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Will English Be A Dead Language?

Heard on the BBC this morning - English may become "a dead language" in a thousand years, or at least, a minority language, like French.  Dear me!  I am not sure becoming like French is such a disaster.  The English have relied a little too much lately on the soft power of their mother tongue, and it might do us all some corrective good to brush up on our Chinese, and learn some international and cultural humility.  That being said, I doubt that the poems and novels of the English language will be as dead as the Greats for some time, and I am sure that this new Classical English, however quaint and obscure, will be studied for a few more thousand years, if only by scholars and saints.  Though, it must be said, I am not yet convinced that human civilisation in its present consumerist form will survive.


Poetry Pleases! said…
Dear Todd

Having taught English for over twenty years I know that reports of its forthcoming demise are somewhat exaggerated. People think that English has become the world language purely as a result of colonialism. This is only partly true. Structuarally, English has an astonishing intrinsic power, economy and flexibility. The main problem that foreign learners face is the spelling. Compare it with French which has around half a million nouns where you have to guess the gender because there are no fixed rules. As for Chinese; hardly anyone outside China speaks it and I can't see that changing any time soon.

Best wishes from Simon
Sheenagh Pugh said…
Well, whatever else is dead in 1000 years, we surely will be!
As an English-speaker, the thought of belonging to a world-dominating Anglophone culture has always bothered me. Don't local and national characters get washed away, as we have seen just now with the rise of an American-style Halloween in Britain and the decline of November 5th? I would like to see the imperialistic English language taken down a peg or two.
Thoth Harris said…
I completely agree with Poetry Pleases on this. In addition, Todd, have you tried to learn any Chinese? It is not necessarily practical for other cultures (perhaps even for Chinese and Chinese-speakers progeny in the future) to learn Chinese. Like rice farmer, it is the result of years and years of painful practice, corporal punishment, rote memorization...add to this the fact that the Chinese language (which I'd say greatly influences the culture of its speakers) effects a kind of indirectness which is completely impractical in a modern, fast-paced life. One more reason why Chinese speakers want their children to learn English (and not all of them want their children to move to the West or even to study there. I teach English in Taiwan, so I have some familiarity with this subject.
Anyway, newspapers are always proclaiming the demise of everything, be it literature, film, the world, English, or earlobe hair.

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