In this provocative and persuasive new book, Nicholas Ostler challenges our assumption that English will continue to dominate as the global lingua franca.
Drawing on his encyclopaedic knowledge of world languages and their history, Ostler reveals that just as past great languages like Latin and Sanskrit have died out, so English will follow. The influence of English now is hard to exaggerate – it is the world’s preferred medium for business, science and entertainment, and is claimed to be a basic educational tool like mathematics or computing. So is it here to stay? For the last four centuries, the dominant world power has been English-speaking, but the global balance of power is shifting. And in countries like Brazil, Russia and China, English plays no part in the national tradition. Although globalization has helped the rise of English, trade, migration, economic development and technological innovation are now changing the way we access and use language.
Ostler shows how we are headed towards a much more multilingual and diverse future; as English retreats, no single language will take its place. We can embrace this future but first we need to accept it: the last competitive advantage of native English-speakers will soon be consigned to history.