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    Today, when English is one of the major languages in the world, it requires an effort of the imagination to realize that this is a relatively recent thing – that in Shakespeare’s time, for example, only a few million people spoke English, and the language was not thought to be very important by the other nations of Europe, and was unknown to the rest of the world.

    English has become a world language because of its establishment as a mother tongue outside England, in all the continents of the world. This exporting of English began in the seventeenth century, with the first settlements in North America. Above all, it is the great growth of population in the United States, assisted by the massive immigration in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, that has given the English language its present standing in the world.

    People who speak English fall into one of three groups: those who have learned it as their native language; those who have learned it as their second language in a society that is mainly bilingual; and those who are forced to use it for practical purposes – administrative, professional or educational. One person in seven of the world’s entire population belongs to one of these three groups. Incredibly enough, 75% of the world’s mail and 60% of the world’s telephone calls are in English.

    Basic Characteristics.
    Simplicity of form.

    Old English, like modern German, French, Russian and Greek, had many inflections to show singular and plural, tense, person, etc. , but over the centuries words have been simplified. Verbs now have very few inflections, and adjectives do not change according to the noun.


    As a result of the loss of inflections, English has become, over the past five centuries, a very flexible language. Without inflections, the same word can operate as many different parts of speech. Many nouns and verbs have the same form, for example swim, walk, kiss, look, smile. We can talk about water to drink and to water the flowers; time to go and to time a race; a paper to read and to paper a room. Adjectives can be used as verbs. We warm our hands in front of a fire; if clothes are dirtied, they need to be cleaned and dried. Prepositions are also flexible. A sixty-year old man is nearing retirement; we can talk about a round of golf, cards, or drinks.

    Openness of Vocabulary.

    This involves the free admissions of words from other languages and easy creation of compounds and derivatives. Most world languages have contributed some words to English at some time, and the process is now being reversed. Purists of the French, Russian, and Japanese languages are resisting the arrival of English in their vocabulary.

    The Future of English.

    Geographically, English is the most widespread language on Earth, second only to Mandarin Chinese in the number of people who speak it. It is the language of business, technology, sport, and aviation. This will no doubt continue although the proposition that all other languages will die out is absurd.
    ( John and Liz Soars. Headway. Upper-Intermediate)

    Every year a magazine called Executive Travel organizes a competition to find the Airline of the Year. Travelers from all over the world are invited to vote for the most efficient, the most punctual, the safest and the friendliest airline. The winner in 1985 was British Airways. The competition asked travelers what for them was most important from an airline, and the results were as follows:
    Punctual departures and arrivals – 35%.
    Attentive cabin staff - 35%.
    Comfort - 18%.
    Safety - 9%.
    Good food and wine 9%.

    The competition also invited travelers to tell their most horrific stories of the nightmare side to international travel. Replies included six hijacks, fifty-three cases of engine failure or trouble with the landing gear, eleven lightning strikes, twenty-three bomb scares, thirteen cases of food poisoning, eleven near misses and two collisions with airport trucks.

    Bad flying experiences begin on the ground, naturally. One American airline managed to double-book an entire 747, but this is nothing compared to what happened on an internal flight on a certain African airline. The flight had been overbooked three times. The local military sorted the problem out by insisting that all passengers with boarding cards should run round the plane twice, the fastest getting the seats. An overbooked flight that was going from Heathrow to America gave one traveler a bit of a shock. Dressed only in trousers, shirt and socks, he had been allowed by the stewardess to leave the aircraft to see if he could get a colleague aboard. He returned a few minutes later to find the 747 closed up and about to start moving – with his shoes, wallet, passport and luggage inside. Banging frantically on the door got him back inside. A similar event was seen by a businessman on a flight from Bangladesh. Passengers were waiting for take-off when there was a sudden hysterical hammering on the door. At first the cabin crew paid no attention. The hammering continued. When the door was finally opened, the pilot got in.

    One frequent flier lost a certain confidence when the cabin staff asked him to sit in the lavatory during take-off, so that they could occupy the seats nearest the emergency exit. Another lost faith in the pilot’s navigational skills when passengers were given lifeboat drill on a flight between London and Manchester.

    For nervous fliers, a journey to be avoided was one between Gatwick and Montpellier, where the in-flight entertainment consisted of watching pieces of the engine falling off. Another passenger was asked to hold the aircraft door closed at take-off and landing.

    Baggage is a rich source of horror stories. There was the unlucky traveler who left Chicago in minus-23 weather. He was going to an important meeting in Dallas, where the temperature was 80-plus. Unfortunately his suitcase had gone to LA, where it spent the next two days. The customers he was trying to impress were more than a little surprised to see him going round in a thick suit, heavy overcoat and fur hat.
    ( Executive Travel Magazine , October 1985)