chapter
72 Pages

Europe

The spectacular advance of English across the face of the globe is a phenomenon without parallel in the history of mankind. At international conferences and economic summits, at business meetings and academic symposiums, over the airwaves and electronic networks, between airline pilots and traffic controllers, and between captains of ships at sea, English is overwhelmingly the medium of communication. It is the official language of dozens of countries in which only a small percentage of the population actually speaks it. It is the working language of a number of international organizations (the European Free Trade Association, for one) whose membership does not include a single English-speaking nation. In many countries a knowledge of English is helpful – and in some cases essential – for obtaining a certain job or pursuing a certain career. No one can even guess the number of people in the world who are currently studying English as a second language. But a “snowball effect” is clearly taking place; the more people there are in the world who already speak English, the more the rest of the world will want to, and is striving to, learn it and join the club.