The odds against a Chinese dialect ever gaining traction as an international language are formidable A Russian, a Korean, and a Mexican walk into a bar. How do they communicate? In English, if at all, even though it’s not anyone’s native language. Swap out a bar for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in China this week, and the attending heads of state from those three countries still have to communicate in English: It’s the only official language of the APEC, even when the APEC gathers in Beijing. Mark Zuckerberg recently scored points during his own visit to Beijing when he made some remarks in Mandarin. The news sparked talk about whether China’s economic rise means Mandarin could someday rival English as a global language. Don’t count on it. Fluency in Mandarin will always be helpful for foreigners doing business in China, much like mastery of Portuguese will give you a leg up in Brazil. But Mandarin poses no threat to English as the world’s bridge language, the second tongue people turn to when communicating and doing commerce across borders. Thanks to the British empire, native English speakers are strategically sprinkled across the globe. English is also the native language of shared popular culture – music, movies, even sport, with the recent ascendance of England’s Premier League. And English is undeniably the language of the technologies connecting us all together. Most languages don’t even bother to coin terms for things like “the Internet” or “text” or “hashtag.” It’s little wonder that an estimated 2 billion people will speak functional English by 2020, the vast majority of them having learned it as their second language. English is an inherently neutral language: There is no gender in English as there are in Romance languages. There are no class or generational distinctions baked into the language, as there are with so many languages that feature different you’s with different verb conjugations – the deferential you (boss, elder, stranger) versus the familiar you (friend, subordinate, child). ...
|Scooped by Vlad Rassypninsky|
Vlad Rassypninsky's insight:
Andres Martinez is very convincing in advising us on why Mandarin won't be a lingua franca in the foreseeable future. No doubt, the intrinsic qualities of languages play their part when a language is chosen as a means of global communication.