Archive for May, 2013

How English conquered the world by coming second

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Obviously English has a number of things going for it as a global language; the legacy of the British Empire, the impact of Hollywood, and it is the language of technology.  However what interested me was that there are more native speakers of Mandarin (935 million) or Spanish (387 million) compared with English (365 million) yet because it is the most common second language it is the de facto global language.  I was watching a Swedish film the other day and we saw the Swedish detectives talking flawless English to their FBI colleagues and then then doing the same when meeting with the Dutch police.  There were no subtitles, it was assumed their audience all understood it.

There is so much focus these days on being the biggest or the first, it is interesting to be reminded that sometimes those who are not first can win in the longer game.  Look at how Nokia was the biggest mobile phone player then Apple stole their clothes, and just when they seem unassailable Google came along and overtook them.  So if your business isn’t the biggest or the most well known it doesn’t mean that you can not still be highly successful if you are clear about exploiting your advantages and playing to your strengths.