The Global Power of English: Why Do So Many People Want to Learn it?
One might be forgiven for thinking that English is a ubiquitous language. From the movie industry in the United States to the vast expanse of the internet, it appears that its global standing is exponentially growing year after year. Needless to say, it owes its current position to a British empire that dominated and conquered foreign lands which resulted in countless dominions that spoke the mother tongue on both hemispheres. Its proliferation has ensured that although it might not be the main lingua franca of every region that hosted a queen’s flag, it has certainly been used as a secondary language in areas as far away as Asia. In India this is empirically the case where hitherto English would have been the language of the colonial power - notwithstanding the presence of Hindi - it is still spoken by millions either as a first or secondary vernacular in a country where the population is predicted to surpass China by 2030 (Graddol, 2010, in Seargeant, n.d. p.344).
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Fergal M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
In tandem with this is the learning of the language and the now abundance of schools and online tuition forums. It is a timely emergence that has worked in parallel with a language that in some quarters is perceived as a gateway to economic empowerment and social advancement. This opinion and perception of English would be apter in Third World regions where it is perceived rightly or wrongly as a conduit to alleviate a lack of education and perhaps can arm a person with a means of bettering themselves in an Anglophone world. Those that learn enough to get by can harbor thoughts of emigrating and finding employment and when they manage to do so can earn a good living and subsequently help their families in their home country.
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This is evident in the take up for those who want to learn it. For example, IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is studied by around 1.4 million people every year. It boasts more than 6,000 locations in over 135 countries (Gray, 2012, p.153). Furthermore, TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is recognized in 90 countries globally which all things considered is a remarkable feat. The omnipresence of these and many more similar institutions bolster the argument that it is a global language that many see as a tangible passport to success.
However, there is a caveat and while a burgeoning demand is one thing it may be at the cost of proper correct analysis. In essence, if the pecuniary motives of an industry out-weights the quality of educational output then everyone could be at a disadvantage. By inference, American English can sometimes differ in spelling and pronunciation to British English. Also, the hybrid of Spanish and English (Spanglish) is common throughout North America and many Spanish speaking territories in Central and South America. Moreover, the linguistic marrying of Hindi and English (Hinglish) is a testament to this trend. Such multidialectal examples of English can cause a pluralization of it where an arbitrary attitude of a one standard fits all can diminish the teaching and learning of it. This could be fertile ground for the erosion of a language that might only become more apparent when a migrant comes to a country like England and thinks they can speak it correctly and fluidly. In other words, the teaching of English must be inconsonant with a language that is in a constant flux otherwise its instruction will lose ground, and it then becomes rudimentary and static and not reflecting its surrounding environment.
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In this essay, it has been stated that English is indeed a global language. Its wholesale currency is paramount in every continent either as a first or secondary language. Yet the current portrayal of it and its method of teaching certainly merits attention if one is to assess and gauge the intrinsic connection between an English teacher and their aspiring student. English as a viable lexical commodity will indeed continue to flourish in whatever grammatical guise it operates under in other countries. It holds a monopoly in many key zones of influence with a growing diaspora all around the globe. That is why so many want to learn it and by implication effectively cementing its footing as a hegemonic linguistic superpower that has crossed and will continue to cross many discursive borders.
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