Why is English So Popular?

If the English language is so idiomatic (as discussed yesterday), why does it enjoy worldwide popularity?  Language-wise, the book The Story of English gives three reasons:

— Unlike all the other European languages, gender is determined by meaning, so a noun doesn’t have to be matched with the right article. For example, in French the moon is feminine (la lune), yet the sun is masculine (le soleil) for no apparent reason.

— English grammer is both simple and flexible. Nouns and adjectives have simple word endings. Plus the same word can be a noun and a verb. “Google” is one good example. Or, in the words of the book’s authors, “We can bus children to school and then school them in English”.

— English has a huge vocabulary, 80 percent of which is from other languages. Because its roots are so varied, English has words in common with almost every language in Europe, plus many other languages from around the world. When I was in the Air Force stationed in Thailand, we quickly appropriated a group of Thai words into English. This gives English a unique vitality.

The Story of English by Robert McCrum, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil, Penguin Books, 1986/87, page 47

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