An interview with David Crystal, leading English language expert

Prof. David Crystal ( is one of the world’s leading experts on the English language. Rakesh Bhanot recently spoke to him about English as the world’s lingua franca et al.

hat do you understand by the term international English?
All these terms (International English, International Standard English, World Standard English, English as Lingua Franca) show that people are groping towards a concept that is, at the moment very, inchoate.  English used to be very uni-locationally centred; it was either English or American English or a combination, and of which other varieties of English were seen as secondary, or ill-formed, or unimportant or even wrong in some sense. People are now realising that there are far more speakers of these Englishes, as other languages (or other varieties) than there are of British and American speakers combined. So, there is an attempt to take these other varieties seriously.

But is English here to stay as the lingua franca of the world?
It may or may not be. Nicholas Osler wrote a book a couple of years ago called The Last Lingua Franca. He takes the view that English will only stay a lingua franca as long as people want to learn it.

What do you think about the future of English, or Englishes?
All the evidence indicates that the current trends will continue. All the places in the world where you might think there is a ‘threat’ to English want to learn English. The Chinese are not bothered about promoting Chinese. Everybody there wants to learn English. We know China is growing as a global economic force and maybe in 100 years the situation will be reversed. However, in the immediate future, there will be no change. Long term a lot depends on what will happen on the technological front. There, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Think of the machine translating developments, as the Internet becomes more audio-based.. A few years ago, the only language on the Internet was English but now there are 2,000 languages there, and Chinese is about to take over as the number 1 language in terms of the percentage users

The above extracts are from a longer interview published in Vol. 23/1 of Language Issues the journal of the National Association of Teachers of English and other Community Languages to Adults (UK). Rakesh Bhanot is the Founder Editor of this journal.

By Rakesh Bhanot 

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