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December 17, 2004

3 Billion English Speakers by 2015

A study for the British Council has predicted that in just over a decade, half the world's population will be speaking English, leading to a huge worldwide boom in the ELT. Two billion people are expected to start learning English within the next 10 years, and three billion will speak it by 2015. But the EFL boom is not expected to last, as more and more children receive early English education as they learn to read and write, and many universities are turning to English as the chosen language of instruction. The number of EFL students will drop to 500 million by 2050.

The findings are the result of computer-modelled simulations by Open University lecturer David Graddol, and were presented last week as 'The Future of English' at the Council's 'Going Global' Conference on International Education in Edinburgh. The conference is the first to look at the future of an industry that is worth 11 billion ($21 billion) to the UK economy.

The model used UNESCO estimates for education provision, demographic projections, government education policies and international student mobility figures, as well as other factors affecting world population. But although English is set to become even more of a global language, other languages such as Chinese, Arabic and Spanish are also expected to see growth rather than decline. French is expected to be a casualty of the global changes, while German is enjoying growing popularity in parts of Asia.
Download British Council report (Microsoft Word file)

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