NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

English Dominates Business World -- Even In France

September 15, 2000

It may not be the latest news that global business negotiation are being conducted more and more in English. But when that happens in France -- the global headquarters of the battle against American cultural hegemony -- something big must be happening.

It's not just that the rest of the world is accommodating English speakers. A French speaker converses with an Italian counterpart in English. Germans now use English in communicating with Russians or Scandinavians -- thankful for the ease of English compared to having to learn Swedish or Norwegian.

Many factors have combined in the triumph of English: world political leaders employing it to sway British or American political opinion, the advent of the polyglot European Union, American entertainment, to name a few. But perhaps no factor has been so important as the impact of the Internet -- where activities as diverse as investing to forwarding jokes requires English.

  • According to the European Union, 47 percent of Western Europeans -- including the British and Irish -- speak English well enough to carry on a conversation.
  • That compares to 32 percent who speak German and 28 percent who speak French.
  • Some 77 percent of Western European college students speak English -- along with 69 percent of managers, and 65 percent of those ages 15 to 24.
  • In the secondary schools of the European Union's non-English-speaking countries, 91 percent of students study English.

Only a decade and a half ago, college students throughout the world were studying Japanese to prepare themselves to do business with what was supposed to be the world's foremost technological, financial and economic power.

Source: Justin Fox, "The Triumph of English," Fortune, September 18, 2000.


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