Would English still be a lingua franca if the Americans didn't speak it??

May 2013
Suppose by a stroke of some insane law, or something else, majority of Americans become non-English speakers. Would the English language still be as popular as it is now??
Oct 2010
My guess is that if the language of America changed over the next few years, English would still remain as a lingua franca.

However, if say French or Spanish had been the original language of the US perhaps they would now be the lingua franca?


Ad Honorem
Dec 2010
The Netherlands
Considering that when Britain was at it's peak the USA was already independent and considering the massive ''soft power'' the UK enjoys I'd say yes, it would still be the lingua franca.
Oct 2010
Greek was the lingua franca of the ancient world even when Latin speaking Rome had been the dominant power for over 400 years. Even before the conquests of Alexander and the later cultural spread of "Hellenism" , Greek was a widely used second language in trading circles.

The British spread the English language and British culture through trade and Empire to every corner of the globe from Hastings to Hawai. So given that background I would think like Greek in the ancient world English would remain the language of trade,commerce and international diplomacy. Even if it was not the first language of the USA.


Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
Canada, originally Clwyd, N.Wales
Well, Americans don't speak english...it's not an official language there and a sizeable portion speak Spanish. A lot of Americans like to say that it's an english speaking country and the majority do, but the USA doesn't have an actual official language. I guess the founding fathers never needed to declare one.

BUT, you raise a good point. I wonder if America would have become so important in the world if it hadn't been settled or dominated by English speaking people. If it had remained a french of Spanish speaking area, I wonder if it would have risen to power at all. I mean, lets look at it: Africa was a major area for colonization, Asia as well. The majority of colonizing in the United States was done by Americans and they only really became a superpower in the middle of the 1800s, before that it was always England/France/Spain/Portugal/ and to a lesser extent the Dutch. I would suggest that the English language became a major Lingua franca because of the numbers of colonies it had around the world and the cultural influence of the Empire, whereas the United States never had a sizeable empire (yes they had the Phillipines, yes they had a load of pacific islands). I honestly think that the world would be different, but the lingua franca around the world would still be English right now just because of the shere number of major countries that speak it (Australia, New Zealand, India, Canada, South Africa, etc,.)


Ad Honoris
May 2011
Navan, Ireland
Before the 1920's and the rise of the US French was the lingua franca, so no.
Was it?

In the Middle Ages I'd agree but where do you get the '1920's' from?

I'd have said the spread of the British Empire and its commercial expansion made English the 'lingua franca' in the 19th century and that was built upon in the 20th by the dominance of the USA.


Ad Honoris
Oct 2010
No, it would not be. The reasons people in many parts of the world have been learning English are largely to do business with Americans, work in industries dominated by Americans and because of American soft power.
Mar 2012
I say it is Us who made english lingue franca

If they spoke arabic, urdu , hindu, polish etc... Would be lingua franca
Dec 2012
Very good question! I think that English would remain as a language of commerce. A prime example of this would be the airline industry. I have read somewhere (apologies for not remembering where) that international airline pilots are required to have an understanding of English, due to the English language having more words in it than others. English as a language can be very precise and specific.