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Learning English: Opening More Doors and Letting Personal Dreams Unfold
“Next to money, English is the leading international language.”
—Evan Esar (1899-1995), American humorist
Knowing English often makes “Life Good”
For better or for worse, knowing English often makes life easier and better. Speaking English allows individuals to communicate with hundreds of millions of fellow human beings from around the world. As a result, English speakers are often the more educated, affluent, and successful individuals in several advanced and developing countries.
Many international ads document the use of English in advertisements in non-English speaking countries, often portraying English as the language of modernity and prestige. For example, LG Electronics – a Korean company – uses the English phrase “Life’s Good” as an advertising slogan. The clear implication is that buying their products makes life good – as does speaking English, since only English speakers can understand their ads. Hence, English has also become a symbol of global sophistication and stylish consumerism.
Bitter Critics of English
However, attacking the spread of English remains popular. Globalization critics and ethnic nationalists, especially in smaller countries, have accused English of subverting national and smaller group identities. These harsh, often bitter critics of learning English include a surprising number of leftist English teachers. Some English teachers and leftist linguists worry about the disappearance of other languages. Some English teachers seem to feel seeking worldly success, money, status, or an international spouse is capitalist, elitist, and bad. Note that many English teachers working abroad owe their jobs to these same earthly desires for more material comfort and greater individual freedom.
This fashionable ideological analysis seems misguided and ironic. It’s also rather superficial and quite judgemental. As English teachers and tutors, we need to carefully assess our students’ full range of aspirations and skills as we select and develop materials. Yet assessing English skills does not mean judging students motives or lifestyle choices! As the American poet Walt Whitman advised, “Be curious; not judgmental.”
Choosing student needs remains essential
Above all, we should help our students realize their ambitions, support their personal dreams, and avoid judging their motives. Our students have chosen to learn English because it opens more doors. Naturally, some doors seem less attractive or honorable than others to me. Yet those same doors appear attractive, honorable, or even necessary, to others. Live and let live.
“English saved my life.”
–Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), Polish-British writer
Joseph Conrad is an exemplary example of how the English language can change one’s life for the better. Conrad’s quote is featured on page 124 of our original “Compelling Conversations” book. For lessons ideas on change take a look at one of our sample chapters here.
Regardless of motive, learning English remains a smart choice for millions and millions of working adults and ambitious students. It presents possibilities for better-paying jobs and additional choices in pursuing an international education. Plus, it helps immigrants to English-speaking nations adjust to their new homes. English often helps individuals change their lives and expand options for a more satisfying life.
Therefore, shouldn’t we help our English students lead the life they dream of? Which doors would you like to open for your English students? How can we make our English classes more meaningful and useful for the English language learners in our classes?
Ask more. Know more. Share more.
Create Compelling Conversations.