The Battle For English


2020032320200326 (R4)

The English language has long been accustomed to global dominance. Once the language of Empire, it is now the language of business. politics, academia, technology and even popular culture and sport. Lexicographer Susie Dent leaves Countdown’s Dictionary Corner to investigate the global dominance of English in a rapidly changing world.

Teaching English as a second language is still a massive industry and Susie visits a college in London to find out why English is still the most popular language to learn. She also visits a primary school in Oxford where the curriculum includes Mandarin as an important global language of the future.

With an estimated 2.3 billion English speakers in the world, only one in five have spoken the language since birth. Susie explores the changes in the English used by non-native speakers including the development of technical versions in areas such as banking, science and technology, and the hybrid Englishes such as Hinglish when two languages come together.

Susie interviews leading linguists and academics including Professor David Crystal whose books include the Cambridge Encyclopedia of English and Nicholas Oster who predicts that English will eventually go the way of ancient lingua francas such as Latin, Greek, Persian. She hears from those who predict the main threats to English as the global lingua franca could be the rise of Mandarin across South East Asia and the dominance of Spanish in Latin America, as well as the use of machine translation.

Presenter: Susie Dent
Producer: Sara Parker and Louise Adamson
Executive Producer: Samir Shah
A Juniper production for BBC Radio 4

Lexicographer Susie Dent investigates the future of English as a global lingua franca.