of change. English will not, even with a long term relative decline of the US suddenly become useless. Quite the contrary, regardless of supposed intrinsic advantages (and I don’t believe English is all that easy for learners outside of European languages), the large network of current users of English for business and commercial purposes, the fixed infrastructure of schools and firms that teach and use English (firms in particular that are non-native as it were) will continue to make English a preferred medium for international business.

French, it should be noted, was never terribly dominant in commercial exchanges, but rather governmental / diplomatic and thus with the relative decline of France, was more impacted by home country prestige in terms of usage.

As rightly said, French (and probably other languages before that) was the primary lingua franca in the past. The thing is; English happened to take over the mantle during an unprecedented time of world integration. TV, the Internet, and better and cheaper transport (among other things) have combined to make the world smaller, and I’d think that English is the language focus for many, many more people than we’re talking about when French was the standard. Don’t forget that the educated population using French in the 19th century was quite small in comparison, so it was hardly a global change.

With English so well established now, I doubt it will change anytime soon. Of course, that doesn’t mean languages like Chinese won’t become bigger.

Let’s just get this out of the way…

A Hindu is a person who follows Hinduism. Hindi is India’s national language. :smack: It’s really not that difficult.

There is no single primary language of communication in India - each region has it’s own primary language.

Having said that, the predominant (by far) language of big business and international business in India is English. I really don’t see a push for Hindi as a global language originating in India (or anywhere else, for that matter).

I don’t know it myself, but from everything I’ve heard, it’s harder to learn, especially in written form. Dealing with their own writing is awkward and difficult for the Chinese themselves I understand; I suspect that will hinder it’s spread.

Personally, I think English will last a long time as an “international language” indefinitely, between the inertia from it being so widespread and entrenched, and the lack of an attractive successor. Sure, something like Chinese, or Hindi, or French could ( re ) take English’s place on top - but are people going to want to go to the effort ? Especially since we appear to be heading back towards a multipolar world, where no one country will be pre-eminent enough to plausibly argue that their favored language should be the international standard.

I suppose it’s possible that English could diminish in importance and NO language take it’s place; but having a single language that so many can understand is useful enough that I don’t think it will happen.

Yeah, Chinese is to f-ing hard. I’ve been learning Mandarin, and to encourage me one of my good friends told me the story his his American friend- who was apparently a quick student. “Yeah” said my friend, “After three or four years, he could even read a newspaper!”

For comparison, after 10 weeks of total immersion French, I could read a newspaper enough to understand it and I could speak well enough to begin teaching computer science classes in French (although it was tough). After four months of living in China (including ten weeks of total immersion language classes) I can’t ready anything- not even restaurant signs- and I can barely do basic stuff like buy train tickets.

Also add to this that there is a lot of global investment in English. I think you’d be surprised at how many people, around the world, speak English. And how much of a life the English language has outside of primarily Anglophone countries. There are whole dialects of English that exist and evolve without our participation. I’ve been noticing in recent days that my Chinese isn’t getting much better, but I’m picking up A LOT of characteristics of Chinese English. These things go beyond simple translation at this point- there is a new dialect sprouting.

No, but the U.S. dollar’s status as the default medium of international exchange (especially in the oil industry) might.

Another vote for no due to the lack of attractive replacements. It’s more likely that English variants and full-on dialects will become more popular. You’ll see more “Engrish” and a heavily accented Hindi/English hybrid gaining popularity and acceptance.

“I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse.”

-Charles V

I just wanted to weigh in and say that the Brits deserve as much credit, if not more, than the U.S. for making English the world’s lingua franca. Yes, the U.S. has been the world’s big commercial power for most of the last century but England was the worlds big commercial power for much of the previous century. Add in all the colonizing England did too. Based on this, I don’t think English’s status is as tied into American primacy as the OP supposes.

This is true. Most people continue to learn British English, though I find American English is beginning to become a more popular option. But I do think America- especially Hollywood- has a lot to do with English’s continued dominance.

Chinese (Mandarin) is out because the alphabet is indecipherable to most of the rest of the world and computers. That isn’t going to change.

Hindi isn’t even the common language in India, English is.http://www.languageinindia.com/junjul2002/baldridgeindianenglish.html

Russian seems out because of their alphabet and lack of usage beyond non-Russians.

The only contender up against English is Spanish. Spanish is widespread, has an easy alphabet and is easy to learn compared to English. However, English has momentum and Hollywood to perpetuate the momentum. If I were a betting man, I’d bet on English, bastard red-headed step-child language that it is.

Despite the rise of Spanish in the US, I don’t think that it will supplant English as a dominant trade language. Spanish has a stumbling block of being intrinsically linked to it’s home cultural group. Here in Florida, all it takes to be “Latino” is the ability to fluently converse in Spanish. It is assumed that you then share all the cultural values of that group; not only by outsiders, but by the native speakers themselves. English has the advantage of being a bastard language that has managed to stretch across cultural boundary lines. It is spoken as a Trade Language first around the world, and only secondarily as a cultural language in it’s home regions. It also easily assimilates phrases, words, and terms from other languages without too many missteps in grammar or meaning.

Or even for learners within European languages. Shall we tout out the “English spelling sucks” placards again? Learning English is like learning two languages at the same time - and then you run into a different breed of native speaker and you go back to needing a translator.

Still, there are a lot of companies which are based in non-English-speaking countries and have “English as spoken by non-natives” as their official company language. English is an official language of many countries, not just the USA, including India (which has a lot of languages).

So while International English may be getting more pidginish and/or more uniform, I doubt it will lose its current predominant position for quite a long time.

Given that a lot of the differences between US English and UK English can be attributed to the influence of languages with simpler spellings (Italian, Spanish, German) and given how many terms English keeps absorbing from other languages, I find the notion that “non-native speakers don’t influence the evolution of English” quite naive. Then again, I also think that a non-native-speaker can become better at a second language than a native speaker: not better than the best native-speaker, but better than one with worse education or less travelled. Several of my coworkers didn’t start learning Spanish until they were 7 and their level in it is similar to mine in English; while I do make the occasional mistake and have problems with some nuances (see pitting linked to the word “funny”), I also do kick the ass of many natives (specially on grammar and spelling).