While no one can say with any certitude which language will
dominate this, the 21st century, research shows the most speculated
choice is between English, Chinese, Arabic or Spanish. Factors that
will influence future language domination are world politics and
economics. The rest of the reasons are included in the answer below.
Please visit each posted link for complete information. Copyright
laws restrict the amount of information that can be posted here.
This is excerpted from a 15 page download (may be slow, but worth it),
SPANISH AND ENGLISH IN THE 21ST CENTURY, Christopher J. Pountain,
Queens? College, Cambridge
?Talking about the future is not something that linguists are given
to doing, especially historical linguists, who know only too well that
any prediction of what will happen to a language and when can be
thwarted by the large number of variables involved in any linguistic
change and the essentially random effects of the ?invisible hand?
(Keller 1994). I have a number of reasons for having the temerity to
address the question, however. In the first place, it seems to me that
there is something of a wave of hysteria in the Spanish speaking world
about the future of Spanish and its supposed ?invasion? by English,
and evidence of the impact of English on modern Spanish is often
treated in the press with a mixture of ridicule and paranoia.?
?All linguistic forecasters appear to be in agreement that in the
21st century English and Spanish will number amongst the dominant
languages of the world.
??Both languages have currently vast numbers of native speakers,
falling within the top five languages of the world from this point of
view. In fact, Spanish is reported as having already overtaken English
in this respect (See chart on site).
?While English is some way ahead of Spanish on the second and third
of the above counts, Spanish nevertheless scores consistently well on
all three, and significantly better overall than Chinese, Hindi,
French, Russian, Arabic and Portuguese, which are the other current
and prospective main players on the international stage.?
?has the Real Academia, whose standing, probably because of its
sensitivity to change and variation within the Spanish-speaking world,
is paramount. The fundamental linguistic unity of the Spanish-speaking
world is acknowledged and much-prized (Tamarón 1995:53). If these
trends continue, it could be that Spanish, despite not being a lingua
franca, fragments less than English.?
I actually hear this sample style of conversation on a weekly basis.
Hey, Mary, ¿por qué no vienes pa mi casa? Tengo un magazine nuevo that I got this
morning nel drugstore. Tiene todas las new songs, muy suaves, de los... cómo se
llaman... You know... los que cantan ésa que tocaron... ahí nel
jukebox, when we were at the store. No, hombre, not that one, the
other one, la que le gustó much a Joe. I like it too porque tiene muy
suave rhythm y las words también, muy suaves... yeah... what?
really!!!... te llamó? OOOOhhhh, Mary. Ese está de aquellotas.?
?There will almost certainly be a considerable degree of linguistic
convergence in the 21st century, brought about by improved
international contacts, especially between languages which are closely
related, in which category we must include English and Spanish. Such
convergence has been an important factor in language change for
centuries, although it has perhaps not been given the prominence it
deserves.7 Such convergence is fairly obvious and acknowledged on the
lexical level: one may think of the diffusion of Arabic words such as
sukkar, which supplied Sp. azúcar, Fr. sucre, It. zucchero, Eng.
sugar, Germ. Zucker, or the vast numbers of Latin and Greek words
which passed first into technical registers??
?These languages in turn allowed the development of local print
economies, and also local economies of belief, weakening centralized
control and giving new emphasis to texts accessible by ordinary
people. We are witnessing a similar phenomenon today with the
Internet, where the percentage use by native English-speakers (though
not necessarily the absolute use) is declining, and speakers of
smaller languages are taking a larger share (native English-speaking
users, for example, declined from 51% in 2001 to 40.2% in March 2003).
Our examples could go on, but the central point is clear: human
institutions are bound up with questions of language capability,
language choice, and language use.?
?In the international sphere, languages are constantly jockeying for
position, as is evident today in the policy debates of the European
Union. What seems to a speaker of a dominant language like common
sense or the easiest solution (?Let?s all use English?) may seem to a
speaker of a non-dominant language like aggressive cultural domination
or an attempt to silence opposing views (?Let?s stop using German?).
Thus, Americans are often impatient with non-speakers of English,
accusing them of willful refusal to speak English or of using their
own languages in order to gain a negotiating advantage by speaking a
language the Americans do not understand. The European Union
maintains an official policy of equality among all the languages of
government of the member-states, but in practice some languages
dominate and others are marginalized. English continues to make gains
in the EU against French and German, but resentment against English
?More or less the only people who think that one can conduct all of
one?s affairs in this world through the medium of a single language
are speakers of English: pretty much everyone else recognizes that
different sets of tasks require different languages. Many people use
three or four as a matter of course. English-speakers feel as they do
because of the notable spread of the English language in modern times
to almost all corners of the globe and almost all domains of human
?Dictionaries have finally caught up with the times, thanks to the
combined efforts of Microsoft and Bloomsbury Publishing. The Microsoft
Encarta World English Dictionary, which will be released in August, is
the first newly written U.S. dictionary in 30 years, containing
definitions and references for hundreds of modern words such as
"greentailing," "chiphead," and "splatterpunk."
Soukhanov, a world-renowned lexicographer and "Word Watch" columnist
for The Atlantic Monthly, served as the U.S. editor for the project,
joining Bloomsbury editor Kathy Rooney to lead a team of more than 320
expert editors, lexicographers and consultants in 20 English-speaking
countries worldwide. For Soukhanov, the project couldn't have come at
a better time. "The English language has truly become global,"
Soukhanov said. "The reason for new print editions is usually new
words and new definitions of existing words. With the emergence of new
words and the opportunity to utilize technology and the Internet, the
need for a new ... English dictionary ... has never been greater."
?More than 6,000 languages are spoken in the world today. But some
linguists believe that by the end of the century the influence of
globalization and new technologies like the Internet will have most
people speaking one language -- English. Other experts say that the
most widely used tongues, like French, Arabic and Chinese, will remain
in everyday use despite the growing popularity of English. While the
experts disagree about the prospects for a global language, almost all
are concerned that many more obscure tongues are on the verge of being
lost forever. Meanwhile, some Americans believe that the United States
is in danger of losing its native tongue and argue that English should
be the nation's official language.?
Official Journal of the Institute of Linguists
?There have been a spate of recent books on the future of languages.
Reasons are easy to find. Year on year, we observe the increasing use
of English in international and national contexts; the increasing
borrowing of English vocabulary by speaker of other languages, not
only in techinical contexts, but also in fashion, popular culture and
everyday life; the demand for English as a second or third language.
We are wondering what future lies in store for other languages,
whether spoken by smalll minorities or by large national populations.?
?Making sense of trends
One of the key skills in forecasting is being able to recognise an
underlying trend and to understand how it might develop in the future.
Linguistic and social change rarely happen at a steady and predictable
rate. Here we discuss various hazards associated with the
interpretation of trend data using examples relevant to the English
?Language has been regarded since the Renaissance in terms of
territory. Statistics about language, culture, and economy, collected
by international bodies, have been based on nation states, populations
of speakers, and relative sizes of economies. But chaos theory
suggests the concept of flow may be better suited to understanding
language in a borderless world.?
?Education and training
English already shares the languages curriculum in Europe with French,
German, and Spanish, alongside a variety of other languages from
Russian to Urdu. Is the same true of schools worldwide? And what role
will English play outside school? English medium teaching is
permitting rapid internationalisation of higher education and adult
?The 'rush' to English around the world may, for example, prove to be
a temporary phenomenon which cannot be sustained indefinitely.
Languages other than English are likely to achieve regional importance
whilst changed economic relations between native-speaking English
countries and other parts of the world will alter the rationale for
learning and speaking English.?
?An increasing concern for social equity rather than excessive benefit
for the few is one expected social value shift which likely to inform
both public policy decisions and personal life-choices and this will
have unpredictable consequences for the popularity of learning English
as a foreign language. The English language nevertheless seems set to
play an ever more important role in world communications,
international business, and social and cultural affairs. But it may
not be the native-speaking countries who most benefit.?
Please read this entire site for the ?big picture? and explanations.
Page 2 (of 66 in this large download) is not-copyable, but the
paragraph to the immediate right of the bar graph discusses the future
of English. There is actually a lot of interesting text about the
future of language in this article.
?English is the language of the world. Indian writer, Gurcharan
Das, wrote, "English has become the global language at a time when
technological breakthrough has shrunk the world." Mr. Das observed
that his grandfather treasured his knowledge of the English language
as his greatest possession for English united the Indians
intelligentsia and civil servants.?
?Scholar Brad DeLong speculates that the Internet will expand
international trade and many of these jobs created will be
white-collar jobs. Those who speak English will be major benefactor of
this movement and this will encourage English to stay as the world
major language of communication. Economist Arnold Kling in a recent
piece wrote, "In the era of the English dominated Internet, to speak
another language is to impose a barrier on the fastest-growing
component of international trade." In Israel, there was a debate on
whether to teach high-level technical courses in English or in Hebrew
nearly 50 years ago. It was decided to teach these courses in Hebrew
but today many Israelis maintain their web presence in English to
reach a wider audience beyond Israel.
Some disagree with the thesis that English will continue to the
dominant language. Nicholas Negroponte of MIT Media Lab believes that
Chinese will the dominant language within a decade and "English
speakers will find themselves on the wrong end of the digital divide."
Negroponte added, "We're going to see again, a real rise in
multilingual systems and of course multilingual, in my opinion."
?The development of English as a global language is one of the most
remarkable phenomena of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. For
the first time in the history of human society, a single language has
become sufficiently universal that it can be used as a global lingua
franca for communication between speakers of many languages. The
history of English has traditionally been divided into three main
phases: Old English (450-1100 AD), Middle English (1100-circa 1600 AD)
and Modern English (since 1600). But it seems that Global English
represents a new and fourth phase in which its main use around the
world is between non-native speakers - a phase of its history which
has only just begun and in which both the status and linguistic form
of the language are rapidly developing. In the next 10-15 years we may
witness a situation that has been much discussed since the nineteenth
century, in which the majority of the world's population can speak
?The Wave of Global English to Come
Governments across the world, from Chile to China, from Malta to
Malaysia, have in the last few years embarked on ambitious educational
reforms which will integrate English more deeply into the curriculum.
English will cease to be a foreign language for many, perhaps most, of
the world's citizens as it becomes repositioned as a 'basic skill', to
be learned by primary school children alongside other 21st century
skills in Information Technology.?
?For many centuries, Latin served as a lingua franca between educated
elites in Europe. Global English may be the new global Latin but just
as the use of Latin gradually faded away, so Global English may not
prove to be a permanent phenomenon. Language learners in some parts of
the world are already queuing for classes in Chinese, Spanish and
?In Europe, there is an emerging division of language futures:
neo-Atlanticists support English as European language of contact
defensive national language activists seek a limited multilingualism,
of national languages regionalists and separatists want all languages
to get equal status, with hundreds of official languages in Europe
technological optimists believe full automatic translation will be
available "soon", so the political issues will disappear?
Some fundamental attitudes can be traced in most language policy
debates, regardless of which specific languages are at issue...
"the multiplicity of languages is an evil, and a source of conflict.
It should be overcome by a universal language, or at least a global
"linguistic standardisation in modernity is inhuman and evil, like
Newspeak in Orwell's 1984"
"diversity of languages is a value in itself, similar to biodiversity"
"each language has value in itself, and it should be preserved,
perhaps like a work of art"
"languages are essential to peoples and nations. Language is related
to identity, culture, and memory. Language erosion is cultural
"one specific language is superior to all others because it expresses
truth, or value, or the Word of God. It should become universal,
perhaps for religious purposes only"
"one specific language is associated with a superior political
philosophy, or social system. It should become the universal language"
"a universal or near-universal language, which existed in the past,
should be restored"
Not everyone thinks English will be the language of the future;
?The idea that English will become the world language is outdated,
with the future more likely to see people switching between two or
more languages for routine communications, a British language expert
says in a new analysis.
The share of the world's population that speaks English as a native
language is falling, David Graddol reports. Instead, English will play
a growing role as a second language, he says in the journal Science.
The idea of English becoming the world language to the exclusion of
others "is past its sell-by date," Graddol says.?
?By 2050, he says, Chinese will continue its predominance, with
Hindi-Urdu of India and Arabic climbing past English, and Spanish
nearly equal to it.
Swarthmore College linguist K. David Harrison noted, however, that
"the global share of English is much larger if you count
second-language speakers, and will continue to rise, even as the
proportion of native speakers declines."
?The Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is said to back the
proposal, but some politicians are against it. . . .
Its conclusions have been challenged by some politicians, including
one deputy from the ruling UMP party, Jacques Myard.
He told Le Monde: "English is the most-spoken language today, but that
He said Spanish, Chinese and Arabic were all growing in importance.
"If we must make a language compulsory, it should be Arabic," he said.?
?The reflection on the future of the Arabic language is an issue of
cardinal importance in the modern Arab-Islamic thought. This issue is
inextricably linked to the sovereign authority of the Arab-Islamic
Ummah on its culture, thoughts, presence of its civilization, and its
present and future. This is a sovereignty issue in its comprehensive
sense, and not only a matter of language, literature, and culture.
Indeed, the Arabic language present and future is one of the important
concerns, which monopolized my attention since long. I have been
highly concerned with the issue as a reader, a researcher, and in my
capacity as Director General of the Islamic Educational Scientific and
Cultural Organization. My concern has been focused on the issues of
the Arabic language future, the analysis of the status of Arabic in
the present era, more specifically in the first half of the twentieth
century, as opposed to previous eras, particularly in the booming
?As China rushes toward superpower status, America's schools and
government officials are echoing Hoffman's sentiment. Earlier this
year Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey introduced legislation calling for
increased funding of programs for less commonly taught languages. "For
reasons of economics, culture and security we should have much better
facility with Chinese languages and dialects," he says. The State
Department has designated Chinese a "critical language," but the most
recent data show that only 24,000 students in grades 7 to 12 study
Chinese, a language spoken by 1.3 billion people worldwide. (More than
1 million students learn French, a language spoken by 75 million
people.) Still, the number is growing.?
?Looking further down the line, however, there?s another language
that will be taking over as the one to learn: Mandarin Chinese. Just
to give you some idea of the importance China has even within our own
local community, the country bought more than $300 million in Kansas
goods and services last year ? making it the third leading buyer ?
according to the state Department of Commerce.
Luckily, if you have contemplated learning the most widely spoken
language in the world in anticipation of the growing financial and
cultural exchange between the United States and China, the University
of Kansas is already way ahead of you. Much to the University?s
credit, it is well-poised to accommodate the growing interest in
Chinese culture, especially because of the soon-to-be-established
Confucius Institute at the Edwards campus. The institute, which
partners with China?s Ministry of Education, is part of a network that
plans to create a total of 100 similarly named institutes worldwide.
Currently only four exist. It will offer Chinese language instruction,
training Chinese language teachers and promoting outreach programs on
?Pearl Terrell was so determined her great-granddaughter Shayla
begin learning Chinese that she spent two weeks this summer driving
100 miles a day from her home in West Virginia to a middle school in
Frederick County, Md., so the soon-to-be fifth-grader could learn the
The U.S. government flew 10 teachers to Washington from China this
month and gave them a five-day crash course on how to teach ?
American-style ? before dispatching them to schools across the
?After years of insisting that the world speak English, Americans have
awakened to a far more global playing field and the need for
specialized languages, economists say. And nowhere is that more
evident than with China.
"China is being mentioned everywhere in relation to everything from
business, international affairs ? even the war on terror," said
Kenneth Lieberthal, professor of political science at the University
of Michigan. "You buy things in the store ? they're made in China. ...
No one is hearing about France as the way of the future."
?Spanish remains, by far, the most prevalent foreign language class
offered in Florida and the United States. But with China?s emergence
as an economic power, schools in Palm Beach County and elsewhere on
Florida?s south-central Atlantic coast are beginning to expose their
students to the world?s most widely spoken language. ?We decided to
offer Chinese because of what?s happening with the Chinese economy
and the world order,? St. Michael?s Headmaster Jim Cantwell said.
?China is becoming the world?s largest economy, and with one-quarter of
the world?s population, we want to prepare our 21st-century students
to be conversant with this culture.? The Stuart school began offering
Chinese to seventh- and eighth-graders for the first time this year
and is the only school in its area to do so, according to the Florida
Foreign Language Association.?
?The problem of communication is always alledged through human
language. In other times, the knowledge of a dominant language, the
emperor's or the conqueror's, was sufficient. In our days many have
tried to create a common language, like Esperanto, without any
success. It is believed that the cause of failure of artificial
languages is their artificiality; It is not always so. No artificial
language can be imposed, if there does not exist a strong political
and cultural propaganda and pressure. In these cases, the spreading of
a new language is really possible.
There does not exist only the problem of one dominant language. The
same problem exists with the problem of alphabet. If we would like to
adopt a universal language, which would be its alphabet?
Historically, all culturally powerful nations were able to spread
their own language and alphabet. Could it be a desirable solution??
?Fortunately, there is a fruitful solution. Most great nations are not
prepared to submit to an existing international language.
Nevertheless, many educated people all over the world, know an
important ancient language. Its words and lemmas support all western
languages and include most of all important meanings: It's ancient
Greek! Language and alphabet! All western civilization lies on the
ground of this richest and most fertile language. Almost all concepts
that give life a further meaning, are parts of the Greek language and
civilization. Democracy, Philosophy, Freedom. Justice, Logic, is just
a few of them. Unfortunately, no translation can provide the knowledge
of the deeper meaning of these concepts.?
From the Mudoc Corporation Think Tank:
?The evolution of our civilizations has been related in many ways to
the evolution of our languages. In the last few decades we have seen a
rapid acceleration in the evolution of our languages. The use of
English around the world is increasing faster than any other natural
language. And English as a linguistic medium is undergoing rapid and
dynamic changes. Also, we are witnessing marked growth in the formal
language known as mathematics and in our computer and programming
languages. On the other hand, we are seeing many of our natural
languages fade away because of limited use, especially those without
systems of writing and those in which little is published.?
?A Language Called "Easy"
The name tentatively assigned to the new language is Easy. The name
was selected because it will be designed to be easy to read ? and also
because it will be easy to learn, easy to remember, easy to
understand, easy to write, easy to speak, and easy to use with
computers. The name was also selected to continually remind the
developers of one of the primary requirements of the language.
Easy will be designed for expression in three forms: one spoken form
and two written forms.
Spoken Easy will be characterized by its regular and consistent
relationship with its written symbols, by its lack of homophones
(homonyms), by its efficiency, by its euphony, and by the ease with
which most people will be able to learn it. The regular relationship
between the sounds and written symbols will largely eliminate the need
for spelling training. Conversely, the pronunciation of any written
word will be self-evident because the symbols will consistently
require the same sounds. The regularity of spoken Easy will also make
it possible for individuals to converse effectively with computers,
unlike our natural languages, which make human/computer conversations
extremely complex and difficult. Because we usually learn spoken
languages before or at the same time as written languages, spoken Easy
will facilitate the teaching and learning of the written language
Esperanto was once thought to be the language of the future:
?Esperanto is a language, but not of any country or ethnic group: it
is a neutral, international language.
The basic rules and words of Esperanto were proposed by L. L. Zamenhof
at the end of the 19th century. Within a few years, people started
learning it and formed a worldwide community. Since then, Esperanto
has been in use (and freely evolving) just like any other language.?
?When Esperanto was first proposed, it was proposed as a solution to
the problem of communication among nations. Today, it is increasingly
advanced as an equitable, neutral means of international communication
alternative to the inequitable solution of English, which favors
native speakers of English (and accomplished non-native speakers as
well). One thing seems certain: using Esperanto to advance one?s
knowledge of the world leads one to places and ideas different from
those favored by the dominant culture of Global English.?
Finally, there is this argument: ?There are at least three strong
arguments in favor of preserving linguistic diversity. The first is
that the survival of the fittest principle does not apply to
languages. The second is that the world?s many languages encode
critical knowledge of use in areas such as land management, marine
technology, plant cultivation, and animal husbandry. Finally,
linguistic diversity is an irreplaceable resource for future
Survival of the Fittest Does Not Apply to Languages
Indigenous languages and cultures have often been dismissed as
primitive, backward-looking, and in need of replacement. When we
examine more closely the process which has led to the dominance of
English and a few other world languages, however, we see that it is
not a result of any intrinsic deficiency of indigenous languages.
Unequal rates of social change have resulted in striking disparities
in resources between developed and developing societies; these have
been converted into political domination. This imbalance has allowed a
few metropolitan groups a virtual stranglehold on global resources and
This is an interesting read:
I can?t tell you what language will dominate, but I CAN tell you which
language will NOT win! ;-)
I hope this has answered your question. If anything is unclear, please
request an Answer Clarification, and allow me to respond, before you
lingua franca in the 21st century
spoken languages of the future
human language + future
progression of human language
Evolution of language
dominate + languages + 2st century or twenty first century
dominant languages + 21st century or twenty first centur