In a recent article on Forbes.com Pascal-Emmanuel Gorby talks about languages of the future. We all know that currently English is undoubtedly the world's lingua franca and has been for quite some time now. It is the language people all over the world use to communicate with each other, be it for social or professional reasons. It is the global language of business and commerce, technology and culture. But how long will the dominance of the English language last and will it at some point be replaced by some other language? According to the article, French may well be the language of the future. How likely is that to happen?
According to Mr Gorby's reasoning, French is a fast-growing language, due to the fact that it is widely spoken in many countries of sub-Saharan Africa and those countries are undergoing a period of explosive population growth. That is a valid point. The number of French speakers will most definitely increase substantially over the coming decades. French is already one of the most widely spoken languages on the planet as it is.
However, that fact alone does not guarantee that French will become our new lingua franca, the language of choice for people across the globe. There are over 1 billion Chinese speakers in the world, yet how many of us Europeans, for example, are able to say even a few words in Chinese? Yes, Mandarin Chinese is gaining in popularity and there is a lot of talk in the media about it becoming the new global language, due to China's newly found economic and political clout and the rise of China as a new superpower. Yet it is highly unlikely that Chinese will ever replace English as the preferred language of international communication for one simple reason. It is a highly difficult language to master.
While French is certainly nowhere near as complicated as Chinese, make no mistake, it is still a rather difficult language to learn, in particular, when it comes to spelling. Verb conjugations, accents, subjunctive verb forms - learning French is certainly not a walk in the park. The point of a universal language is that it has to be easy enough for most people to achieve fluency in. English has the good fortune of being a perfectly straightforward, concise language and that's one of the main reasons for its current popularity.
Another problem with French is that it has not evolved as much as other languages over time. There are strict and rigid norms attached to it and any deviation from those norms is generally frowned upon. It lacks the flexibility and adaptability required to achieve the status of the language of international communication.
Personally I am of the view that English will remain the global language. It is the language of the present and the language of the future. And if that were to change for any reason, I think Spanish, not French, will take its place. It is easier to learn. French is a gorgeous language and it has millions of admirers around the world, including myself. I am proud of being able to speak it. But something tells me that millions of people around the world will continue using English to make themselves understood by those who do not speak their language, be it for business or personal reasons, for many, many decades to come.