Hey, maybe "English only" isn't wrong

In his book “The Great Brain Race,” Ben Wildavsky describes a global knowledge economy dominated by English. He notes that even in France—France!—English has triumphed. Richard Descoings, president of the Paris Institute of Political Studies, told Mr. Wildavsky, “We have to stop saying that English is one of the languages. It is the language of international exchange: commercial, military, and also intellectual and scientific. . . . It is no longer an object of debate.”

That perspective is not limited to Europe. A 2008 report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs showed that 96%-100% of those questioned in China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam think that it is important for their children to learn English. The online retailing giant Rakuten is one of a number of Japanese companies to embrace English. As The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, by 2012 Rakuten’s employees will be required to speak and communicate with each other in English…

Reliable and ubiquitous translation technology “is really only a matter of time,” according to Nicholas Ostler, author of the forthcoming book, “The Last Lingua Franca: English until the Return of Babel.” Yorick Wilks, a professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Sheffield, is more specific, predicting in an email that adequate machine translations “will almost certainly be available as phone apps within a decade.”