Shared concerns and new directions

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On a worldwide basis, for many students, the second language of choice is English, as it has come to be the language of international business and diplomacy, of science and technology, and of entertainment and the Internet. Some would argue that for such reasons English is the only language truly worth knowing. Nonetheless, history has shown us time and again that languages wax and wane in importance, and there is no reason to believe that English wi l l be the exception. The truth is that of an estimated world population of about 6 billion, English is the mother tongue of only 380 million people. However, English is spoken in some form as a second language by an estimated 1.6 billion people (Fishman, 1998-1999). In other words, English is not replacing the mother tongue. It is being added to an individual’s already existing linguistic repertoire and being learned in the context of bi-and multilingualism. Therefore, in spite of what some people think (particularly many who have grown up in the United States and who are English monolinguals), everyone in the world does not speak English nor is everyone studying English. Worldwide, people still prefer their local and regional languages, and nonnative speakers of English far outnumber the number of native English speakers . Indeed, as a reaction to the widespread use of English, many communities around the world are working to promote and strengthen the use of their local and minority languages.

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Handbook of Undergraduate Second Language Education

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