One of the frequent conversations at publishing houses is how to deal with the global mosaic of languages. Translate? License? Both? Neither?

In medicine, the area I’m most familiar with, every investigation of these questions has seemed to indicate a fairly widespread and growing facility with at least reading English texts, if not speaking conversational English. And the higher someone is in the professional ranks, the more likely they are to possess a complete facility with English. So, translation becomes about reaching deep into markets, not reaching the top echelons.

Today, more than 2 billion people are learning English as their second language — and that has astonishing implications. But it’s all in this talk by Jay Walker, who’s Library of the Human Imagination is but one of his many amazing accomplishments.

Happy Friday!

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Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson

Kent Anderson is the CEO of RedLink and RedLink Network, a past-President of SSP, and the founder of the Scholarly Kitchen. He has worked as Publisher at AAAS/Science, CEO/Publisher of JBJS, Inc., a publishing executive at the Massachusetts Medical Society, Publishing Director of the New England Journal of Medicine, and Director of Medical Journals at the American Academy of Pediatrics. Opinions on social media or blogs are his own.


4 Thoughts on "The World's English Mania — The Power of Pull and Opportunity"

V thought-provoking. And then there is the question of whether to use British-English or American-English. I am only a recent and reluctant convert to American-English as standard 😉

Kent, this was a very interesting video and I agree with Ginny, it is very thought provoking. However, I have lived in China. I think this video overstates the use of English there.

I suspect that some of the images shown here were part of the government’s efforts to teach rudimentary English to the residents of Beijing for the Olympics. I would question the statement that China is the largest English speaking country on the planet. That would mean that more than 300 million people speak English in China or nearly 1/4 of the population. I lived in Beijing, the most international of Chinese cities, even there I would estimate that less than 10% of Beijingers spoke English. The percentage of rural people who speak English would be closer to 0% than 25%. This is not to say that English is not popular in China; it is. Many of the young Chinese I met where very eager to learn and speak English. English is viewed as hip and modern among the young. But even in Beijing, only a small minority of young people speak English.

I did however observe a counter trend. Beijing (and I am sure other large Chinese cities) is chock-a-block with young Americans learning Mandarin, perhaps that is even a more important trend. English currently dominates because a clutch of English speaking countries (UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong) dominated world commerce. However, the era of English speaking countries dominating world commerce is coming to an end. Perhaps the large crowds shouting English in the video are not the more important development here. Perhaps the small but growing group of young Americans in China learning Mandarin represent the start of a new mania.

English has become a global language and learning it has become extremely necessary for all of us. It is the most widely used language out of the 4,000 to 5,000 live languages spoken in the world. There are a whopping 350 million native speakers of English. The use of English has become important in our day to day life and therefore a strong hold on the English language has become vital for the success of our lives. A fluent English speaker can expect a lot of things in his life. He can imagine of a beautiful foreign girlfriend, a nice car, a lovely house and many more things. Above all, people show a lot of respect to a fluent English speaker. Such is the power of English language.

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