The primary language used in trade and commerce worldwide has varied over time as well as geography. Latin and Greek in Europe, Chinese in parts of Asia, Sanskrit in the Indian subcontinent, Persian in Islamic countries of Asia and Africa and so on have been the dominant language for some time or the other over the years. More recently in the 19th century, French was the language of diplomacy and was used in royal courts of Germany, Russia, and Italy besides France and French colonies in Africa.
Over the last century or so, English has become the dominant language of business primarily due to the influence of British rule in the Commonwealth countries and emergence of US as economic superpower. Since World War II the influence of French has gradually waned being displaced by English. English is the primary language of over 400 million people across the world in addition to being the second language to millions more. The geographical spread of the English language is one of the factors for its domination.
It is the official language of the aviation world, being used for controlling airplane flights – landing, take off etc. English dominates science and technology, economics and finance at present. It is estimated that about 70% of the content in the internet is in English. With such domination, it is no wonder that professional translation services
are more tuned towards English to something and vice versa rather than between languages not involving English.
But it is not that other languages are dying or facing extinction. French continues to be the language of choice of the nouveaux riches
and remains fashionable in certain circles. The popularity of Chinese and Japanese is on the rise with more countries wanting to do business with them. Thus translation agencies
will continue to play important role in facilitating conduct of business between peoples of different countries.
With wide geographical spread, English has adapted itself to local culture and tastes. Thus we do not have ‘the English’ but several versions of the same. We have British version, American version, Australian version, African version, Indian version etc. all influenced by local culture and language. Modern English has freely borrowed words from French, Hindi; Arabic, Afrikaans etc. and has in turn enriched itself.
How English has evolved over the years to become International language of business and brought many disparate language speaking communities together by becoming the lingua franca is the subject matter of another blog.