English is THE Second Language

Newsweek International has published an article on the rise of English around the world. English instruction is a billion-dollar business and growing. But what’s most fascinating is that non-native English speakers now outnumber native English speakers. Check out these article excerpts:

    Within a decade, 2 billion people will be studying English and about half the world—some 3 billion people—will speak it, according to a recent report from the British Council.

    Non-native speakers of English now outnumber native speakers 3 to 1, according to English-language expert David Crystal, whose numerous books include “English as a Global Language.” “There’s never before been a language that’s been spoken by more people as a second than a first,” he says. In Asia alone, the number of English-users has topped 350 million—roughly the combined populations of the United States, Britain and Canada. There are more Chinese children studying English—about 100 million—than there are Britons.

Does this mean that companies don’t need to translate their Web sites?

Not exactly.

Every study I have read about the purchasing habits of non-native English speakers says that people prefer to purchase goods in their native language. That doesn’t mean they won’t purchase in another language, just that they’re more likely to purchase in their native language. Which is why we’re witnessing a rush of US companies creating Spanish-language Web sites for the US market.

The article also notes the fascinating rise of hybrid languages such as Spanglish (Spanish/English) Englog (Tagalog/ English), and Japlish (Japanese/English). Non-native English speakers are making English their own, melding the languages together in ways that is bound to keep grammarians pulling out their hair for generations to come.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.