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The Future of The English Language

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It is considered that English would like to become a lingua franca without clear cut between formal and informal languages and there will be increasingly more varieties of Englishes. However, it is impossible that the varieties of English used in different parts of the world will fragment into various unintelligible languages. In this essay, these two issues will be explained in details.

Firstly, in terms of the historical aspect, because of two diasporas, English was firstly spread to North America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Then, it was spread to Africa and many parts of Asia, such as Hong Kong and Singapore. In these countries or cities, after the colonial periods, English became the official or semi-official language due to various reasons (Crystal, 2002). In terms of the economic aspect, since the economic power of the US developed rapidly, overtaking the UK, and achieved the dominant economic position in the world (Jenkins, 2015). As a result, American culture became much more influential around the globe. For instance, Disneyland and its related movies are extremely welcome by children from all over the world. Non-native English speakers, consequently, learn American English when they watch Disney movies and listen to related English songs.

There are some other factors related to globalization making English achieve a global status. To be more details, it is the main language of the world’s books, newspapers and advertising. It is the official international language of airports and air traffic control. It is the language of international business of diplomacy, of sports. Over two-thirds of the world’s scientists writes in English. Three-quarters of the world’s mail is written in English (Crystal, 2002). Consequently, English is considered as a lingua franca. However, in the future, it is most likely not to be the only lingua franca in the world because of increased regional communication, informal market interaction, migration, religious and the efforts of organizations as well as government committees. Both Mandarin and Arabic are good illustrations. Mandarin is spreading through out China and some of its southern neighbors due to the population explosion in the communities that speak Mandarin natively, the growth of Mandarin-speaking migrants a well as the rapid development of international trade, business and communication among China and other countries. Arabic is spreading in North Africa and South Asia both as the language of Islam and as an important language of regional trade (Fishman, 1998).

Since English is no longer the only lingua franca in the world, as a result, in the coming future, people probably learn more than one foreign languages except for their mother tongues. In other words, a majority of people are likely to become multilingual. Instead of using languages separately, they are likely to code-switch between languages in order to be associated with each language or ‘keep a foot in each camp’ (Swann & Sinka, 2007). Just like what is mentioned previously, due to various aspects of factors such as two diasporas, the rapid growth of the economic power of the US and globalization, compared with other languages, English has greater cultural influence on the world and has been spread much wider. Consequently, English is more commonly used by speakers from all over the world rather than other global languages. That is why it is predicted that English probably would become the matrix language of all kinds of code-switching such as English-Spanish code-switching and English-Cantonese code-switching.

Secondly, it is predicted that there will be no clear cut between formal and informal English languages. With the rapid development of information technology, increasingly more people apply social medias such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Whatsapp to their life. They are not only for daily purposes among friends and family members, nowadays, social medias are applied to the contexts of workplaces. For instance, Google and Cisco rely on video medias (e.g. YouTube) to share recruiting videos as well as keynotes speeches and press announcements with their employees and investors (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Furthermore, Savitha (n.d.) claimed that these social medias are originally considered to be informal spaces of networking and communication. Emoji, abstractions, simple forms and incomplete sentences can always be found in various formats of texts posted on the social media. Sometimes, making mistakes is acceptable in informal texts.

Traditionally, all these issues are not permitted in formal texts. However, recently, these informal formats are being accepted. A good case in point is that Bill Marriott, Chairman and CEO of the Marriott International Hotel chain, uses his blog to post regular updates of Marriott properties around the world very much in the same way as would a work colleague when describing her vocation (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). Depending on previous discussion, it is assumed that instead of traditional landline telephone as well as sending written correspondence through postal service in quite formal formats, people are extremely likely to form various online communities in order to fulfill various social functions. In these online communities, they possibly communicate and exchange information by blending formal languages with informal languages as well. In other words, in the future, people are likely to pay more attention to the content of communication rather than the formality of the use of language, which probably creates an increasingly ambiguous line between formal and informal English languages.

Finally, it is predicted that there possibly be increasingly more varieties of Englishes. Due to the growth of information technology, some online communities exist. Furthermore, since globalization leads to the increased mobility, communities are likely to be more fluid with people migrating to and pro as well. As a result, new cultural practices emerge along with these new communities.

Considering that language is a part of culture and culture is embedded in language, different new varieties of Englishes emerge when the English language itself alters in order to adapt to the emergent cultures of the diverse communities using it (Li, 2015; Crystal, 2012). For example, if a British lawyer has lived and worked in Singapore for a long period of time, his British English accent, vocabulary and grammar would possibly be affected by Singlish (e.g. John kena hit by the elephant) so that a new variety may be formed. Such process is also called glocalisation. Since both globalisation and glocalisation are seen as processes, their forces will continue changing people’s lives and the English languages, leading to more new Englishes except for existing new Englishes formed by historical factors and local identities such as American English and Singlish. Some people claimed that the varieties of English used in different parts of the world will fragment into various unintelligible languages. However, it is oversimplified.

First of all, language is attached to politics factors. To make a dialect become a language, people need to reflect whether the community has a single unity about promoting their code as a language as well as whether this community has enough political and economic power to influence the decision and gain respect from outsiders. However, for most countries, the establishment attitudes towards new Englishes are still generally negative. It is considered that if new Englishes are applied to official contexts such as schools, social media and governments, there will be negative impact on the national reputations as well as their aims for greater international roles. For instance, in Singapore, the prime minister Goh Chok Tong appealed Singaporeans to cut down on the use of Singlish and maintain the use of standard English in 1999 and has launched the Speak Good English Movement since 2003 (Crystal, 2012). In a nutshell, new varieties of English are more likely to be considered as dialects rather than languages and limited to casual speeches among people in grass-root level only as standard English still plays a significant role in all official functions.

In addition, people’s attitudes towards new Englishes contribute to this issue as well. The relationship between language and identities is related to the promotion of a language. According to Joseph (2004), language and identity are ‘ultimately inseparable’. In Hong Kong English, for instance, Hongkongers enjoy adding an extra vowel at the end of a word. Instead of pronouncing ‘bus’ in [bʌs], Hongkongers often pronounce it in [bʌsi:] to show their local identities. However, standard English is still more welcome by most schools. For both non-native speaker (NNS) and native speaker (NS) teachers, a staunch belief in the primacy of NS English is deeply ingrained in their minds. The legitimacy of NNS regional accents are still not acceptable by the teachers so that they approximate these accents as closely to the standard one as possible (Jenkins, 2007). In other words, on the one hand, the pull imposed by the need of social identity, which leads to the growth of various new Englishes could be balanced by the pull imposed by the consistence of the standard English accent. At the formal level, there may be increasing mutual unintelligiblity while at the latter level, there might not (Crystal, 2012). These two phenomenons can be neutralized by each other. On the other hand, even though some new varieties of Englishes are likely to become a language, due to the existing of LFC, these languages are probably still intelligible.

For linguistic features, firstly, it is predicted that the process of standardization can possibly prevent the English language from unintelligibility. During the standardization period, a variety will be selected as the standard. Depending on the grammar and vocabulary of the standard variety, norms are set by linguists. They also extend the standard variety to a wider range of functions. Then norms are imposed and variability suppressed. Such a process is continuous since English is descriptive.

According to Johnson (1755), there is no dictionary of a language can be perfect since when it is hastening to publication, some words are budding and some are falling away. It means that each language is unsteady and will change along with the development of a country or a society. As soon as the English language changed, it should be standardized again. During the process of standardization, a number of references such as dictionaries and grammar books are produced by both grammarians and lexicographers. NNS and NS speak English by following the norms mentioned on these references. In addition, according to Jenkins (2007), Lingua Franca Core (LFC) has fairly proved in maintaining the intelligibility of new Englishes. As long as NNS of English follow some certain shared principles mentioned in LFC during communication, they will generally understand each other even though they may speak in various new varieties of Englishes. For instance, in accordance with LFC, consonant deletion is not allowed. That is to say, the word ‘script’ should not be pronounced in [skrit]. Instead, it should be pronounced in [skript]. As a result, even though speakers may have different accents, to some extent, they still can understand each other as long as standardization is not stopped and speakers follow the LFC. Consequently, English language can be prevented from fragmenting into different unintelligible languages.

In a nutshell, English probably becomes one of the lingua franca and be consisted of a number of new varieties. There may be no clear cut between formal and informal English but it is hard to fragment into unintelligible languages. Finally, English probably be the matrix language when people code-switch among various varieties.

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The Future of the English Language. (2018, September 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 6, 2022, from
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