The year 2001 was the first year of the new decade, new century and new millennium, but our magazine has only just completed its first decade of writing for students and teachers of English as "the universal second language." We began operations in 1992, but only two issues were published that year, so it is 2003 that really marks our 10th birthday. In today's fast-paced times, 1993 may now seem like ancient history. For the benefit of those too young to be with us then, let's recall what things were like back then.
Central/Eastern Europe was experiencing the growing pains brought about by the transition from communist central planning to a free-market economy. Poland was gradually overcoming crippling inflation, which at its height reached 800 per cent. This meant everyone was a millionaire in Poland. I was told that around 30 US dollars was the equivalent of one million zlotys! Things have really changed since then. Inflation has dropped to a mere 1.0 per cent, and the zloty was stronger than ever as 2002 was drawing to a close. Now Poland's main problem is unemployment and the challenges posed by European Union membership.
The World of English has also changed. Only the cover of the early issues was in color, but inside it was all black & white. With the passage of time the number of color illustrations has increased, the size of the magazine has grown and its overall quality has improved. Over that period we have published 63 issues and sold over a million copies. Studies have shown that each issue is read on average by two or three readers. We have also issued 17 language-learning booklets and audiocassettes, with about 100,000 of them in circulation.
A decade ago most of our readers were students in the upper years of secondary school. Today more and more primary and middle-school pupils are reading the magazine. Our readership now includes many children of parents who finished school at the start of the 1990s.
Technology has also raced ahead during that period. When we were starting out, the Internet was all but unknown in Warsaw. Initially The World of English was set up on an old linotype machine at the Polish Army Printworks, and the process could take up to three months. Today our copy is sent for electronic processing via e-mail or CD to Paris and printed within three days. We are in touch electronically with readers in many different countries and regularly receive input from contributing correspondents in the UK, US, Berlin, Strasbourg, Australia and Africa.
When we started out there were 1,400 teachers of English in Poland. Now, according to the latest figures from the Ministry of Education and Sport, there are some 40.000 And most likely a majority of Poles, especially the younger ones, now have a working knowledge of English. But a working knowledge of the language no longer suffices in today's competitive world. It is no longer enough to make oneself understood, but to become fluent enough in English to use it as a professional tool and cultural medium. That stage still lies ahead.
With that in mind, let me take this opportunity to wish the entire staff and all our readers, learners and teachers alike, the best of everything throughout 2003.
Good health, good luck and God bless!
Edward J. Piszek, The Publisher