On the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death? Bridget Lewis talks about the future
of the English language.
Two thousand years ago English did not exist. A thousand years ago it was a language used by less than two million people. Now it is the most influential language in the world, spoken by more than a billion people on the planet, as their first, second or third language. English currently dominates science, business, the mass media and popular culture. For example, 80% of emails on the Internet are in English. But where will English be at the end of the third millennium?
One view is that English is going to become even more important as a global lingua franca, dominating the world’s trade and media while most other languages will become localized or just die out. At present, over half the world’s 6,500 languages are in danger of extinction.
Another view is that English is already breaking up, as Latin did, into several separate languages. There are already dictionaries of the ‘New Englishes’, such as Australian English, full of words that a British English speaker would not recognize.
Hopefully, neither of these things will happen. Although different varieties of English will continue to develop around the world, standard English will survive for international communication. In addition, the frightening prospect of a culturally uniform world totally dominated by one language is impossible. Already, other languages are fighting back against the iron grip of English on the Net. Governments around the world are also starting to protect smaller languages and recognize the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity. English will probably stay in control for a long time, at least while the USA remains the top superpower, but it definitely won’t become the only language in the world.
6. Try to answer these questions.
1. How many people spoke English in 1000 AD?
a 2 million b 12 million c 20 million
2. How many people speak it now?
a 200 million b 500 million c a billion
3. What percentage of the world’s e-mails are in English?
a 50% b 80% c 90%
4. How many languages are there in the world?
a 4,000 b 6,500 c 9,000
1. Say it in another word in English
1. I’ve got a frog in my throat.
2. Mary’s got butterflies in her stomach.
3. That vase is rather a white elephant.
4. He chickened out of climbing the tree.
5. David drives at a snail’s pace.
6. There’s something fishy about him.
7. You look very sheepish.
8. The little girl shed a few crocodile tears.
9. I haven’t been to the cinema for monkey’s years.
10. Jane thinks she’s the calls whiskers.
2. Translate the sentences into Ukrainian.
1. It is more like an essay than a story.
2. It will be a splendid opportunity to speak to her.
3. I should never have thought that peeling potatoes was such an undertaking.
4. The more sentences he translated, the more of them there seemed to be left.
5. There is no bread left.
6. That won’t do. You haven’t tried hard enough.
7. This is a cake with a taste like nothing else on earth.
8. When I was a child I suffered from an almost complete lack of words.
9. It was a foolish rather than a malicious remark.