Queen’s lingo


English, which is Zimbabwe’s official language although it is a first language for only four or five percent of the population, is now the world’s primary language.

It is now the official language of 1.4 billion people yet it is the first language of only a quarter of these people.

While most people would tend to believe that French, German, Spanish -languages of major former colonisers- follow closely behind English, they fall way, way behind.

Chinese with about 1.1 billion speakers, about the population of China itself is the second most spoken language in the world and is followed by Hindi which has some 700 million speakers.

Hindi is mostly spoken in the world’s largest democracy, India. Incidentally India has more than 10 official languages. Besides Hindi, these are English, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Telegu and Urdu.

Spanish is two steps ahead of French with just over 200 million speakers and is followed by Russian with just slightly fewer speakers and then comes French, Arabic, Portuguese, Malay and Bengali.

The only official language which is also a first language is Bengali, followed by Chinese, Portuguese, Arabic, and Spanish. Hindi is only a first language for about a quarter of its speakers and the same applies to Malay and French.

English has been brought to the forefront by the British colonisers who made it an official language of most of their colonies except a few which have more than one official language like the former East Africa where Swahili is also an official language.

America because of its financial power also had a wide influence especially during the cold war years.

English is now the language of computers. It is replacing German as the language of technology and is challenging French as the language of diplomacy.


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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