English: The Universal Language

Whenever we meet with English language students, there are always a few who underestimate the language’s importance. Whether due to their limited exposure to English at work or their minimal use of it at home, these are the students who undervalue the role of English in their lives.

English is more critical than ever.

English is the language of business. English is the official language for many international corporations. Per this 2014 article from The Economist, this list includes well-known brands like Lufthansa, Lenovo, Honda, and Rakuten. Nokia, Microsoft in Beijing, Renault, SAP, and Samsung have also officially adopted English according to this article in the Harvard Business Review. Non-Anglophone corporations are embracing English at an increasing rate, a clear indicator of English’s mounting global prominence.

International organizations are following suit. One-third of international organizations (such as OPEC and ASEAN) use English as their only official language. Among Asian international organizations, this percentage rises to 90%.

English is the language of science. More than 75% of scientific papers are published in English. In some disciplines, this number is as high as 90%.

English is the language of the internet. Of the roughly 900 million websites on the Internet, 54.5% are in English. Of the 3 billion Internet users in the world, 851.6 million are English-speaking. The next closest language groups?  704.5 million users are Chinese-speaking and 245.2 million users are Spanish-speaking. English is leader in the Internet Age.

English is the language of the world. English is spoken in 101 countries and an official language in 35. Arabic is the second most widespread, spoken in 60 countries around the world and an official language in 22. French is third, spoken in 51 countries and an official language in 29. While English lags behind Chinese and Spanish in native speakers (335 million to Chinese’s 1.19 billion and Spanish’s 414 million), it ranks supreme in the number of language learners. There are currently 1.5 billion English language learners worldwide compared to Chinese’s 30 million and Spanish’s 14.5 million. The British Council estimates that there will be 2 billion English language learners by 2020. English’s nearest competitor is French with 82 million current learners. English is geographically and educationally dominant.

English is the global language.

Keep a look out for our next post when we discuss English’s path to prominence. How did the language grow from 26 million speakers in 1800 to roughly 1.5 billion today?

Sarah Ingerson, Advising & Testing Services Division, AMIDEAST. AMIDEAST distributes TOEIC® tests and other tests of English throughout the United States, and in the Middle East and North Africa. TOEIC, the Test of English for International Communication, enables test takers to measure their workplace English proficiency. Contact testing@amideast.org  for information on TOEIC or other English assessment solutions.

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