it comes to learning English, my students often tend to think
in terms of all, or none. Either they can speak English, or they
can't. Either they sound like a native speaker, or they don't.
Either they fully understand that article, lecture, movie or announcement,
or they don't.
we all know, this kind of black and white thinking can be very
discouraging, especially for our lower-level students. There seems
to be so much ground to cover getting from can't to can and from
don't to do, that the road appears endless and the destination
Added to this problem
is the often vague notion many of my students have, particularly
those who have not traveled much, as to the scope of English in
the world. Of course, they know that English is (at least for
now) "the" global language, but they're not really sure
how that may impinge on their lives. To explain, I encourage my
students to consider these facts about English in today's world:
- English is spoken as a first
language by around 400 million people.
- More than 1 billion people
in the world speak English as a second or a foreign language.
- English has official or special
status in more than 75 countries in the world, affecting a combined
population of over 2 billion people.
- The number of people learning
English in China is larger than the total population of the
- Five of the largest broadcasting
companies in the world (ABC, BBC, CBC, CBS and NBC) broadcast
- English is the official language
of the global tourism industry.
- English is the language of
- Nearly 50% of European Union
citizens are able to converse in English.
- About 60% of all articles in
the world's scientific journals are in English.
- About 75% of all mail in the
world is written in English.
- About 80% of all information
in the world's computers is in English.
- More than 1 billion people
in the world are learning English.
is easy to see from these facts that English no longer belongs
only to native speakers in countries like Australia, Britain,
Canada, New Zealand and the United States. English belongs to
the world, in all its varieties, regional differences and dialects.
We live (for better or for worse!) in a global community of English
users. And it's becoming more and more difficult to avoid some
contact with English in our liveseither at homeor
It's also becoming
evident that having no communicative ability in English can be
a real handicapfor work, for study, for travel and also
for having a well-informed, international outlook. I therefore
encourage my students to view English as a tool, and themselves
as an integral part of the international community of English
users. I encourage them to make effective use of this English
"tool"I want them to get away from the black and
white mentality of can or can't, do or don't. I focus on developing
their uses of English so that they can do more with it to achieve
their academic or personal goals, to enjoy a wider range of social
or work-related contacts, and to feel more confident, internationally
aware and self-sufficient when they travel abroad. Of course,
I also want my students to understand that being proficient in
English does not necessarily make someone an international person.
It can, however, help to open up more of the world to themwherever