English and Business

English may be the language of business today but many know that there are no guarantees it will remain the language of business tomorrow. In fact, more business was conducted among nations (per capita) prior to World War I, when there was no uniform business language, than around the late 1990s, at the height of the .com boom and when English was the lingua franca of business. (See Robert Barro's Getting It Right: Markets and Choices in a Free Society.)
Comments:

I was amused to see the stats on blogging languages here:

>Technorati is now tracking over 70 million weblogs, and we're seeing about 120,000 new weblogs being created worldwide each day. That's about 1.4 blogs created every second of every day.

and...

  • Japanese the #1 blogging language at 37%
  • English second at 33%
  • Chinese third at 8%

Posted by Geoff Arnold on April 10, 2007 at 04:23 PM PDT #

I am surprised that the business per capita around world war I is greater than 1990s. Any statistics that is small enough to be posted in your blog? And possible explanations for decline?

Posted by Madhan on April 10, 2007 at 08:04 PM PDT #

Geoff -

Thanks for the statistics. Blogging has really taken off and peaked in various language communities at different rates and times. I believe Persian was the #1 language at some point in 2002-2003, English being a distant #2. Back then, Chinese was a distant #5 or so. The difference between Japan and China can probably also be explained by the fact that a lot of micro-blogging goes on in Japanese.

Madhan -

Yes, I remember reading this in Barro's book. It was so surprising that I remembered it. I'll try to dig it out of the book (not here in this location, with me) and include an addendum in the next couple of days. The decline in trade/capita beginning with WWI has to do with devastating wars that divided nations, the sanctions against the USSR (a huge land mass connecting major areas of production and distribution), the break-up of several land empires (including the Ottoman empire) and the final, climactic rise and fall of one sea empire (UK) followed by another (US) -- the latter being separated from the land masses of Asia and Europe by two vast oceans.

As a foot note to this observation, I should add that the divisions in the Middle East and the Ottoman break-up (post WWI) and colonialism of the 18th and 19th century significantly reduced commerce within traditionally Muslim trade routes. Those trade routes, once continuous from Malaysia to Morroco, now go through more than a dozen borders, some of them extremely hostile to that trade. Instabilities in the Balkans and the core of the Middle East do not help Asia-Europe (mainland) commerce and trade either.

Posted by M. Mortazavi on April 11, 2007 at 01:07 AM PDT #

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