What is 'Lingua Franca'?
Languages have been evolving and changing since they came into existence. The term 'Lingua Franca' refers to a dominant language that make it possible for communication between two people that don't share a mother tongue.
English has been a dominant language in the world for a good chunk of recent history, and owned the space of business, commerce, science and aviation. Thus English is the current Lingua Franca of the world today.
The world is changing though, and other languages are becoming much more dominant as the world shrinks and populations increase. English may not always be the Lingua Franca it is in present day, and there may be more than one dominant one in the near future. So let's take a look at the main languages in the world today, and what kind of future they all hold.
English is a germanic language, uses the roman alphabet and not only is spoken widely as a first language throughout the world, but is the most spoken second language on the planet. It's origins are of course from the United Kingdom, but became a force in the world due to the United States and other English speaking nations such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the other commonwealth nations.
Arabic is an ancient language, spoken throughout the middle east and parts of North Africa, it's widespread use will only increase in the future.
Arabic is not yet significant as a business language when compared to languages like English Chinese and Spanish. The future significance of Arabic as a business language and as a ligua franca will depend on the political stability and economic growth of the Middle East.
China has not only the largest population in the entire world, but will soon have an economy that will surpass the United States. This means that the Chinese language, specifically Mandarin is now a very important language for international business and politics.
Spread throughout the world when when Spain sought out to conquer the new world just as the other European nations did, Spanish is fast becoming a dominant first and second language.
Spanish is of course dominant in Spain and Latin America, but due to the proximity of Mexico to the United States this language has made huge strides in becoming a common language in many parts of the US.
Portuguese is a widely spoken language, not because of it's mother country, but more so because of the South American economic powerhouse Brazil. In fact Brazil is so influential over the language that Portugal has adopted new words and terms in the language that came from Brazil.
Japan has had the third most powerful economy in the world after the United States and China. This alone makes Japanese an important language for international business, however due to the rise of other economies such as China, and the fact that Japanese emigration has always been very low, it's becoming less important on the world stage.
Russia is still one of the most powerful countries in the world, the biggest by land size and one of the leaders in energy, technology and science. The Russian language however, much like Japanese is really only relevant within it's mother country.
So... Will English stay as the Lingua Franca of the world?
So what does all of this mean? Will English stay as the dominant language in the world used to communicate between the nations for science, commerce, aviation, etc.? Or will it be Chinese, perhaps Spanish, maybe even a combination of all three.
My opinion is that for the next few decades, yes, it will stay as the Lingua Franca for the entire planet, as more people are learning this language every day. China for example is teaching it's people English at a very fast pace to assist in their goal of being the dominant economic power in the world.
I do feel that the other two languages mentioned above Chinese and Spanish will become increasingly important global languages that in 50 years will be essential for anybody doing international business to know. You won't have to be perfectly fluent in these languages, however having enough of a grasp of them for even basic communication would be a huge benefit to almost anybody.