Lazy Tommy wrote:it is conceivable that [English] might become the global language at some point.
It is already a
Not the language that the whole world speaks as a first language. Not the language that the whole world speaks as one of their
acquired languages. Not even the language that features as a (official, unofficial, circumstantial) second language to every country/sub-group that is not already natively anglophonic. But it has reach. For various historic reasons. (Mainly, but not exclusively, by the direct/tangential influence of the British Empire, and then of the American influence that rose to fill a gap and touched parts of the world that even the British may not have previously done.)
French might well have started the same (and French colonies remain French, even yet, in ways that British territories generally have not remained so British), but until somewhere like Quebec extends its influence/territories, it has been unable to add an 'American boost' to its claims. With the Acadamie Francais (with the right spelling, and at least one missing cedilla when it comes to accent marks) it has generally tried to rebuff 'Anglicisation' and other watering-down, but I'm not sure the lack of that hurt English any as it passed around the world (especially as we're happy to call it English even with annoying Americaniz
ations, etc, added into it).
German... didn't quite get the same start, but (together with the close cousin of the Netherlands and at least half
of Belgium) did still create a close family of "more Gemanic than English" languages into various additional non-European countries. Spain did
have a good start, as we were saying (with Portugal sneaking in a few claimants of its own), but those locales seem to me to be more insular. (The countries that use them might talk amongst themselves, but not press the issue beyond their own boundaries... "Los Malvinas" aside...)
I've been a bit Eurocentric, so far, so, wide afield: Other candidates might include those languages carried into far territories by way of religious observance (Arabic and Hebrew and Latin, for starters, although their respective religions have subtly different attitudes to how much their language is used in everyday life, outside of their 'home' countries'), but rather than a language of convenience these seem mostly to be languages that one (who is not already in that culture) learns if
they want to specifically communicate with those who 'natively' speak it, rather than to get to talk to other new (non-native!) speakers of the lingo.
In the exact opposite camp, there's something like Esperanto. Potentially everyone's
second language (except for the offspring of a few rather more dedicated parents, who might have taken things a bit further than most people would). At one point it was assumed that it might well become the "world language", but I'm not so sure any more. It's not dead or dying, but it's also not really represented by much more than a murmuring around the world.
An interesting one to look out for, I think, is a form of Chinese (i.e. Cantonese, probably, but maybe official Mandarin might win out, depending on the exact circumstances). Already "on the books" as having a truly large number of local speakers (by it being an astoundingly large 'locality'), there's been a large number of historical emigrants to 'the west'... but with official
Chinese forays into the wider world (a kind of latter-day Empire-building, by stealth or otherwise, after centuries of self-isolationism during (and perhaps because of!) the European trend towards expansionism), especially in a form of "economic colonialism", making links probably in line with the aspiraton to be a proven
superpower... and if that gets locals in African states to learn more Chinese than the chinese administrators/etc learn any local language/alternate non-local Lingua Franca...
(But I'm not good at foreign languages. It it isn't English, I'm at a severe disadvantage, so All Hail English As Lingua Franca! Not through laziness, but lack of ability/affinity. What I have is a smattering of schoolboy French (poor exam results, hardly used, very rusty), some German (learnt by necessity whilst working in Berlin, then mostly forgotten again) and a smattering of various Celtic languages (mostly picked up from roadsigns) that only slightly exceeds my expertise in Klingon...)