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Is the English language too powerful?

November 2, 2018 Articles, WEF
Even in countries with a powerful home language, the weight of English can be strong. Is this good for the world? Not only is English the most powerful language, it is more than twice as powerful as its closest rival, Mandarin Image: REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin 02 Nov 2018 Kai Chan Distinguished Fellow, INSEAD Innovation and Policy Initiative In 2016 I published the “Power Language Index”, a research note on the efficacy of languages. It was a systematic data-driven analysis using 20 indicators to compare the clout of the world’s languages. It tried to answer the question: which language best serves a person to engage in life from a global perspective? The index was designed as a cardinal measure, meaning that the output -- a number that ranges from zero (least powerful) to one (most powerful) -- not only ranks the languages, but also indicates the magnitude with which they are more or less influential vis-à-vis another. Not surprisingly, the index showed that English, with a score of 0.889, is most powerful. It is the world’s lingua franca. In second place is Mandarin at 0.411. So not only is English the most powerful language, it is more than twice as powerful as its…

The World’s Most Powerful Languages

May 22, 2017 Articles, INSEAD, Media / Op-ed
Kai L. Chan, Distinguished Fellow, INSEAD Innovation & Policy Initiative | May 22, 2017 What leaders should know about English and other languages competing for global influence. Should we all emulate Mark Zuckerberg and embrace speaking Mandarin? In April this year, U.S. President Donald Trump’s grandchildren (aged 5 and 2) engaged in soft diplomacy at the highest level when they sang in Mandarin for the Chinese president and his wife. Ten years ago, investor Jim Rogers even moved to Asia to provide his daughters with a strong Chinese learning environment. Language opens doors. Speaking more tongues means more opportunities to participate in conversations… or eavesdrop on them. It’s also clear that the power of a language goes beyond simple head count, not to mention that it’s difficult to count the number of speakers of a language given their various proficiencies. As someone who became a polyglot (five languages) in my 40s – proving that picking up languages in later years is not insurmountable – I grew interested in ranking the usefulness of languages in a scientific manner. I created the Power Language Index (PLI) as a thought experiment: If an alien were to land on Earth, what language would serve it…




These are the world’s most powerful languages:

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