(For the benefit of my global readership, a speech in English, which I delivered on 17 June 2017 in Rome. A revised and defootbalised version can be found on Versopolis.)
Everybody speaks English. All three words in this short sentence are problematic. English, because the English used by educated native speakers is not the same language as the global lingua franca tourists, academics, and writer-footballers have recourse to. Speak, because it unduly emphasizes this one skill over the equally important skills of reading, writing, and listening comprehension. And most importantly, everybody, because in fact, out of the total world population of approximately 7.5 billion people, only about 350 million are native speakers of English and a very rough and disputable estimate of one billion are proficient non-native users. Which means that when we say everybody speaks English we take 1.35 billion for the total of 7.5 billion. We exclude more than five and a half people for every person we include in our use of everybody.
Hopefully, everybody speaks English in this room. If most of you understand most of what I am going to say, I will be content.
Why am I telling you this? Mehr…