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Why global English may mean the end of ‘English as a Foreign Language’

David Graddol

The moral rights of the author have been asserted. The opinions expressed in this book are not necessarily those of the British Council.

Designed and produced by The English Company (UK) Ltd Cover design by Intro (Last minor revision Jan 2007)

© British Council 2006The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We are registered in England as a charity.

The growth of the use of English as the world’s primary language for international communication has obviously been continuing for several decades. But even as the number of English speakers expands further there are signs that the globalpredominance of the language may fade within the foreseeable future. Complex international, economic, technological and cultural changes could start to diminish the leading position of English as the language of the world market, and UK interests which enjoy advantage from the breadth of English usage would consequently face new pressures. Those realistic possibilities are highlighted in the studypresented by David Graddol. His analysis should therefore end any complacency among those who may believe that the global position of English is so unassailable that the young generations of the United Kingdom do not need additional language capabilities.

David Graddol concludes that monoglot English graduates face a bleak economic future as qualified multilingual youngsters from other countriesare proving to have a competitive advantage over their British counterparts in global companies and organisations. Alongside that, many countries are introducing English into the primary curriculum but – to say the least – British schoolchildren and students do not appear to be gaining greater encouragement to achieve fluency in other languages. If left to themselves, such trends will diminish therelative strength of the English language in international education markets as the demand for educational resources in languages, such as Spanish, Arabic or Mandarin grows and international business process outsourcing in other languages such as Japanese, French and German, spreads. The changes identified by David Graddol all present clear and major challenges to the UK’s providers of Englishlanguage teaching to people of other countries and to broader education business sectors. The English language teaching sector directly earns nearly £1.3 billion for the UK in invisible exports and our other education related exports earn up to £10 billion a year more. As the international education market expands, the recent slow down in the numbers of international students studying in the mainEnglish-speaking countries is likely to continue, especially

if there are no effective strategic policies to prevent such slippage. Clearly, the effect of developments in that direction would not be limited to the commercial and educational sectors. Cultural and civil contacts and understanding would also be diluted. The anticipation of possible shifts in demand provided by this study gives allinterests and organisations which seek to nourish the learning and use of English with a basis for planning to meet the eventualities of what could be a very different operating environment in a decade’s time. That is a necessary and practical approach. In this as in much else, those who wish to influence the future must prepare for it.

Rt Hon Lord Neil Kinnock Chair of the British Council Contents

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Introduction: From modernity to postmodernity Section 1: Demography The global population Changing age structure People movement Demography trends Economy The rise of the BRICs Globalisation, ITO and BPO The knowledge...
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