English became the global language because of the power and influence of English speakers and English-speaking countries in modern times. In a nutshell, Britain was the leading colonial power during the 17th and 18th centuries, and the originator of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, while the United States was the world’s leading economic, political, military, scientific and cultural power throughout the 20th century and into the early 21st century. English is therefore the language most associated with how the modern world operates, or, in other words, the international system.
Some scholars have predicted that this situation will last well into the future, such as John Honey, who says “English is the world language – at least for the next 500 years, or until the Martians arrive.”
He’s probably being facetious when he talks about a Martian landing, but his point is it would take a monumental event to dislodge English as the global language. But when we look around the world today, we do see events that could be described as monumental, not the least of which is China’s rise.
This has prompted much interest in learning China’s official language, Modern Standard Chinese, commonly referred to as Mandarin. There may now be as many as 100 million people trying to acquire it around the world.
However, China’s future is by no means certain: It could become a superpower, a major power, or a threat, or even go into decline. Whatever happens will have implications for the global linguistic order.
There are three possible scenarios.
Read more: Asia Times