What will be the languages of tomorrow? Be prepared to be surprised!

24th Aug 2015

According to recent figures, 480 million people speak English all over the world, but the language of Shakespeare is threatened by the economic and political challenges of a globalised world. In fact, by 2020 the number of native speakers will decrease significantly: only 300 million out of 2 billion people speaking English will be native speakers. Consequently, a new global tongue called Panglish - this word is a blend of the Greek pan, which means all, and English - is supposed to take over in the following decades, linguists predict.

As English becomes more shared in different fields, in business as well as in economics or finance, it will progressively fragment into regional dialects. This simplified form of English would present some pronunciation or grammar mistakes or new words adapted from other languages. Learning English is really simple and for this reason it is taken for granted that everyone speaks it properly! So it’s simplicity is at the same time a weakness. Now if you are wondering if Panglish will be the language of the future you are on the wrong track… That’s the point - new hard-to-learn languages are predicted to compromise English hegemony, as researchers claim. Doubtlessly you are thinking about Chinese, Russian and Arabic, but nothing is what it appears to be…

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One fifth of the planet speaks Chinese and China is the most populous nation in the world, so Chinese is definitely a “language of tomorrow”. Its growing economic power makes it the second largest economy in the world, right after the USA. Studying Chinese might scare a lot of people as it has thousands of characters (it is said that it has almost 80.000 thousands characters and a Chinese person with a good education knows approximately 8000 characters) and a very difficult phonetic system, but its grammar is relatively uncomplicated, It has no verb conjugation (there is no need to memorise verb tenses) and no noun declension (which means no number and gender distinctions). Pretty simple, isn't it?

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After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian economy started to grow and now Russia is on the podium of the world powers. With its 285 million people, Russian is the sixth most spoken language in the world. Economists state that Russia will certainly remain an influential economic power in future, with very active cross-border commerce with the EU, China and Central Asia. That's why the Russian language has seen such an increasing number of people studying it. Another reason that leads people to study Russian is that many Russians refuse to speak English, so if you speak their language you will have more possibilities of working with them.

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221 million speakers and being the official language of over twenty countries makes us think that Arabic is definitely a language of the future. Moreover, many more millions know Arabic as a foreign language, since it is the liturgical language of Islam. There is more that confirms Arabic as a language of tomorrow and it can be found, once again, in its economy. In fact, Arabic-speaking nations with their huge export market for goods and services are a fast growing market for trade.

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But we are sure you would have never said that FRENCH would be the most spoken language by 2050! In effect, it is really weird thinking about its strength, even though 250 million people speak the language of Baudelaire all over the world. Yes, it is true that French remains an official language in many international institutions, from the UN to the European Union, but it is only sixth in the rank of most spoken languages. Furthermore, the population of France itself isn’t facing a demographic boom, mais on ne parle pas français seulement dans l’Hexagone! Actually there are some regions growing fast where French is spoken, let’s think, for example, about sub-Saharan Africa; it is clear that the awareness of French importance is spreading. So the data suggests that French language could be the language of the future: the latest projection is that French will be spoken by 750 million people by 2050, but only 8 percent will be French People and the majority of French Speakers will live in Africa.

So French is supposed to become a global language, la langue de l’avenir, but will English remain the Lingua Franca?

Alessio Foderi and Asja Gregori – Interns at Pearl Linguistics 

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