Question
Asked 28th Jul, 2015

Why is English the dominant language of business?

As companies “go global” from wherever they are headquartered, they are forced to address language barriers with their overseas employees and customers. Global organizations are increasingly choosing English as their common communication language, even though more people speak Chinese worldwide than any other language. Adopters of English include Air-bus (headquartered in France), Daimler-Chrysler (United States), Fast Retailing (Japan), Nokia (Finland), Samsung (Seoul), and SAP (Germany).
A worldwide study indicated that 25 percent of jobs require employees to interact with people in other countries, including over jobs for more than half the workers in India, Singapore, and Saudi Arabia. Of these jobs, two-thirds require English. “English has emerged as the default language for business around the world," concluded Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs.
One reason English is the dominant language of business and of the Internet is that it is the native language in over more than 60 nations, and increasingly the official secondary language elsewhere. While employees in native English-speaking countries are at a distinct advantage, so are employees in countries where English proficiency is high, such as Singapore, Malaysia, Scandinavia, and the Netherlands. Employees in other nations where English proficiency is lower—such as Panama, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Libya—are conversely disadvantaged.
Establishing English is not just a matter of teaching employees the language. Change brings shock and threatens the cultural identity of some people, while others may not be able to master a new language quickly. As a result, team dynamics and performance can suffer, compliance may be unreliable, cohesiveness may faction, employees may stop sharing needed information, and good people may terminate their employment.
Sources: D. Clarke, “English— – The Language of Global Business?” Forbes (October 26, 2012), http://www.forbes.com/sites/dorieclark/2012/10/26/english-the-language-of-global-business/; J. Lauring and J. Selmer, “International Language Management and Diversity Climate in Multicultural Organizations,” International Business Review (April 2012), pp. 156–-166; L. Louhiala-Salminen and A. Kankaaranta, “Language as an Issue in International Internal Communication: English or Local Language? If English, what English?” Public Relations Review (June 20120), pp. 262–-269; C. Michaud, “English the Preferred Language for Business: Poll,” Reuters (May 16, 2012), http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/16/us-language-idUSBRE84F0OK20120516; and T. Neeley, “Global Business Speaks English: Why You Need a Language Strategy Now,” Harvard Business Review (May 2012), pp. 117–-124.

Most recent answer

19th Jun, 2022
Chuck A Arize
Texas A&M University-Commerce
The reason why English remains to be the language of business to this day is because historically, Great Britain and the United States experienced massive economic growth in the last two centuries. Both countries rose to economic power, and where there is trade, there is opportunity.

Popular Answers (1)

9th Aug, 2015
Fateh Mebarek-Oudina
Université 20 août 1955-Skikda
Dear colleagues,
Yes, really after the 2nd world war to now the English language was imposed as a global language. With its easy to learn and speak becomes the dominant language for business and science.
Best regards
12 Recommendations

All Answers (40)

29th Jul, 2015
Costas Drossos
University of Patras
I think that the English language was imposed as a global language, after the victory of mainly Aglo-americans in the 2nd world war. By trying now to rationalise other choices is mainly ineffective!  
6 Recommendations
29th Jul, 2015
BK Punia
Guru Jambheshwar University of Science & Technology
This is related to human psyche wherein we think that if we converse  in English is denotes high society and elevated status. There is no harm in English conversation when both parties cannot speak in each others' mother tongue and herein English can be a better way of communication. But if we conversate in our mother tongue is offers better clarity of the things and more intimacy for future business and personal reasons. However, communication in English has definitely one superior quality that you can discuss on the matters in which you otherwise find communicate in your mother tongue.        
7 Recommendations
29th Jul, 2015
Subhash C. Kundu
Gurugram University Gurugram
The fastest-spreading language in human history, English is spoken at a useful level by some 1.75 billion people worldwide—that’s one in every four of us. There are close to 385 million native speakers in countries like the U.S. and Australia, about a billion fluent speakers in formerly colonized nations such as India and Nigeria, and millions of people around the world who’ve studied it as a second language. An estimated 565 million people use it on the internet.
There’s no question that unrestricted multilingualism is inefficient and can prevent important interactions from taking place and get in the way of achieving key goals. The need to tightly coordinate tasks and work with customers and partners worldwide has accelerated the move toward English as the official language of business no matter where companies are headquartered.
--- English is the main language of these countries where there is lots of languages spoken, like in India where more than 700 languages are spoken by their local people.
--- is also one of the most studied language all across the world, most of the countries teach it as a second language from primary school.
--- As per the statistics, it said that the English language is one of the easiest languages to learn, if we compare it with languages like Chinese, German, French and even Spanish.
--- Worldwide we see that most of the communication sources, information and material sold or given to us are in English, for example: films, TV shows, music, documentaries, popular brands
5 Recommendations
29th Jul, 2015
Paul Louangrath
Bangkok University
Economic, political and military powers or influence at the global stage of the English speaking countries, such as the US and England since WWII set the stage for the role of English as the "dominant language." Recall that during the Cold War, socialist countries under the Social influence people learn Russian. Publication and research under the Soviet sphere at that time used Russian as the medium. With the demise of the Cold War, the language used in the global stage remains English.
5 Recommendations
29th Jul, 2015
Krishnan Umachandran
NELCAST
Yes, a Global language in all walks of life.
English is well on its way a dominant global language. Good in fields such as science and business where a common language brings efficiency gains
4 Recommendations
29th Jul, 2015
Marcel M. Lambrechts
Centre d'Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive
@Subhash: English is easier to learn as a second language?
2 Recommendations
29th Jul, 2015
Bonga Wellington Garikai
Dynamic Research Review
It is very true that English seems too common in business transactions. One of the reason is that the flow of English in many parts of the world has got a first-mover advantage, though some languages like Chinese has dominated in proportion. Also level of acceptability and preferences has a role to play.
4 Recommendations
29th Jul, 2015
Subhash C. Kundu
Gurugram University Gurugram
Yes, Dear Marcel,
English is comparatively easier to learn and speak.
3 Recommendations
29th Jul, 2015
Johannes Gruenwald
Gruenwald Laboratories GmbH
I think that you cannot pin the dominance of English on one single reason as there are several factors that contribute to that.
First each period in european history from the 17th century onward had its own dominant language. In the 1600's the primary language of the aristocraty was Spanish due to the vast amounts of Spanish colonies and the wealth and power, which came therefrom (before that it was actually Latin - also the language of science at that time). After the bancruptcy of the Spanish empire French took over until the beginning/midst of 18th century (it is still the primary language in diplomacy). This had its roots in the french revolution and the Napolean wars.
English became dominant in the very late 19th century up to now. The foundation for this is to be found in the british colonisation of large parts of the earth (so most of the world's population at that time was governed by the British, except the USA, which was also speaking English). As the colonies got more and more independent the two world wars happened and after WW II some main economic breakthroughs were also made in the US and GB. The most prominent example is the computer and information technology. As in the beginning mostly English speaking scientists and engineers were working in that field most of the technical expressions were in English. This is just one example, but there are many, many more....
With the wide spread of computer and information technologies also the English language spread further and further and this is how it is today, but in maybe hundred years I am quite sure we will have another dominant language (based on the experiences from the past).
3 Recommendations
29th Jul, 2015
James R Knaub
Home-based research, Retired US Fed Govt
It really is not fair, but it is easier if everyone can speak the same language at times.  I know I'm very lucky that the current international language is English, since that is the only language I really know! 
English, like any language, I suppose, has quirks that are difficult to fathom. However, if the alternative is Mandarin, wouldn't that be even more difficult for more people, as it does not use an alphabet?  I suppose that business contracts, etc., could be translated, and translation software, written and spoken, is advancing, I suppose, but I would expect that the many characters could be a problem for some time into the future. Or does anyone know of any breakthroughs in translation software?  
2 Recommendations
29th Jul, 2015
H Chris Ransford
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Subhash,
Immediately usable English is indeed comparatively easier - you don't need to know about gender and different plurals and declensions and whatnot to make yourself understood. 
Precise and elegant English is however, quite difficult. The lexicon of English has more words than any other world language, for instance. I keep being surprised how non-native mostly speakers prefer to read translations of English-language novels rather than the original, for instance, and how one can almost always tell whether even an extremely short text was written by a native or non native speaker.... It may surprise you that I find German, for instance, far easier, past the initial difficulties of gender etc., because it is  so much more logical, with a far more limited and far more logically constructed wordstock
5 Recommendations
29th Jul, 2015
Han Ping Fung
HP Inc.
Think English is the dominant language of business due to the following factors:
1) The influence of British through its colonization periods in many countries like in US and today's Commonwealth countries - causing these countries' people use more English or make English as official language.
2) English is relatively easier to learn, speak & words rich - from 1 to 26 alphabets can make many permutation of words that we can use.
3) More & more international companies are mandating English as the common corporate language e.g. Airbus, Daimler-Chrysler, Fast Retailing, Nokia, Renault, Samsung, SAP etc. - see these 2 links:
4) Many reference books, new scientific discovery or technological development including R&D reports / articles are first available / published in English - hence forcing researcher / student to learn English to read up the reports / articles at first hand instead of waiting them to be translated into other languages.
5) Many terms / terminologies in different social science disciplines like accounting, business, economics, laws etc are already available in English making using it for learning, communication and business transaction are more prevalent.
6) Standardization / commonly learn & use of English by majority of the people in the world eliminating the required effort for interpretation and translation in which this will take more time & more human error in interpreting & translating etc.
5 Recommendations
31st Jul, 2015
Mahamad Nabab Alam
National Institute of Technology, Warangal
It was spread previously all over the world because of that......
4 Recommendations
9th Aug, 2015
Fateh Mebarek-Oudina
Université 20 août 1955-Skikda
Dear colleagues,
Yes, really after the 2nd world war to now the English language was imposed as a global language. With its easy to learn and speak becomes the dominant language for business and science.
Best regards
12 Recommendations
Deleted profile
Easy to learn, easy grammar, and appropriate, updated, business terminology.  
7 Recommendations
9th Aug, 2015
Fateh Mebarek-Oudina
Université 20 août 1955-Skikda
Absolutely, @ George Stoica
6 Recommendations
9th Aug, 2015
Fatima Mohammed Hussen
An-Najah National University
I think that the English language become  a global language, after the 2nd world war.it seems easy language in learning and applications
3 Recommendations
10th Aug, 2015
Miranda Yeoh
SEAMEO RECSAM
I agree with several answers.  It's not so easy for humans to get over reasons of History that have put the English language where it is today as the international language of global communication, business and science.  As a country that was a British colony, that obtained independence through negotiations and not through war, I have a great admiration for the preciseness and beauty of language as expressed by Shakespeare, William Wordsworth, Bunyan and other writers.  Having learned English from the cradle, I am very thankful that I am now teaching science in English, and have the privilege to teach my students both science and English, and spark a passion for both.
3 Recommendations
10th Aug, 2015
Subhash C. Kundu
Gurugram University Gurugram
As English is comparatively easy, adaptive language and most spoken language in the world.
2 Recommendations
10th Aug, 2015
Shafagat Mahmudova
Institute of Information Technology, Azebaijan National Academy of Sciences
Dear  Haitham Hmoud Alshibly, 
Ready or not, English is now the global language of business. More and more multinational companies are mandating English as the common corporate language—Airbus, Daimler-Chrysler, Fast Retailing, Nokia, Renault, Samsung, SAP, Technicolor, and Microsoft in Beijing, to name a few—in an attempt to facilitate communication and performance across geographically diverse functions and business endeavors.
Regards, Shafagat
2 Recommendations
10th Aug, 2015
Fateh Mebarek-Oudina
Université 20 août 1955-Skikda
Dear colleagues,
Without knowing the reasons, this is the first world  language in all areas.
Best regards
7 Recommendations
11th Aug, 2015
Subhash C. Kundu
Gurugram University Gurugram
English as a common business language makes for an easy choice.  A common language facilitates socialization processes, communication, and team building. Social identity theory suggests that language barriers set boundaries with many unwanted consequences. Moreover, the alternatives to a single common language are costly and cumbersome.
3 Recommendations
30th Nov, 2015
Haitham Hmoud Alshibly
Al-Balqa' Applied University
Thank you for the opinion expressed and advice. 
Regards
21st Apr, 2017
Haitham Hmoud Alshibly
Al-Balqa' Applied University
Very interesting answers and opinions..thank you all
8th Nov, 2017
Adel Ben Lakhdhar Oueslati
University of Monastir
Hi,
The English language is dominat in the field of business for many reasons namely: ease of learning and speaking. The importance of this language is not born today. She has deep roots in history. We know that the English have colonized many very large areas all over the world, in all the continents and in the west and east. Under these conditions, the Great Britain has become an empire with extremely important economic, military, cultural, social and demographic potential. Because of this, the English empire was known by the empire where the sun does not lie. This power took these roots following the industrial and scientific revolution and it was considered the first world power with France in the centuries 16, 17, 18, 19 and early 20th century. Subsequently, the first world power was occupied by the United States and the Soviet Union. During the centuries mentioned above, the English language has been mastered written and spoken by almost half or even more of the people of our world. Already, several countries are adopting the English language as their mother tongue.
In spite of the change of the world order, the English language has come more and more mastered by the totality of the peoples of the world. This importance is explained by the links of the countries of the world with the United States. For, science and technology come largely from the United States and exchanges between countries requires the English language. On the other hand the majority of the exchanges between the countries of world is done in American Dollar, so it is another factor in favor of propagation of the English language.
The subject is very vast. I stop here.
With best regards.
Dr. Adel OUESLATI
1 Recommendation
16th Nov, 2017
H Chris Ransford
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
BTW - this analysis, first posted on the Quora forum, might be relevant here:
Q: Which language has the most words?
A: There are more words in English than any known historical language (the OED lists about 700K words, most counts however reach a million-odd words. In comparison, Cicero’s Latin had about 38K words, the tongue of the Vikings and their sagas featured about that same number. In modern languages, the 4-volume Littré French dictionary lists about 105K words. German is full of compound words, making it difficult to count, but even when including the compounds, 500K words seems to be the upper limit - and compounds are all words like handschuh = handshoe (i.e. glove), Wörterbuch (wordsbook = dictionary, Brustwarze - I let you guess that one, etc.), which do not do much to enrich the lexicon.)
3 separate historical factors have led to this:
1- Multiple origins.
English is one of the few world languages with multiple wordstock sources (Japanese and Armenian do as well, but to a more restricted extent.) In modern English, there is almost invariably multiple Germanic and Latin and Greek words around any concept (seldom/rarely/infrequently, begin/start/initiate/commence/inaugurate/debut , fast/quick/swift/rapid/speedy/celeritous etc….. )
2- Differentiation
English has the unique habit of splitting words into new versions to reflect even slightly different meanings: e.g., the Latin noun praetium becomes both price and prize (whereas the one French source word ‘prix’ is used for both), the Germanic heathen also yields hoyden (& further adding to the lexicon, English also has its Latin counterpart ‘pagan’ ), the single German word Baum (for tree) doubles up in English and becomes both beam and boom (at a train crossing), the Germanic source of the word garden spawns no less than 4 words (yard, garth, garden, the second element of the word ‘orchard’), and this historical trend abides to this day, witness light (lightweight) becoming ‘lite’ for soft drinks (justifiably so, because the drink does not weigh less than its full calory counterparts), a lead article becomes the ‘lede’ rather than lead, and so on ad infinitum.
3- Easy grammar allows for more take-ups
Whenever a new word comes into English, there is no ambiguity as to what, say, its plural or gender would be. In German for instance, there are so many different forms of the plural, 3 separate genders, and different declension schemes, that any potential new loanword is faced with a subtle barrier: what should its declension/gender/plural be? , which slows down and often bars take-up, as more familiar existing words are used instead.
The end result is the largest lexicon/vocabulary/wordstock/lexis in known history. This makes for a great post-modern language, where shadings of meaning are built within words rather than in modifiers (e.g., seldom is a bit less rare than rarely, for instance, whereas both the kindred German selten and the French rarement cover the full spectrum of meaning split over these two words in English)
Most new learners of English believe at the outset that English is ‘easy’ - because their criteria for difficulty are the wonted, pre-modern ones (to wit, grammar - try Sanskrit or Icelandic grammar for size … and weep.) Yet the difficulty in English springs precisely from its huge lexicon, and how to deploy it judiciously. This is why so few ‘foreigners’ speak English elegantly, or can write a full text without soon bewraying their ‘non-native’ origins.
1 Recommendation
16th Nov, 2017
Leonardo Cannizzaro
Italian National Research Council
I fully agree with Johannes and I am firmly convinced that the dominant language changes over time. I just hope that the next dominant language, which according to Johannes will come in about a century, is not the Chinese, even though today is the most spoken language in the world. Today, about one person in 6 (1,200,000,000) speaks Chinese, while English is spoken by about one person in 8 (360,000,000 mother tongue and 500,000,000 second language). Of course I have nothing against the Chinese and their language but at over 150 years of age maybe for me it will be a bit difficult to learn Chinese.
1 Recommendation
27th Nov, 2017
Rustom Mamlook
Al Dar University College
"Current figures show that there are 350 million native speakers of English, spreading into at least 100 territories. English has become the main language in the UK, Australia, the USA and South Africa. And, even in those countries where English is not the official language, it has become the adopted first language of governments, education and international communications. "
From:
1 Recommendation
6th Dec, 2017
H Chris Ransford
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
A further thought -
According to the pre-modern, traditional yardsticks of judging whether a language is difficult, English appears simple: no elaborate grammar, no different declensions, no different genders, plurals, etc..
The problem is, elaborate declensions, arbitrary genders, arbitrarily different plural-making schemes within the language, and so on, contribute exactly nothing to the expressiveness of the tongue - and might even detract from it. Whether a table is masculine (German), feminine (French), whether you use different declensions for certain verbs or not, whether you use a different plural for a forest and a table (German), it’s all very arbitrary and ultimately utterly useless and meaningless - it contributes nothing to the job of the tongue, which is to communicate quickly and efficiently as many precise shadings of thought as possible.
A different yardstick is called for: those who blithely say that English is easy would be extremely hard put attempting to write a simple popular novel, à la, say, Stephen King or Cormac McCarthy. Mistakes of appreciation of meaning & vocabulary tend to be the norm rather than the exception: at the Rental Car counter the other day in a European city I was traveling through, a sign apologized for some inconvenience and then concluded : thank you for your comprehension - not realizing at all that ‘thank you for your comprehension’ means : ‘thank you for properly understanding this written text’, not at all thank you for understanding our predicament, the fact that we’re doing our best, and for your forbearance. Such real-life examples are just innumerable.
English has the biggest lexicon of any language in history, backed up by an array of modifiers (e.g. the difference between ‘to soften’ and ‘to soften up’), etc. Used in a rough and ready way, it is simple (which is perhaps the reason why it has become the lingua franca). Used elegantly and with precision, it is very difficult - witness so many texts written by highly educated non-native people who think their English is excellent, yet are riddled with errors.
1 Recommendation
26th Dec, 2017
Haitham Hmoud Alshibly
Al-Balqa' Applied University
Very interesting answers and opinions..thank you all
31st Dec, 2017
Haitham Hmoud Alshibly
Al-Balqa' Applied University
Happy New Year friends!
16th Feb, 2018
Haitham Hmoud Alshibly
Al-Balqa' Applied University
Thank you all for your valuable answers.
3rd May, 2018
Haitham Hmoud Alshibly
Al-Balqa' Applied University
Thank you for your insightful comments.
16th Sep, 2018
Haitham Hmoud Alshibly
Al-Balqa' Applied University
Thank you for your insightful comments.
1 Recommendation
16th Sep, 2018
Anjay kumar Mishra
Madan Bhandari Memorial Academy Nepal
it is ensuring the global connectivity. as outsourcing , offshoring and global partnering are causing business in which English plays ....
1 Recommendation
12th Mar, 2019
Haitham Hmoud Alshibly
Al-Balqa' Applied University
Thank you all for your valuable answers.
1 Recommendation
29th Mar, 2022
Chuck A Arize
Texas A&M University-Commerce
That is because the British colonized most parts of the world
2 Recommendations
8th May, 2022
Chuck A Arize
Texas A&M University-Commerce
Great Britain and the United States experienced massive economic growth in the last two centuries. Both countries rose to economic power, and where there is trade, there is opportunity.

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