The English language is one of the most spoken languages in the world, with an estimated 1.4 billion speakers worldwide at the time of writing.

This is more than the 1.1 billion people who speak Chinese Mandarin.

If any language had any claim to being the global lingua franca, it would be English. While a language like Mandarin is also spoken by an enormous population, it is concentrated in only a few Asian countries, whereas English is spread out and spoken globally. The English language is spoken in 146 countries all over the world, in comparison to Mandarin’s 38 in Asia.

However, what is truly impressive about the position of English is not just the number of countries in which it is spoken as a native or second language, it is the extraordinary amount of international communication that takes place in it. People from countries where English is not spoken internally also often rely on it when communicating with other people from different cultures and linguistic backgrounds.

It is the language of international diplomacy, technology, sport, entertainment and even science. On the scientific front, 98 percent of scientific papers are published in English. International gatherings featuring people from different linguistic backgrounds are usually held in English. Although different languages such as Akkadian, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and even French have played this role of a lingua franca, throughout recorded history, none have done it on such a ubiquitous scale.

As the world evolves and newer technologies emerge, the position of English might change. While it currently serves to break cultural and linguistic barriers and unite people for business, commerce, education and diplomacy, the invention of technological devices or tools that can facilitate inter-linguistic communication without the need for learning another language will likely lead to reduced emphasis on English.

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Nonetheless, that is still a long way off in the future. Emphasis must be placed on the role of the custodians of English in this century.

Who Are the Custodians of English?

The custodians of English are the curriculum developers in schools and universities. They are the staff of university English departments, teachers, and students of the language. These are the people who have been entrusted with keeping the populace informed in the adequate use of the English language.

Like every other language, English is alive. It grows and changes, perhaps even more than any other because it is continually exposed to thousands of different cultures all over the world.

The language keeps evolving, but are we following its trends?

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