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Sunday, March 18, 2012


As I mentioned in a blog post about a trip to Portugal in 1981, we had been able to pick up cheap airline tickets in London. The reason became clear on the return flight. It had only a few passengers and, once off the ground, the pilot opened his door to the passenger cabin and invited us to join him.
I was surprised that though we were flying out of Portugal over Spain and then France, whenever there was radio contact with Air Traffic Control people on the ground, they always spoke English. It was obvious when the pilot explained why. There are well over 5000 separate languages spoken globally and when international flights began to be common in the 1940’s, an International Civil Aviation Organization [ICAO] was formed and an agreement was reached that members involved in international flights must be proficient in standard English radio phraseology. In 2008, the competency of ICAO members in English increased so they must now have mastered English as a general spoken language. That was but one ‘foot-in-the-door’ to predicting English would be the language to evolve into Panglish, a global language of the future.

Although there are 1,113 million Chinese and only 372 million people who speak English as their native tongue, still it is the second largest group with those who speak Hindi/Urdu third. When you think of it, there are many reasons that English is a natural choice for the global communications. First. with so much English colonial expansion around the world, many speak it as a second language or are at least familiar with it.

Many of the relatively recent advances in science, technology and communications have been made in English speaking countries. Add to that the tremendous affect of English media in broadcasting via global satellite TV and radio, making our culture readily available especially in newscasts, films and music world wide. Then include the development of the internet with all its English resources and ease of communication and you realize it is no wonder that English has made inroads in so many parts of the globe.

Apparently in the last 20 years or so, there has been so much growth in the use of the English that now it is the choice not only as the common language for economic and scientific communications, but also as the chief language of diplomacy, sport, pop music, tourism, etc.

There is now such a large global demand for teachers of English as a second language that it is predicted that in a few decades there will be more people using English as a second language than native speakers. It will then be they who have the upper hand in how English evolves and changes into Panglish. There is no precedent to help predict what will happen then but just as teenagers have developed their own special lingo for texting messaging, it probably won’t take long for transformations in English to catch on. It will be fascinating to witness the evolution of Panglish as a workable global language and I'm sorry I won’t be around to see it happen! Rie


  1. You're spot on about English and it's expected role in the not too distant future. One point : in linguistic circles this language is referred to as "globish." Whether it ends up with that moniker is anyone's guess.

  2. Thanks Marc - will mention Globish in my next post.

  3. A simplified global form of the English language characterized by a large variety of local dialects. See Globish.