Food logistics: a sign of the times

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Dachser Food Logistics is what it said on the side of a van that just went by the window of my hotel in Leipzig. Do you see why I raised an eyebrow?

It's a German company; in fact it's a German family business, founded in 1930 and destroyed during World War 2 but rebuilt since then.

So what I saw was a German truck owned by a German family business driving across a square in a German town in the heart of Germany… with a description of its core business written across the side in English.

Looking across the same square in a different direction I see a building with a giant piece of text art painted on the side; it begins: REAL LIFE… eine Anleitung ("Real life: a manual").

Like it or hate it, English is more and more becoming a global lingua franca for busines, government, entertainment, news, and other fields. It is used even by Germans communicating with other Germans (in addition to the rest of the world, of course, since Dachser has increasingly plausible ambitions to expand into Europe, Asia, North Africa, and the USA).

Never imagine that because China is growing powerful and Chinese allegedly has a billion speakers we are going to see Chinese becoming more important to the world than English. First, there is no such thing as the Chinese language: Chinese is a language family, and there are far fewer people who are fluent in the politically dominant member, Mandarin, than the Chinese authorities would like you to think. Second, the Chinese languages share a writing system that is simply not fit for purpose: taking years to learn, and incredibly hard to adapt to many purposes, it is holding China's progress back by many decades. And third, nowhere in the world is there a country outside China where Chinese is used by non-Chinese to communicate with other non-Chinese.

English (for all its faults) has that peculiar international lingua franca status, and Chinese does not. And I do not see that changing. Not in fifty years, and perhaps not ever.

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