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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

9 - Conclusion

Summary

We have tracked down the English language in its historical diffusion, across several continents, moving into all kinds of countries and blending with all kinds of cultures. Certainly this is a most remarkable process, resulting from and at the same time enabling further degrees of globalization, the world becoming a single “global village,” as Marshall McLuhan predicted in the 1960s. We have seen that this process has many forms and facets, and it can be viewed from a variety of perspectives – political, social, pedagogical, structural – you name it.

Has this been a success story? Somehow yes, certainly – but the focus on English as a language should not distract our attention from the fact that essentially all of this is about people and their desire to communicate with each other. Communication to our mutual benefit is what counts. If English serves as a useful tool in this process, fine; if other languages – indigenous ones, regional ones, other global ones – do the job, all the better. What the world needs is peaceful mutual respect; there is no need for any people or any language to dominate others. (I realize I'm being idealistic here, but ideals are important as goals, even if by their very nature they do not conform to reality.) There have been speculations on the future of English (Graddol 1997), and one view is that English will actually be declining again, with other national and regional languages like Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia, Hindi, or Spanish growing, together with their native speaker numbers.