Will English be forever the lingua franca of Europe?
Thread poster: Jacek Krankowski (X)

Jacek Krankowski (X)  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
Jan 5, 2003

Leszek Kolakowski, a Polish philosopher living in Oxford, in an essay devoted to the future of Europe touched upon the role of the English language, which made him think of the role Latin had enjoyed among the 16th c. intellectual elites. Paradoxically, as the European awareness was being born at the time, Latin, the common language of the educated, disappeared and was replaced in that function by national languages in which literary masterpieces were created. \"Couldn\'t the same happen to English today?\" asks Kolakowski, noting that what we are witnessing is on the one hand the

extinction of many minor languages, but on the other hand a constant transformation of English. \"There exist varieties of English or German which can no longer be understood by native Englishmen or Germans. Those

are mostly folk, non-literary varieties which may seem primitive, but probably are not much more so than dialects used to be from which big European languages were born.\"

What Kolakowski does not say is that Latin died because of the dwindling influence of the Roman Catholic Church and the lost interest in the antiquity, while the two big forces behind the English language (even if not all of us truly love it the way elites used to love Latin), i.e. the United States and the technology, are alive and well, and it is unlikely they will lose their grip on our lives.

Or will they as the European cultural diversity increases?

[ This Message was edited by:on2003-01-05 20:40]


Ursula Peter-Czichi  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:46
German to English
+ ...
70 Versions of English (acc. to the UN) Jan 6, 2003

Hi Jacek,

I enjoyed your abstract and agree with your take on the European trend to adopt English as a common language.

I wonder about the \"death of Latin\", though. It lives on in many European languages, just not in its ancient form. Spanish is the big example. More people speak Spanish than English. Written and spoken German have also changed during this period. To this day, there are regions in the North of Germany where German and English clearly show their common roots. Like all else, Latin has changed with the passage of time.

There will always be people who want time to stand still. It won\'t.

I guess the British will just have to suffer the \"decline of proper English\" in the rest of the world.

Thanks Jacek


Elías Sauza  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:46
Member (2002)
English to Spanish
+ ...
The forces behind Jan 6, 2003

Technology and the ubiquitous United States. The lattest implies in turn two other well-known forces that play an important role in the status of the English language as lingua franca in Europe: Military and economic. In regards to technology (namely Internet), we can not ignore the likelihood of the English language to become another sort of Pidgin English due to commercial interaction as has happened in the past, if English is to last forever. It is obvious that loan words and borrowing flow mostly one way, which means that the diverse European languages are likely to melt in the English language pool. We wouldn\'t witness this though.

Elías Sauza


liberation  Identity Verified
Chinese to English
English is about $$$ Jan 6, 2003

Dear Jacek,

Occasionally see your comments and enjoy them.

Personally, I think many of the debates and comments about English as a lingua franca are overly \"intellectual.\" In my opinion, most people don\'t \"prefer\" English, or think it is somehow superior to their own tongue. (I personally prefer French, which I find much more precise and more pleasing to the ear.). The bottom line is: One doesn\'t \"choose\" one\'s language --- it is dictated by circumstance.

Nor is the USA and its economy the driving force behind English as a de facto global lingua franca, tho\' it may once have been, as was the British empire.

At this point, the key factor is this: The huge numbers of people who communicate with citizens of other nationalities do so in English because it \"makes sense.\" Why bother to learn Danish, Dutch AND French...when just learning English will do?

It\'s all about time and money and convenience. As much as I love the languages I have mastered --- particularly Chinese and French --- if ANYONE asked me which ONE language should he or she learn to deal with others outside his or her country, I would say without hesitation: English!

And that goes for the EU as well. Let\'s cut the bullshit: Aren\'t most if not all EU meetings held in the current world language, (pathetic) French speakers aside?




Local time: 03:46
English to French
+ ...
Will English be forever the lingua franca of Europe? Jan 6, 2003

I hope so and for the whole world too. Otherwise, how could we even participate on an Internet list?



Valeria Verona  Identity Verified
Local time: 23:46
Member (2003)
English to Spanish
+ ...
Nothing... Jan 6, 2003

lasts forever. Absolutely nothing.




Jacek Krankowski (X)  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
A unique ProZ perspective Jan 6, 2003

I thank you all for your contributions from all over the world and for your willingness, indeed, to share them in one language we all can understand.

Leaving Europe aside for a moment, the world\'s most widely spoken languages are:

1 Mandarin 900 million people

2 English 430

3 Hindi 320

4 Spanish 310


You never know...


French, along with English, is the official working language of:

the United Nations


the International Monetary Fund

the International Labor Bureau

the International Olympic Committee

the 31 member Council of Europe

the European Community

French is the dominant working language at:

the European Court of Justice

the European Tribunal of First Instance

the European Court of Auditors in Luxembourg

the Press Room at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium

French is the official language of:

Postal services throughout the world

The International Red Cross


liberation  Identity Verified
Chinese to English
French and the power of obstinancy Jan 7, 2003

Dear Jacek,

Yes, I know that French is the working knowledge of X, Y and Z organizations. And NOT knowing French means France will ALWAYS veto your candidacy for secretary general at the UN.

My mother was a professor of the language, and I studied at university in Paris. My love of the language aside, the fact is that French is a (marvelous but) moribund language whose growing \"market\" is largely dependent on counting as speakers those who speak it as a third language (after their national/local language and English.

A good example of its bizarre status is in Canada. Within a decade or more, it is likely that Chinese speakers will outnumber or at least be near the number of native French speakers. Will Chinese then become an official language in Canada? You can bet your bottom dollar it will NOT.


Because French-speakers --- more power to them! --- make a holy stink when people mess with their language. The rest of us just get on with reality: Speaking whatever language gets the \"job\" done. When the \"job\" is simple communication with one\'s community, then the local language --- Chinese, Urdu, whatever --- will do.

When the \"job\" has to do with communicating with those outside our community, and particularly when it has to do with earning money, then the odds are increasingly good that English is called for.

Happy New Year!


Jacek Krankowski (X)  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
English quand meme Jan 7, 2003

How many people speak English?

English has official or special status in at least seventy-five countries with a total population of over two billion.

Speakers of English as a second language probably outnumber those who speak it as a first language--around 750 million people are believed to speak English as a foreign language.

One out of four of the world\'s population speak English to some level of competence.

By the year 2000 it was estimated that over one billion people were learning English.

(Read this morning in Gazeta Wyborcza)


Jacek Krankowski (X)  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
Globally speaking Jan 7, 2003

One question that arises about the future role of the English language is whether a single world standard English will develop. This could result in a supranational variety that all people would have to learn.

The widespread use of English as a language of wider communication will continue to exert pressure toward global uniformity. This could result in declining standards, language changes, and the loss of geolinguistic diversity.

On the other hand, because English is the vehicle for international communication and because it forms the basis for constructing cultural identities, many local varieties could instead develop. This trend may lead to fragmentation of the language and threaten the role of English as a lingua franca. However, there have always been major differences between varieties of English.

There is no reason to believe that any one other language will appear within the next 50 years to replace English. However, it is possible that English will not keep its monopoly in the 21st century. Rather, a small number of languages may form an oligopoly—each with a special area of influence. For example, Spanish is rising because of expanding trade and the increase of the Latino population in the United States. This could create a bilingual English-Spanish region.

A language shift, in which individuals change their linguistic allegiances, is another possibility. These shifts are slow and difficult to predict. But within the next 50 years, substantial language shifts could occur as economic development affects more countries.

Because of these shifts in allegiance, more languages may disappear. Those remaining will rapidly get more native speakers. This includes English.

Internal migration and urbanization may restructure areas, thereby creating communities where English becomes the language of interethnic communication—a neutral language.

Universities using English as the medium of instruction will expand and rapidly create a generation of middle-class professionals. Economic development will only increase the middle class, a group that is more likely to learn and use English in jobs.

While languages such as English, German, and French have been international languages because of their governments’ political powers, this is less likely to be the case in the 21st century where economics and demographics will have more influence on languages.


English has been an international language for only 50 years. If the pattern follows the previous language trends, we still have about 100 years before a new language dominates the world. However, this does not mean that English is replacing or will replace other languages as many fear. Instead, it may supplement or co-exist with languages by allowing strangers to communicate across linguistic boundaries. It may become one tool that opens windows to the world, unlocks doors to opportunities, and expands our minds to new ideas.



Jacek Krankowski (X)  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
A book Jan 7, 2003

The Future of English?



Jacek Krankowski (X)  Identity Verified
English to Polish
+ ...
The end of empire? Jan 7, 2003

But the status of English as technology\'s lone language superpower may soon come to an end. In fact, it\'s already showing cracks. Like the world it inhabits, technology is facing a fractured linguistic future. Two trends - one geopolitical, one technological - are undermining the sovereignty of English in computing.

The geopolitical trend can be summed up by a single word: China. East Asia is becoming the center of the business world, and Chinese will thus become the default language for international business. The technological trend can likewise be summed up by a single term: object oriented. Programmers are increasingly connecting the graphical dots rather than writing the code that creates them in the first place.

Recent economic travails notwithstanding, Asia is growing increasingly powerful in international business, including technology. Demographics, historical accident, and raw determination are conspiring to make East Asia the business sweet spot of the next century. At least that\'s the common assessment.

Like non-English-speaking businesspeople, technology workers will also have less reason to learn English in a world that relies less on American technology products. Just one example: large technology companies are quick to publish their documentation in the languages of their foreign subsidiaries, but many smaller companies print their manuals in English only. Pity the Laotian shipping company with a temperamental, essential Unix application with documentation written exclusively in English. If the American domination of some technologies - especially software - diminishes as expected over time, homegrown technology will ship with homegrown documentation, and the other nontechnological reason for learning English will fall by the wayside.

Building blocks

Even in programming, where English is now at its strongest in the computer industry, its domination is wider than it is deep. Many foreign programmers learn a thin, limited English based on its niche utility. \"Right now, foreign programmers don\'t necessarily speak English,\" says Dan Jordan, a software development consultant based in Seattle who has spent time in China. \"They know key words in compilers. The word if, for example, is strictly a programmable type of code to them.\"

And with object-oriented programming, less English language facility is required. Code born of English syntax is increasingly grouped in chunks and made into reusable objects that anyone with access to a class library and a mouse can manipulate.

Moreover, these Esperanto objects are starting to build themselves. Using artificial intelligence and intelligent agents, mature software can now aid in the creation of its own next generation. Software that began in English-based programming languages like C++ can transform itself into code based on non-English natural languages.

But the real breakthrough is likely to be software that can translate complex queries from the user\'s native language to the native language of a particular piece of foreign technology. \"The more interesting challenge technically is to get people to communicate with their computers in their native language,\" says Larry Harris, the chairman and founder of Linguistic Technology, which develops translation software for database querying. \"We need to get to the point where computers don\'t just understand words but understand the question being asked.\"

Dysgwch Cymraeg!

A few years ago, The Economist urged its readers to learn Welsh, or any other obscure language. Rather than Mandarin or German, the really valuable second languages in the knowledge economy, went the argument, are those that few outsiders speak. A command of little-understood cultures would be a most valuable currency in a fragmented, tribalized world.

The Internet, despite its English-language shell, seems to support this idea. While English-language Web sites may still dominate the results of a typical AltaVista search, non-English sites are beginning to hatch throughout the Internet. The market research firm International Data Corporation forecasts that the Asia-Pacific region will surpass Western Europe in number of Web users by 2001 to become No. 2, behind the United States.

\"Our Asian students are getting information in their native languages from Web sites,\" says Jim King, an associate professor in the department of instructional technology at the University of Georgia. \"And while the predominant form of materials we prepare for the Internet is in English, we\'re having to accommodate other languages. Our Chinese, Korean, and Taiwanese students are starting to have an advantage.\"

For English speakers in the technology business, the challenge might soon be not what to say, but how to say it.

Ilan Greenberg is a freelance writer based in San Francisco.



Local time: 02:46
Welsh - statistics Feb 3, 2010

The heading ought to read: Dysgwch Gymraeg! - Welsh, being a Celtic language, mutates its leading consonants under certain circumstances. Cymraeg changes to Gymraeg because it is the direct object of the verb here.

As to 'obscure', Prof David Crystal, in a 1998 lecture, points out that Welsh is actually in the top 7% of world languages in terms of number of speakers.

Whatever the significance of the statistic, it only goes to show how many languages are in fact more obscure than Welsh.

Dysgwch Cymraeg!

A few years ago, The Economist urged its readers to learn Welsh, or any other obscure language. Rather than Mandarin or German, the really valuable second languages in the knowledge economy, went the argument, are those that few outsiders speak. A command of little-understood cultures would be a most valuable currency in a fragmented, tribalized world.


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Will English be forever the lingua franca of Europe?

Advanced search

PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »
Anycount & Translation Office 3000
Translation Office 3000

Translation Office 3000 is an advanced accounting tool for freelance translators and small agencies. TO3000 easily and seamlessly integrates with the business life of professional freelance translators.

More info »

  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search