London, Dec. 9 (Reuters): Centuries of Anglo-French rivalry took a turn in favour of les rosbifs today with a study that predicted English learning would rocket in the coming decade while interest in French slumps.
Two billion people will be learning English in the next 10 years and half the world's population could be speaking it by 2015, according to research released by the British Council.
The state-funded group aims to promote British culture.
But the study warned that French could become a 'major casualty' of the shift in learning patterns.
It highlighted Arabic and Spanish as 'key languages' of the future and said German was also becoming popular in parts of Asia.
However, smug Britons should not be too quick to celebrate.
The British Council believes the boom will be over by 2050 as the industry becomes a victim of its own success and the number of English learners slumps to just 500 million.
'The world is rapidly becoming multilingual and English is only one of the languages people in other countries are learning,' said researcher David Graddol.
The term les rosbifs derives from the English passion for roast beef. The love of red meat was once so much a part of the national makeup of the English that the French called them les rosbifs.
The 18th-century painter William Hogarth titled a famous canvas portraying the quintessential robustness of his countrymen the Roast Beef of Old England.