Monday, February 17, 2014

The Académie Française may be prickly about the advance of English; but there is no real alternative as a global business language

Lenovo is one of a growing number of multinationals from the non-Anglophone world that have made English their official language
 comments The Economist's Schumpeter section.
The fashion began in places with small populations but global ambitions such as Singapore (which retained English as its lingua franca when it left the British empire in 1963), the Nordic countries and Switzerland. Goran Lindahl, a former boss of ABB, a Swiss-Swedish engineering giant, once described its official language as “poor English”. The practice spread to the big European countries: numerous German and French multinationals now use English in board meetings and official documents.

 … The Académie française may be prickly about the advance of English. But there is no real alternative as a global business language. The most plausible contender, Mandarin Chinese, is one of the world’s most difficult to master, and least computer-friendly. It is not even universal in China: more than 400m people there do not speak it.

 … English can provide a neutral language in a merger: when Germany’s Hoechst and France’s Rhône-Poulenc combined in 1999 to create Aventis, they decided it would be run in English, in part to avoid choosing between their respective languages.