Print David Graddol, who died in March aged 66, was a one-man think tank who changed the way the world sees the English language and the way the English Language industry sees the world. Always a polymath, he graduated in from the University of York with a BA in Language and Linguistics, and then completed a second BA in Sociology from the sameuniversity in While teaching at the Open University, he became known for his work in applied linguistics, discourse analysis, sociolinguistics and the history of linguistics. But it was his fascination with the future of English which made him famous.

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This book is about the English language in the 21st century: about who will speak it and for what purposes. The Future of English? The book explores the possible long-term impact on English of developments in communications technology, growing economic globalisation and major demographic shifts. The book has been commissioned by the British Council to complement the many texts already available about the teaching and learning of English, the history and development of English and the diversity of forms of English worldwide.

It is intended to stimulate constructive debate about the future status of English which can inform policy developments both in the British Council and other organisations concerned with the promotion of English language teaching and learning.

Section four discusses the impacts these trends are already having on language and communication in everyday life. The last section summarises implications for the English language and outlines ways in which we might reach a better understanding of the status which English will hold in the 21st century world.

A guide to forecasting the popularity of the English language in the 21st century David Graddol What is this book about? Why worry now? Why worry now about the global future of the English language? Is it not the first language of capitalism in a world in which socialism and communism have largely disappeared? Is it not the main language of international commerce and trade in a world where these sectors seem increasingly to drive the cultural and political?

The Economist, 21 December , p. There is no imminent danger to the English language, nor to its global popularity — a fact which is recognised by the majority of people who are professio- nally concerned with the English language worldwide Figure 1. By the year it is estimated that over one billion people will be learning English. The end of the 19th century was characterised by much heart searching over the state of society — evident in social behaviour and experimentation, fiction, scientific writing and legislative reform — prompted by a concern at the social consequ- ences of the industrial revolution.

There is a general awareness of change, but no clear vision of where it may all be leading. It seems we are not yet living in a new era, but have fallen off the edge of an old one. But there are reasons why we ought to take stock and reassess the place of English in the world. The future of the English language may not be straightforward: celeb- ratory statistics should be treated with caution.

This book examines some facts, trends and ideas which may be uncomfortable to many native speakers. Population statistics suggest that the populations of the rich countries are ageing and that in the coming decades young adults with disposable income will be found in Asia and Latin America rather than in the US and Europe. We suggest that the close of the 20th century is a time of global transition and that a new world order is emerging.

During this period, the conditions will be established for more settled global relations which may stabilise about Hence the next 20 years or so will be a critical time for the English language and for those who depend upon it. The patterns of usage and public attitudes to English which develop during this period will have long-term implicat- ions for its future in the world.

In this book we argue that the global popularity of English is in no immediate danger, but that it would be foolhardy to imagine that its pre-eminent position as a world language will not be challenged in some world regions and domains of use as the economic, demograp- hic and political shape of the world is transformed. A language in transition As the world is in transition, so the English language is itself taking new forms. English is also used for more purposes than ever before.

These give rise to new vocabularies, grammatical forms and ways of speaking and writing. But the language is, in another way, at a critical moment in its global career: within a decade or so, the number of people who speak English as a second language will exceed the number of native speakers.

The Overview 2 The Future of English? English is widely regarded as having become the global language — but will it retain its pre-eminence in the 21st century? The world in which it is used is in the early stages of major social, economic and demographic transition. Their literature and television may no longer provide the focal point of a global English language culture, their teachers no longer form the unchallenged authoritative models for learners.

And in so far as they are under- stood they appear to be leading in contradictory direc- tions — tendencies to increasing use of English are counterposed by others which lead to a reducing enthusiasm for the language. On the one hand, the use of English as a global lingua franca requires intelligibility and the setting and maintenance of standards. On the other hand, the increasing adoption of English as a second language, where it takes on local forms, is leading to fragmentation and diversity.

These competing trends will give rise to a less predi- ctable context within which the English language will be learned and used. There is, therefore, no way of preci- sely predicting the future of English since its spread and continued vitality is driven by such contradictory forces.

As David Crystal has commented: There has never been a language so widely spread or spoken by so many people as English. There are therefore no prece- dents to help us see what happens to a language when it achieves genuine world status. Crystal, , p. The language will grow in usage and variety, yet simulta- neously diminish in relative global importance. To put it in economic terms, the size of the global market for the English language may increase in absolute terms, but its market share will probably fall.

The Internet and related information technologies, for example, may upset the traditional patterns of communication upon which institutional and national cultures have been built. We have entered a period in which language and communication will play a more central role than ever before in economic, political and cultural life — just at the moment in history that a global language has emerged. This suggests that those who promote the global use of English will be burdened with new social responsi- bilities and may have to engage with a more complex public agenda, including ethical issues relating to lingu- istic human rights.

Its primary purpose is to stimulate infor med debate about the global future of English and the implications both for British providers of English language services and the institutions and enterprises with which they work overseas. It points to areas of uncertainty and doubt — where an understanding of local issues will be as valuable as that of global trends.

Many of the issues the book addresses will be of interest to a wide range of people, both specialists and professionals, but also members of the general public.

Will they enjoy the rich cultural resources the English language offers or will they simply use English as a vehicular language — like a tool of their trade? Commentators vary greatly in attitudes towards, and expectations of, global English. At one extreme, there is an unproblematic assumption that the world will eventu- ally speak English and that this will facilitate the cultural and economic dominance of native-speaking countries especially the US.

Such a view is challenged, however, by the growing assertiveness of countries adopting English as a second language that English is now their language, through which they can express their own values and identities, create their own intellectual property and export goods and services to other countries.

The spread of English in recent years is, by any criterion, a remarkable phenomenon. But the closer one examines the historical causes and current trends, the more it becomes apparent that the future of English will be more complex, more demanding of understanding and more challenging for the position of native-speaking countries than has hitherto been supposed. What have been the heroic failures of the past in predicting the number of English speakers?

But in what language? Will they all need English? Crystal, D. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. The Economist Language and Electronics: the coming global tongue.

Further reading There are many books now available which examine the social and linguistic contexts in which English developed historically. Graddol, D.

Maybin, J. Mercer, N. Goodman, S. During this status migration, attitudes and needs in respect of the language will change; the English language will diversify and other countries will emerge to compete with the older, native-speaking countries in both the English language-teaching industry and in the global market for cultural resources and intellectual property in English.

But we cannot simply extrapolate from the last few decades and assume this trend will continue unchanged. Such qualitative work should go hand-in-hand with the collection of key statistics and trend data. References English today The Future of English? The English language has grown up in contact with many others, making it a hybrid language which can rapidly evolve to meet new cultural and communicative needs. In the same period, the international importance of other European languages, especially French, has declined.

Why does someone use English rather than a local language? What characteristic patterns are there in the use of English by non-native speakers? Looking at the past is an important step towards understanding the future.

Any serious study of English in the 21st century must start by examining how English came to be in its current state and spoken by those who speak it. What factors have ensured the spread of English? What does this process tell us about the fate of languages in unique political and cultural contexts? In what domains of knowledge has English developed particular importance and how recently?

English is remarkable for its diversity, its propensity to change and be changed. This has resulted in both a variety of forms of English, but also a diversity of cultural contexts within which English is used in daily life. The main areas of development in the use and form of English will undoubtedly come from non- native speakers.

How many are there and where are they located? We need to be aware of the different place that English has in the lives of native speakers, second-language users and those who learn it as a foreign language. By showing how our present arose from the past, we will be better equipped to speculate on what the future might hold in store.

But as a world language its history began in the 17th century, most notably in the foundat- ion of the American colonies. Many European powers were similarly expanding: French, Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish became established as colonial languages, the latter two still important outside Europe in Latin America.

The rise of the nation state In Europe of the middle ages, power was distributed between Church, sovereign and local barons, creating multiple agencies of social control, government and land management.

Even in the s, a monarch such as Charles V ruled geographically dispersed parts of Europe. But by the 17th and 18th centuries, the nation state had emerged as a territorial basis for administration and cultural identity. Yet language diversity was exten- sive and many language boundaries crossed the borders of newly emerging states.

Each nation state required therefore an internal lingua franca, subject like other instruments of state to central regulation, which could act as a vehicle of governance and as an emblem of national identity.

Consequently, the English language was self-consciously expanded and reconstructed to serve the purposes of a national language. Profound cultural as well as political changes affected the English language. New words and ways of writing in English were developed. For a time, scholars and clerics who regularly travelled across the boundaries of national languages continued to use Latin as their lingua franca. But as knowledge of Latin declined and the rise of merchant and professional classes produced travellers unschooled in Latin, people sought alternative means of internatio- nal communication.


The future of English



David Graddol


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David Graddol: the man who saw the future of English


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