Economic, demographic, and cultural changes have driven the establishment of English as the world’s primary language for international communication over other languages such as Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Japanese, French, and German.
In part this is due to the massive influence of The Internet which has made the world smaller and more accessible. Since English is the main Internet language, increased Internet usage means an increasing demand for English.
According to David Graddol in the British Council Publication called “English Next” the number of people learning English is likely to reach a peak of around 2 billion in the next 10 to 15 years, with a significant increase coming from Chinese students, estimated now at around 250 million English learners, increasing of about 20 million per year.
Despite the extraordinary changes of the last few years, one thing appears certain. More people than ever want to learn English. But, as a news headline, that’s not much of a story. We’ve all heard about the growing popularity of English around the world.
Far from being news, it has become one of the few enduring facts of global modern life – a trend that began in the late 19th century when English was heralded, from Europe to Japan, as the new rising world language.
Here’s an excerpt from an economic development brochure put out by the Hong King government (emphasis mine).
With a population of seven million, Hong Kong is a busy and energetic international metropolis. A friendly and accessible city, Hong Kong thrives on its strong work ethic and can-do attitude.
Hong Kong boasts a well-educated workforce, with almost half of all students attending universities at home or abroad. This local pool of experienced and entrepreneurial talent offers an essential mix of international market savvy with an appreciation of the business culture in the fast-growing Mainland cities, and across Asia.
In offices and boardrooms, English is the usual language of business, while many in Hong Kong speak English, Cantonese and Mandarin, providing another vital link to business with Mainland China markets and consumers. Hong Kong’s local pool of talent offers an essential mix of international market savvy with an appreciation of the business culture in Mainland China.
o Multi-lingual workforce – English is the language of business
o Highly trained, flexible and motivated population
o Experienced in travelling and working in Mainland China and throughout the region
o Familiar with the latest international business practices
o Strong work ethic – industrial action extremely rare
Welcome to Hong Kong, Asia’s Business Capital. Invest HK.
When the number of English speakers is used to lure investors, it is certain that English has “currency”, it has value, it can be monetized, and it is the fastest way to global business success.