Created By: piroca on February 4, 2012
Nuked

Everybody Speaks English in the Future

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Trope
We probably have this one but I couldn't find it anywhere, but... you know those scifi works where English has become the language of the whole planet? It was mentioned explicitly at least in 3001 and Starship Troopers, but I'm sure there are more.
Community Feedback Replies: 39
  • February 4, 2012
    zarpaulus
    I know of more examples where everyone speaks some Common Tongue and Translation Convention is in effect.
  • February 4, 2012
    piroca
    True, but this is distinct, I think: it specifically alludes to a geopolitical process that made every country speak English as a native language, no Translation Convention being used (except, of course, to avoid the changes that English itself suffers as Time Marches On.
  • February 4, 2012
    TomWalpertac2
  • February 5, 2012
    fulltimeD

  • February 5, 2012
    SDR
    The baddies in GURPS Infinite Worlds, Centrum, united their whole alternate Earth under English. And now have trouble integrating in worlds that don't speak English.
  • February 5, 2012
    TonyG
    Implied in Futurama. At least one language, French, is considered dead in the show's universe.
  • February 5, 2012
    Generality
  • February 6, 2012
    Rognik
    • Subverted with Firefly. Chinese is at least as powerful, even if the characters mostly use English words.
  • February 6, 2012
    fulltimeD
    I don't really see how this is different enough from Eternal English to be tropable
  • February 6, 2012
    MichaelKatsuro
    I'm pretty sure this is a subtrope of something.
  • February 6, 2012
    TooBah
    Possible page quote: "Now this was the land of the Druids, and the people there spoke a different language. But we'll make believe everyone spoke English. Like Star Trek!"
    Lutvi the Sock Puppet, Veggie Tales: Saint Patrick segment of Sumo of the Opera
  • February 6, 2012
    ThreeferFAQMinorityChick
    Even in the Planet of the Apes films, this is the case, though it is a major spoiler in the case of the very first film.
  • February 6, 2012
    piroca
    fulltimeD: Eternal English is... Eternal English. It's the unchangeability of the English language done out of sloppiness or Translation Convention. What these works mention is something different: it's English overtaking the entire planet as a first language. Imagine that every one of over 3000 languages spoken today by various peoples is going to be marginalized because English would overtake all of them. Language also is a HUGE part of a people's national identity. That kind of thing's even more significant than English remaining unchanged for a couple hundred years. What makes you say it's the same?
  • February 6, 2012
    Duncan
    If not English, sometimes this is done with Esperanto The Universal Language becoming the dominant language of Earth (though something of a Dead Horse Trope in modern sci-fi).

  • February 7, 2012
    piroca
    It also overlaps with those planets and civilizations that speak only one language, of which there are a great many examples: Klingon, Goa'uld, Minbari....
  • February 8, 2012
    Generality
    ^3 The two are also usually combined.
  • February 8, 2012
    KeithTyler
    In Star Trek, the reason everyone "speaks" English is because of the Universal Translator. This is not foolproof, either, as seen in the "Darmok and Jilad At Tanagra" episode. The same explanation is used in the revived Doctor Who -- the Tardis gives your brain the ability to understand nearly all languages. Of course, H.G. Wells' The Time Traveler completely inverts this. In a different sense, so does the novel version of Michael Chricton's Timeline. Everyone *from* the "future" speaks (Modern) English -- but the people then don't. (They also get universal translating earpieces.)
  • February 8, 2012
    Shnakepup
    To clarify (correct me if I'm wrong here):

    Eternal English: English, as a language, is shown not to change dramatically. An example might be people using Present Day idioms 500 years in the future.

    This trope: English, as a language, is explicitly stated to be the only language spoken by a majority of (or all) people. Note that this has nothing to do with the content of the language; for example, 500 years in the future, English may have shifted and changed (like you would expect it to), but all this trope requires is that everyone speak it (rather than everybody speaking different languages like we do today).

    I know I've seen this before, but I can't think of any examples right now. Usually the Hand Wave explanation is that America essentially takes over the world; Earth will be depicted as having a one-world government, but it will explicity be based on American culture. Since English is the language of America, then (in this example) Everybody Speaks English In The Future

    So yeah, the Star Trek and Doctor Who examples wouldn't count, since those are established in the canon as being translated speech.
  • February 8, 2012
    moriwen
    I think this occurs in Ender's Game (made more specific in Ender's Shadow). "Starfleet Common" is a slightly developed version of English. (Cue jokes about how "buggers" used to be an English profanity.)
  • February 8, 2012
    piroca
    Shnakepup, you're completely right!

    Maybe we should change the name then, to avoid confusion with Translation Convention and Eternal English. Does anyone have anything catchy in mind?
  • February 8, 2012
    mdulwich
    Lingua Anglica, as a play on the phrase Lingua Franca?
  • February 8, 2012
    69BookWorM69
    ^ I like that title.

    If memory serves, this notion is discussed in the documentary miniseries The Story of English from a couple of decades back. To wit, in part thanks to colonization and Hollywood, and consciously adopted in some places so as to select a neutral common language (see India), English is widespread over the whole planet as a first or second language. The language already functions this way in the scientific community (CERN, the outfit that runs the Large Hadron Collider, uses English).
  • February 9, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Babylon Five would not count, primarily because it takes place off of Earth. Even at best, English is only the planet's official interstellar language.
  • February 9, 2012
    Shnakepup
    Seconding Lingua Anglica.
  • February 9, 2012
    Andyman117
    Third for Lingua Anglica.
  • February 9, 2012
    elwoz
    Fourth for Lingua Anglica.
  • February 9, 2012
    piroca
    Fifth for Lingua Anglica
  • February 10, 2012
    SilentReverence
    Sixthing Lingua Anglica.
  • February 10, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Point taken, Piroca, it's distinct. I still would prefer to lump them but that doesn't appear to be the way this is going and I'm in no mood to fight about it.

    But, to nitpick:

    Star Trek The Original Series implied that Swahili, Russian, etc... are still spoken because when aliens communicated telepathically with Enterprise crewmembers, Uhura, Chekov and Spock all claimed to hear the aliens' message in Swahili, Russian, etc... There is a single reference in Star Trek The Next Generation that implies French is a dead language, but every other time Earth is described in Trek, diversity is its hat, with thousands of dialects, hundreds of religions and languages. Star Trek characters usually have a universal translator actively making their speech intelligible not only to aliens but to humans who learned a different first language. So if this is going to be a trope, we must be really, really clear whether an example ACTUALLY fits or is simply due to Translation Convention, Translator Microbes or something else. I realize all the Enterprises had "Enterprise" written on the hull in English, but a viewer can always assume the Literary Agent Hypthesis and make the concession that it's actually Esperanto or some other universal language that Starfleet uses to label its starship hulls.

    As pointed out by others, and for many, many reasons, Babylon Five is not an example of this. Star Trek is barely a borderline example, and even that is inconsistent from episode to episode.

    It's hard to find examples in Live Action Television because not only are Translator Convention and Translator Microbes way more common, but "English" is rarely referred to as such in futuristic settings. If the language people speak is even given a name, it's usually some generic descriptor like "Basic" or "Starfleet Common." In Blake's 7, for example, one episode calls the language of the main characters "Terran" (as in Terra, or Earth) but not once is there any evidence that the characters are actually speaking English as opposed to Esperanto or Gooback. I can't remember any instances of actually seeing written text on that show until the Scorpio bridge in the 4th season, and that was an independent ship not operating under any official authority, so we can't assume it's indicative of the Federation. Plus, the Scorpio is supposed to be a rather outdated vessel. Can anyone remember seeing written English script in the first 3 seasons of Blake's 7?

    Third, is this to be English-specific or can it cover any "universal language of Earth?" I realize people are going for English-specific but for my two cents, I think that's too narrow. I would advise making the trope broader than that.
  • February 26, 2012
    Westrim
    bump
  • February 27, 2012
    piroca
    Sorry, I've been really busy with school.

    I like fulltimeD's idea to make this a more general trope. That way we can add more relevant examples while also making it more distinct from other anglo-themed tropes. In a sense, he has the right idea: it doesn't really matter who swamped all the Earth's distinct languages as long as something did.

    Unfortunately, then the catchy name Lingua Anglica is no longer applicable. I suggest something along the lines of Language Plantation or something to allude to the monoculture involved in everyone speaking the same language. But I don't really think Language Plantation is a cool enough title...

    Btw I'm not really sure how launching YKKTW entries actually goes but I sure don't care about the credit. Anyone can launch this when it's "the right time". Up For Grabs was the lingo?
  • February 27, 2012
    zarpaulus
    If it comes to mean any "universal language of Earth" I suspect it would be covered by Common Tongue. With the rare exception of those cases where some other real life language (other than intended universal languages like Esperanto or Lojban) is used besides English.
  • February 27, 2012
    piroca
    Not quite: Common Tongue seems to be more of a lingua franca that does not really require the other languages to fade away into oblivion, and most of the examples really cover some sort of de facto lingua franca much like what English is today (incidentally, it is listed as a Real Life example). The Ur example would be Westron in Lord of the Rings, but dozens of other languages were spoken in Middle Earth. This here would be the replacement of everyone's first language by English or whatever.
  • February 28, 2012
    Catbert
    Why limit it to English? In a Japanese work, it will be Japanese. In a Spanish work, it will be Spanish. Basically is is "Almost every character will speak the language that the work is written in."
  • February 28, 2012
    Speedball
    Yeah, this is just Eternal English. We already have this one.
  • February 28, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Technically Eternal English is when people from different eras have no trouble understanding each other. http://xkcd.com/771/
  • February 28, 2012
    Shnakepup
    @Speedball: See my note above. This is distinct from Eternal English. Eternal English says nothing about how widely used the language is, only that it does not change over large amounts of time, in the way we'd normally assume it would.

    This trope is more about English being adopted by everyone, due to some kind of one world goverment or America taking over the world. This trope says nothing about the content of the language (for example, in 500 years it might sound completely different, but everyone calls it "English" and everyone speaks it).

    Basically, this is a subtrope of Common Tongue, where English is explicitly stated to be the common tongue.
  • February 28, 2012
    Azkar
    On the various Star Gate incarnations, all the Human tribes they run into speak English, even though there's no possible explanation why, but the aliens all have their own languages.
  • March 1, 2013
    elwoz
    I am discarding this because it has gone for more than a year with no reply, and there was also substantial dispute over whether it was a duplicate or not. Don't let that stop you from resurrecting it if you want; but please do see it gets finished in that case.
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