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Will The World Speak a Single Language?

For those born in the English world, who have lived all their lives talking and communicating in one language, the idea that the entire world may speak one language in a slightly distant future may not be very disturbing nor novel. For those in the non-English world, it may sound a little disconcerting, but only so. For historians, culture specialists and others, it would be very very disturbing. From a global perspective, it seems like a great idea.

Let's take a case in India. For the record, India speaks many languages. One generation ago, my parents were educated in Malayalam and continued in English after their 10th grade/standard since higher education is usually in English. A generation before that my grandparents were educated in Tamil.

I was educated in English. Today, I can talk in Tamil, Malayalam and read a bit of both. Most (all, I guess) of the books I read are in English. I recently read a Marathi book which was the first ever book I read in a language other than English. It will probably be the last one too.

During my school days in Mumbai, there were Marathi medium (schools which used Marathi as a medium of instruction) schools. The number of students who enroll in non-English schools is decreasing day by day, at least in urban areas.

They prefer an English medium school since fluency (and not just basic understanding) in English opens many doors later on in life. I was educated in an English medium school with Marathi and Hindi as second languages. Parents (and students) in rural areas would prefer English medium instruction if they had access to such schools. And why not. English opens many doors (with the IT and BPO revolution, knowledge of English is more a necessity).

Rural areas are helping sustain languages, but how long and for whom? If people don't read regional language papers and novels, who will write? (For all practical purposes, active linguistic populations of these languages are more than many European nations), for how long? Higher education is in English in any case, since most research is done in 'English' so to say.

With the boom in IT, English is no longer a matter of choice, it is de rigeur. Notwithstanding linguistic chauvinists, it is only a question of time before English becomes the first language of choice at least in India and perhaps the world. The position for the second language may well be taken by our mother tongues, but over time, they may be reduced to dialects.

This trend has been observed not just in India I chanced upon a report from Australia. Is there something that should be done about it? Or is it just the ebb and flow of globalization? Even the Chinese are taking to English, so is English the language of the future global world? (as much as the French may fret and fume)

Written by ECOPHILO. Originally appeared on their Blog
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