So many languages to choose from…why bother with English?
What is the point of learning English anyway?
When the internet is no longer the exclusive domain of the English speaker, every language and script is catered for. English is less relevant as a medium of communication than it was say 10 years ago. No one really needs to learn the language. Even the most inept speakers of English can request emails and documents sent to them and pass them through Google translate or a similar translation medium. Language schools in the UK are pretty much a rarity these days. The school I worked for for over 18 years sadly closed its doors in large part due to the COVID pandemic, but there has been a steady and inexorable decline in overseas students taking up residential English language courses. More and more individuals and companies are looking to access online learning. It is generally much cheaper, allows the employee or individual to stay in their country, to study at a time convenient to them and to reduce the impact of time away from the company or family. Win win. For many people perhaps, learning English is now a secondary concern.
But is that really true? No, absolutely not. While there has been an evident and increasing shift from face to face class based / residential language courses to classes conducted over Zoom and Teams, the demand for learning English is still very much there. The sectors of society who are looking for improvements in their English ability are drawn from different backgrounds, namely:
- Students looking to go abroad to study in the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand or even countries that use English as the medium of communication in tertiary education such as Malaysia and Singapore.
- Professionals in industries such as medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary science. There has been a steady uptake of individuals looking to work in overseas medical placements and requiring an official qualification in English, for example IELTS or OET.
- Company employees. It is true that many new employees are recruited not only for the experience, qualifications, suitability and potential in a particular job, but also for their proficiency in a second language, most typically English. But there is a large section of employees who lack the English skills they need to (i) perform their job to a required standard (perhaps new clients who speak English, a change in company communication policy demanding all communication needs to be in English.) or (ii) require a higher level of English and better confidence in order to secure a promotion or to move jobs
- Young learners – children and teenagers. Many parents recognize the advantage a good level of English can give their children as they progress through life and look to secure rewarding and fulfilling careers. Additional English language tuition at an early age is highly recommended for rapid progress and language development.
- Older learners – Nowadays more and more people are able to travel in their retirement, or indeed due to being more economically mobile and having a substantial disposable income that allows for travel to different parts of the world. Retirees, business managers and their families – they are increasingly turning to language courses for ‘essential / survival’ English when they are abroad. As much as taking their passport and sunglasses with them, they feel better equipped with English at the ready. And this is true of travel not just to native English speaking countries. English remains the language of tourism and travel. You don’t hear announcements in Chinese, Japanese or Mongolian on a London train station concourse.
So, why bother with English?
English has not gone away. It has not disappeared in the global pandemic. It is still present and persistent in so many facets of international life. One thing is for sure. The demand for English is still high, even though the way lessons are being accessed has changed from the physical to the virtual. Once this pandemic has subsided and people are more able to travel for business and pleasure, for study and employment, English will be as essential as it always has been.
Isn’t it time you did something to improve your own English language ability?
If you or someone you know would like to improve their English, please get in touch. With 24 years of English teaching experience, I can help you reach your goal in English.