Rupert Goodwins' Diary 02.04.2001

Tuesday 27/03/2001One side effect of the international blossoming of the Internet is that English as the global lingua franca (*) has had another huge boost. God may or may not be an Englishman, but Tim Berners-Lee certainly is; even the chaps over in the United States who created the rest of the Internet speak what can be thought of as some form of English.

Tuesday
27/03/2001 One side effect of the international blossoming of the Internet is that English as the global lingua franca (*) has had another huge boost. God may or may not be an Englishman, but Tim Berners-Lee certainly is; even the chaps over in the United States who created the rest of the Internet speak what can be thought of as some form of English. A study released today says that, curiously, the role of English makes the language worth some £5 billion -- though whether this means that Microsoft can now buy it and assume control is not made clear. There are lots of these studies, and like all studies they're either wrong or so ephemeral as to be of minor interest only. Most of the Web will be Chinese by 2007, according to one. What does seem to be happening is that web sites in non-English speaking places have an English component for global appreciation and then a side in the local tongue, invariably richer and more interesting. There's not much doubt, pace the French and the Germans, that the adoption of English as everyone's second language won't harm the primary languages one bit -- even in places where English has lived alongside the native spracht for centuries, such as Malta, both are in fine fettle. Meanwhile, Alta Vista's Babelfish translator goes from strength to strength. Since they added Japanese, the ability of the monoglot gadget-mad to peruse what Sony, Sharp, Toshiba et al are really up to has been enormously enhanced. Give it a go -- it's fascinating. (*) Lingua Franca -- A Latin phrase meaning literally, the Tongue of the Franks (ie, French) but idiomatically meaning a universal language -- at the moment, English. And you wonder why linguists are odd people?