In the last two years I have started a new career as an ESL/EFL (English as a Second Language/English as a Foreign Language) teacher. I am currently living in China, previously I lived in Catalunya. This book is an excellent read for a person in my industry, it is a brief history of language, and how throughout human history different languages have held power. Currently English is the language that is the most powerful in the world. The ESL/EFL industry is a massive business, the company I work for has schools in over 150 countries, and is forever expanding.
Ostler tells the history of languages, showing the reader how various languages have held influence, starting with Sanskrit, Aramaic, Arabic and Latin (and more), and progressing through to French, German and Spanish. Each of these languages has held sway for a period of time and have spread through invasion, commerce or conversion, but their influence declined over time. English however is the exception; yes, English was spread by the British Empire, but it has lasted longer than others because it has no competition, and more importantly, people are choosing to learn English. For me the most interesting aspect of this book is that Ostler theorises that the English that will be spoken in the future will be pronounced by non-native speakers in a way that a native speaker may not understand. English will change due to the sheer volume of people speaking it, accents will develop into dialects of English.
I enjoyed this book, but it was incredibly hard to read. Ostler is a linguist, not a story teller. The book is dense, and there is a lot of information being given to you. I would not recommend this as light reading before bed, it is a book that you should read with your coffee in the morning, just to wake you up.