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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Today's amazing statistic: half have knowledge of English

“According to the British Council, backed by many other reliable sources, about half the world's population – 3.5 billion people – have knowledge of, or acquaintance with, "some kind of English".”

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/nov/27/translation-creating-global-language

 

Of course, this number will depend on what qualifies as “some kind of English”, but it’s still amazing.

 

Much of this spread was imperial – either in terms of the British empire or American media or computerization. But it’s still interesting given the fact that English is not really a great language. Off the top of my head:

 

Weaknesses

 

Spelling is both nonstandard and somewhat illogical.

Pronunciation are both nonstandard and somewhat illogical.

Lots of unrelated synonyms reflecting work origins in Anglo-Saxon/German and French/Latin.

 

 

Strengths

 

Uses an alphabet with a small number of symbols.

Does not use tonality.

Does not have a central authority governing usage, so anybody can add a word.

Nouns don’t have sex.