More than 1.5 billion people on our planet speak English, through which they can discuss common ideas, business opportunities or creative activities. It is a main language of business, diplomacy, journalism and culture in all its diversity. English is an official language in at least 59 countries.
At the same time, the proportion of anglicisms used in the media and in literature in non-English-speaking countries is increasing all the time. Even in countries that have ‘retained’ their native language, the influence of English, not only on vocabulary, but also on the structure of speech, can be seen.
In Germany, the word ‘Denglisch‘ is used to describe German that uses English, or pseudo-English, expressions. And researchers from the IULM University of Milan have found that Italian syntax has become increasingly influenced by English over the past 50 years.
Thanks to the internet
Thanks to the internet, the spread of English has been faster than ever. Bill Gates’s statement that ‘Content is King’ has become a mantra. More than 50% of the content created on the internet is written in English. Knowing the language gives access to this global communication channel and an incredible amount of information.
Throughout history, since the time of the Tower of Babel, no language has been able to boast such ‘coverage’. Linguists believe that English can be compared to a currency. The greater the number of people who use it, the faster it will become global.
Incidentally, experts from the World Economic Forum have produced the Power Language Index (PLI), showing the most useful languages to learn. Unsurprisingly, English comes out on top.
To study English is to invest in yourself. Research shows that people with excellent English earn more. How much more depends on the country. For example, the ‘language premium’ may amount to 60% more in Vietnam, and 27% more in Russia. Other benefits of knowing English in this age of globalisation include the following:
- English is widely used by the international business community and is needed for working with business partners from around the world.
- English gives access to learning at the world’s best higher education institutions.
- English gives access to all kinds of scientific information and is used in academia. Most discoveries in medicine, physics, chemistry, etc., are first published online, on specialist servers, in English.
- English gives access to global media and entertainment resources. It allows you to watch film premieres, news and live sport.
- In particular, English is the language of IT and the internet. Thanks to the rapid growth of social media, it enables ideas and innovations to be shared rapidly with the whole world.
And the icing on the cake: research shows that a foreign language helps business people to make better decisions during negotiations. The fact is that when we think in a foreign language, we are more open-minded and less biassed or more likely to stereotype. People are more likely to use logic when they are less influenced by emotions and moral taboos.
12 million teachers, but that’s not enough!
It is no surprise that the worldwide demand for learning English is skyrocketing. And although, according to the British Council, there are more than 12 million native-speaker teachers of English today, this demand is not being fully met in some countries, particularly in China. This is despite the fact that there are now more native-speaker teachers of English in China than in any other country.
The interest in studying English is so great that some outstanding teachers in China have become celebrities. Like pop stars, they fill stadiums holding thousands of people, and hold ‘mass lessons’.
In South Korea, the situation is even more dramatic. Sociolinguists have likened the obsession with learning English to religious fanaticism. This veritable quest for knowledge is called yeongeo yeolpung (‘English frenzy’) there.