English language usage and politicians’ prowess | Letters

Terence McSweeney explains why English is often used internationally, Steve Callaghan says politicians need to invest in modern language teaching across all sectors, Philip Stewart recalls a teacher exchange scheme shunned by Thatcher, Anke Neibig explains why fewer students are taking up languages, and Paul Tattam on how the media can help

I too have worked in many countries, in my case as an engineer. Jan Wiczkowski (Letters, 12 April) seems to want to ignore the historical reasons for the disproportionate weight of the English language internationally. They are many. For instance, a Polish company drawing up a contract with a Chinese customer will see that contract employ English law. The international language of aviation, and of the oil industry, is English.

Countries with heavily dialected languages (for example, in Flanders and Switzerland) will see the natives use English when they can’t understand people from just 30 miles away. I saw this in Belgium when friends from Antwerp had to use English to order beer in a cafe in Breda! The colossal reach of the BBC is another reason why English is the default language around the world, as is the fact of the vast bulk of engineering having originated in the UK.

Continue reading...