It is no secret that it pays handsomely to be bilingual in the world we live in today. However, have you ever wondered what influences the choice of which language to learn in addition to our mother tongue? Would it pay to speak Serbian and Magyar or Polish and Japanese? What is it with the recent urge to speak particular languages such as English, French, Spanish and even Mandarin? Recently conducted research shows that by 2040, English, French, Spanish and Mandarin will be spoken by about 90% of the world's population (either as a first or second language). Is this a good or a bad thing? It is evident that there are several advantages associated with speaking more than one language. However, in terms of cultural diversity the bias associated with bilingualism could have a negative effect in the long run. This article will discuss four languages and their potential rise to global dominance.
The importance of English is widely recognised in most countries. English is the official language in fifty four countries, twenty-seven non-sovereign entities and about twelve international organisations including the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee. It is the third most common native language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. Modern English is sometimes described as the first global lingua franca as it is often required as the international language of communications, science, diplomacy, information technology, etc. A working knowledge of English has become a requirement in a number of fields, occupations and professions such as medicine and computing and as a consequence over a billion people speak English to at least a basic level i.e. they see English as a foreign or second language. Linguistics professor, Ruth Pickvance calculated that the number of non-native speakers now outnumber native speakers by a ratio of 3:1.
French is a "Romance Language" spoken by three hundred and ninety million (390 million) people.