With over a billion people across the globe who either speak English or who are in the process of learning English, and one in four people who can, to some level, understand and/or communicate in English (according to the British Council), an important question seems to organically come up: Why should one learn English? Learning another language is not an easy process, it takes time, and it takes determination. So before embarking on the long and adventurous journey of learning English, it is imperative to ask ourselves why. I have asked myself this very question more than ten years ago. Here is an updated version of the list of reasons to learn English that convinced me to do so:
1. Professional opportunities
Being bilingual is something that more and more businesses all over the world require from their employees. Besides the US and Great Britain, English is the main language in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada, parts of Africa, India, and many smaller island nations, as well as the commonly adopted second language in Germany, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Speaking English opens these countries and cultures up to you, the English learner.
Most of the international business interactions that happen in different parts of the world use English as a platform. You will hear business people conduct business in English in Shanghai, Tokyo, Moscow, Budapest, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and many other cities around the globe. In order to be able to function successfully in the field of international business, communicate with other business people through email, memos, at conferences, etc., one needs to be able to understand English and express thoughts and ideas in English.
English is also the language of technology and science, especially computer science, genetics, and medicine. If you are interested in these fields, then learning English should be a priority. Being able to speak English will make it easy to contact experts and scientists from other countries, participate in international conferences, visit academic centers abroad, and learn about new scientific discoveries by reading papers, books, and magazines.
2. Social networking and relationships – becoming a global citizen
English is not only the main language of business, but also the main language of social interaction. Although most countries have their own language, English is the one language that unites the entire world. Knowing English is the most important step towards becoming a global citizen – a person that can live anywhere, thrive anywhere, and speak to anyone. Would it not be amazing to overcome all communication barriers and be able to exchange thoughts and ideas with someone your age, or from your field of work, from say China or Brazil? Forming lasting relationships, not only for business, but also for friendship or for romance has the English language as the common denominator.
3. Entertainment and cultural understanding
The majority of films and entertainment programs in the world is in English. Not to mention that the primary language that books are published in is English. The wealth of information and entertainment that the world has access to is primarily in English. It always feels like an accomplishment for an English learner to be able to watch a movie in English with no subtitles, or read their first book entirely in English.
Ultimately English makes it easy to access and understand other cultures. When the language barrier is lifted, there is more space for cooperation, for empathy, and for common ground. It would seem that having one language that most people understand and speak does not leave much room for variety, but in reality, it actually offers an opportunity for everyone to participate, to let their voice be heard, to actively exercise their freedom.
4. Education – research and academics
With more than 2000 universities and colleges and more than 400 billion dollars spent every year on research, the US alone offers an incredible array of opportunities to those who are able to function in an English only environment. There are many universities around the world that have recognized the need for English and that are now teaching entire courses in English. Knowing English also opens doors for study abroad – there are over 750,000 foreign students in the US (according to an USA Today article), and over 430,000 in the UK (according to the UK Council of International Student Affairs).
5. Access to knowledge – the Internet
With the advent of the Internet, it is easier than ever to access all sorts of information, but chances are that it will be in English. The percentage of web pages with English content is estimated to be over 50%, while the next language most used is German and amounts to less than 10% of pages. The incredible amount of information on the Internet (some estimate it to a trillion pages, compels us to consider English as a language more than worth learning.
Learning a foreign language can be both challenging and rewarding. While it might take you years to learn and perfect your English, the reasons mentioned above should act as a motivator. With them in mind, make your first step towards freedom and knowledge!