Santiago Iniguez, Dean of IE Business School.
Globalisation has fostered multiple interactions among members of different cultures to a stage never known before. Furthermore, it is forseeable that modern technologies, internet and the Web will intensify this communication to unimaginable extremes. It is very likely that in the near future you will have as many, or even more, friends in other continents than at home. The fact that your future friends may live in your antipodes will not pose any problem since you will have access to cheap, friendly and very advanced technologies that will recreate in a very vivid –even more intellectually intense- way current face -to-face conversations and relations.
This cosmopolitan on-line world will be geatly enhanced by the development of very sophisticated instant translation. Looking forward five years, Eric Schmidt (CEO Google) predicted simultaneous translation and truth prediction (the probability that a statement is true, sometimes difficult to judge in a foreign language). However even if this occurs, different cultures will still need to use a vehicular language, sometimes referred to as "lingua franca", that is, a language which is used by a relevant number of people worldwide and that serves as an instrument for effective communication. An illustrative historical example of vehicular languages is Latin, widely extended and imposed during the Roman Empire and, interestingly, the language used by academics in the middle ages. Vehicular languages are different to vernacular languages, sometimes called "native tongue", and are used mainly or exclusively in a given country or region.
Today, English is the most widely used vehicular language and, in fact, the global working language par excellence. Its native speakers –if India is included- represent the greatest force worldwide, followed by Chinese and Spanish. The Web is probably the main acid test to anticipate which will be the prevalent vehicular languages of the future. Here, again, English keeps its supremacy and it seems it will become even most widely used, the "Esperanto" of our times.
English has also become the language of global education, as described in a recent article of The New York Times, "English as Language of Global Education", where I was quoted (article also appeared in the International Herald Tribune). There I referred to "working English", a vehicular language far from pure Oxonian English and used, effectively, by billions of humans: a mixture of each owns' vernacular expressions and accents with standard English. This has driven many people to talk about mixed languages such as "Spanglish" or "Englisch". Some believe that this jeopardises the integrity of the English language; others that it is English at its most sublime. What do you think?
The students of today, and the managers of tomorrow, should be able to communicate effectively in at least two vehicular languages, in addition to their own native one. Vehicular languages are the key to open other cultures. Indeed, a way to bring civilisations together, or create new ones.