I’ve not read the book – it’s not out till later in November – but Ostler is chairman of the Foundation For Endangered Languages, so presumably knows a thing or two about how languages decline.
He seems to believe that developments in machine translation, coupled with the fact that English is a language spread through “recruitment” – a lingua franca – rather than through “nurture” – a mother tongue – mean English will ultimately go the same way as Persian, Sanskrit and Latin.
What do you think? Do you believe English will one day die out as a language? And if it does, what will happen to all those unemployed TEFL teachers?
Let us know in the comments if you read the book, and what you think of it!
Nicholas Ostler contacted me to clarify:
“The claim that ‘English will die out’ is not one that I make in my book. I’m sure it has an indefinite future as a mother-tongue. It’s its service as a lingua-franca, a world language, that I see as time-limited.”