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Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 01:24 GMT
English gives UK 'cutting edge'
David Blunkett
Mr Blunkett says the English language is a great asset
Businesses in the UK must exploit the competitive advantage of the English language, says Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett.

The government estimates 375 million people have English as their first language, with a further 750 million in other - mainly Commonwealth - countries who have English as their second or third tongue.

Value of English language
Printed material products: 1,119m
UK music exports: 1,300m
Film and TV exports: 1,286
Students visiting to learn English: 700m
English language products: 500m

Speaking at the 40th Anniversary Ashridge Lecture at the Institute of Directors in London, Mr Blunkett said: "Next to our people, our greatest asset is our language.

"English is now unquestionably the first global language.

"By the end of the year 750 million people will have English as a second language, and second language speakers of English will outnumber first language speakers for the first time in history."

English on the web

English is also the language of the internet and of finance, Mr Blunkett pointed out.

Currently, 80% of websites are in English, but as new technologies emerge and countries become more familiar with internet technologies UK businesses must get ahead of the game.

"We need to make sure that we do not lose the considerable share of the market that we now enjoy.


We must now ensure that our leading role in the global economy is not eroded

Education Secretary David Blunkett
"We must also continue to work towards our target of getting one million small and medium sized businesses trading online."

Employers must support the development of their staff, making use of the courses offered by the University for Industry, Mr Blunkett said.

He also spoke of the contribution made to the world of literature by English-speaking writers, like William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens.

The strength of English was not an excuse for not learning other languages, he stressed, as doing so can "help cement business relationships".

"We are fortunate that we speak a leading language and as a nation we are in a strong position.

"But we must now ensure that our leading role in the global economy is not eroded," Mr Blunkett concluded.

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See also:

03 Jul 98 | Education
'End the language barrier'
23 Apr 99 | Education
British reluctant to learn languages
18 Sep 00 | Education
Swiss shun French for English
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