Editor’s note: The following is a press release produced by the British Council. It has been slightly revised for the purpose of TIRF communications.
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.
These are two of the findings in a landmark research publication, The Future of English: Global Perspectives, published by the British Council earlier this month. The report 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).
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 policymakers, educators, researchers, and others interested in this important topic.
- English is the most widely spoken language in the world. It is the global language of communication and English 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 towards 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 the Council’s long-term commitment, we have initiated a major new “Future of English” research grant scheme, having awarded 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. The multimedia exhibition will explore three of the report’s core themes – English in education, English in the workplace, and English in the community – and feature interactive elements which will ask visitors for their views on the future of the English language. Initially opening at the British Council’s headquarters in Stratford, London from April 26th, the exhibition will subsequently travel to the New Directions LATAM 2023 conference in São Paulo, Brazil on May 25-27 and then the New Directions East Asia 2023 conference in Hanoi, Vietnam on October 27-28. Other locations and dates will be announced for 2023, before the exhibition returns to London in early 2024.
Mark Walker, Director of English & Exams at the British Council, said, “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.” He continued, “Now we’re collaborating with partners, thought leaders, teachers, and learners around the world to open up new conversations and share global perspectives about the future of English.”
The British Council supports 100 million English learners worldwide with online resources. It also connects with more than four million teachers and educators online each year – the world’s largest global network of teachers. The organization also works directly with education leaders, teacher educators, and teachers of English to raise standards of English in education systems. Every year, millions of English learners take assessments with the British Council which have life-changing potential, enabling them to access life, study, or work opportunities overseas or in their own countries.
A series of roundtables took place from June to December 2021 with 92 policymakers and experts from 49 countries around the world from a range of disciplines, including applied linguistics, assessment, and sector experts as well as practitioners across British Council networks with extensive field experience. The outcomes from these roundtable discussions were consolidated with additional data collected from desk research and surveys.
About the British Council
The British Council is the UK’s international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities. It supports peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding, and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2021-2022 we reached 650 million people.