Thursday, March 27, 2008

Whither the English language?

An article in the Daily Mail says that the English language as we know it today will change dramatically over the next 100 years or so, influenced by the many people around the world who now speak English as a second language. Most astonishingly, the article claims that by 2010 -- just two years from now -- only 350 million people world-wide will speak English as their first language.
A new global tongue called "Panglish" is expected to take over in the decades ahead, experts say.

Linguists say the language of Shakespeare and Dickens is evolving into a new, simplified form of English which will be spoken by billions of people around the world.

The changes are not being driven by Britons, Americans or Australians, but the growing number of people who speak English as a second language, New Scientist reports.

[ ... ]

By 2010 around two billion people - or a third of the world's population - will speak English as a second language. In contrast, just 350 million people will speak it as a first language.
Sorry, but I have to call bullshit on this one. Consider for a moment that between the world's major English-speaking countries -- Australia, Canada, Great Britain and the United States -- there are roughly 415 million people, the majority of whom speak English as their primary language. The math just doesn't work. And then there's this remark on Singaporean English:
Singaporean English, for instance, combines English with Malay, Tamil and Chinese and is difficult for English-speaking Westerners to understand.
Wrong again. I've been to Singapore, where English is the official language of commerce and government, and had no trouble understanding and being understood.

I think these linguists need to get out more.

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