Mandarin is commonly called 'the most spoken language on the planet' and, to a point, this is true. More people speak Mandarin as a first language than any other, largely because over 15% of the world's population are densely crowded into the vast expanse of China (which is actually slightly smaller than the United States). More people, however, have
a grasp of English than Mandarin and it is estimated that over half of the world's
population has a basic grasp of the language. Of course, this is only an estimate,
as exact figures are impossible to work out.
People learn English for a number of reasons. Some learn English for college, others learn English for work. Many professions require workers to have a decent, professional knowledge of English - pilots, pharmacists and diplomats are among the people who need working English. While some governments, notably the French, are especially resistant to the idea of English being the international language of business and culture, the spread of American ideas and entertainment around the world has been unstoppable since 1945. It could definitely be argued that a number of people who study English in London are really studying American; particularly those who are learning for business purposes. This is less true of anyone in London to learn legal English, as the language of the courts in Britain and in America is very different.
Course, many people who study business English in London are learning with no intention of dealing with the United States. While a number of languages are supposed to have equal billing in the EU, the body's recent eastward expansion has definitely tipped the balance in favour of English as the dominant language. This means that dealing with the booming economies of Eastern Europe will generally involve speaking in English. Added to this the fact that London is one of the most important cities for finance in the world (alongside New York), it is impossible to discount the importance of the English language for anyone looking to get ahead in business. For this reason, professional English courses are very popular for business-minded people around Europe. Naturally, having more languages opens up more potential business and contacts and British businesses are known to suffer for having a lack of linguistic skills.
It is not only for business that people choose to learn English in London. Thousands of people from around the world visit a London language school each year simply to gain another language. There is no feeling quite like conversing with someone from another country in their own language. An intensive English course in London is perfect preperation for anyone looking to find work in the UK, particularly anyone entering the country from the new EU states in Eastern Europe.