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Experts: Only a nuclear war will dethrone English from its unprecedented position

Linguists disagree on the question of whether the spread of English is irreversible, or whether it will also be suppressed, as happened to international languages ​​before it

Singapore. English is the queen of languages ​​at the beginning of the 21st century - no one disputes that anymore. There may be more people whose mother tongue is Chinese, Spanish or Hindi, but they speak English in cross-cultural encounters, and teach their children English to make them citizens of the world. The question is whether English will also be pushed aside, as Latin, French and Arabic were pushed before it - which were also used as international communication languages ​​- or is it here to stay.

Some linguists say today that there is a chance that English will never be deposed from its position as the queen of languages. Other linguists do foresee pitfalls on the way, but the factors they mention only illustrate how strong English is today in the world. In their opinion, only extreme revolutions such as nuclear war, climate change or the development of perfect translation machines will make English redundant.

On the other hand, there are those who insist that linguistic evolution will continue in the centuries to come, and that English will eventually die out - as happened to the previous kingdoms. "In the 15th century, the future of Latin looked incredibly bright," said Nicholas Ostler, who authored a book on the history of Latin. "In the 20th century, the future of English looks incredibly bright." However, experts in the English language such as David Crystal, say that the world has undergone such a drastic change, and history can no longer be relied upon. "This is the first time that there is a language that is actually spoken in every country in the world. There is no precedent for this to help us predict what will happen," he said.

Most academics agree that English is too widespread and too well-established to die out, but may change shape entirely. Today, with the beginning of the new millennium, a quarter of the world's population knows how to communicate in English at some level - but as English spreads, it branches into families of dialects and sometimes even into full languages, called Englishes (various forms of English). New local forms of English have appeared in places like Singapore, Nigeria and the Caribbean, although the high literacy rate and exposure to the media may actually slow down the natural diversification process.

Therefore, English may be able to survive in its simple and international form, which is sometimes referred to as "Globish", at the same time as the new languages ​​that developed from it. "There are too many words in English," says Jean-Paul Nerrier, a former vice president at IBM USA, of French origin. Naria proposed his own version of Globish, which has only 15 words for those whose mother tongue is not English. According to him, "We are the majority, therefore the way we speak English should be the official way of speaking".

As more and more new forms of simple and reduced English appear around the world, the dialects spoken in Britain and America may become local dialects only - they will be two more forms of English, alongside the "Singlish" spoken in Singapore and China or the "Taglish" spoken in the Philippines.

According to most estimates, 400 million people in the world speak English as a first language, while 300-500 million speak it fluently as a second language and about 750 million as a foreign language. But in the end, according to Ostler, these impressive figures may be practically meaningless. The technological development that pushed English to its top position is also the one that can dethrone it. "The introduction will solve the translation problems by means of automatic interpretation," Ostler said, "the need for a common language will have a technical replacement."

English in numbers

1.5 billion

Humans are able to communicate at some level in English

400 million

Humans speak English as a first language

500-300 million

Humans speak English fluently as a second language

15 thousand

Simple words exist in "Globish" - the global English of the 21st century 
By Seth Maidens, Herald Tribune 

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