Philip Bowring: In search of an Asian lingua franca

From the International Herald Tribune:

Given the current fascination with all things Chinese, its language naturally comes to mind as possible substitute for English when Asians are dealing with each other…

But things are not so simple. China’s ideographic writing is hard enough for the Chinese, let alone for others. Even countries most subject to past Chinese cultural influence (Korea, Vietnam, Japan) have largely or completely replaced it with alphabetic scripts. Historically the scripts of Southeast , before the arrival of Arabic and then Roman scripts, were all of Indian derivation, as is still the case in Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar.

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