The Future of English

The Future of English


According to a new research publication, The Future of English: Global Perspectives, published by the British Council last month, English will retain its position as the world’s most widely spoken language over the next decade and teachers will continue to be at the heart of English learning, even in the face of increased automation, AI, and machine learning.

This is the first publication in a major program of research and global engagement started by the British Council in 2020. The Future of English research program will shine a light on the trends driving the use of English as a global language and provide data to inform policy makers, educators, researchers, and others interested in this important topic.

Key findings:

  • English is the most widely spoken language in the world. It is the global language of communication and is likely to retain this position for the next decade and beyond.
  • English will continue to play an important role, increasingly doing so alongside other languages to provide rich linguistic opportunities for learners all over the world.
  • There is a strong connection between the desire to learn English and the need for teachers, even when new technologies are considered.
  • The private sector can fill the gaps in public-sector language education provision and can increase opportunities for young people. However, the quality of some private provision is variable, and the report recommends greater collaboration between public and private providers.
  • Policymakers should continuously review the approach to assessing English proficiency to make sure assessment practices stay relevant for today’s study, work, and social interactions.
  • Technology has the potential to help greater numbers of students access language learning. But the publication found that it also risks widening the divide between people who have access to technology and those who do not.
  • Change is happening. The report notes that there has been a gradual, industry-led shift away from the ideal of mother-tongue fluency toward a more applied and contextualized approach to language proficiency.

The British Council will be driving data collection globally to inform future research. As part of their long-term commitment, they have initiated a major new Future of English research grant scheme, awarding the first four grants to UK-led international projects in 2022.
Alongside the new publication, the British Council is set to unveil a new Future of English touring exhibition. Mark Walker, director of English and exams at the British Council, commented: “At the British Council, English language teaching, learning, and assessment are at the heart of what we do. We champion the power of English to break down barriers and help millions of learners grow their skills, build international connections, and access life-changing opportunities.” The Future of English: Global Perspectives is authored by Mina Patel, Mike Solly, and Steve Copeland and edited by Professor Barry O’Sullivan (all of the British Council) and Professor Yan Jin (School of Foreign Languages, Shanghai Jiao Tong University and member of the British Council’s Assessments Advisory Board).