We see you over there, wondering if studying English is a good use of your time. You already speak one language and it’s served you well until now, right? Well, sure. Unless you want to travel, study abroad, work in an international setting, learn about other cultures, and make more friends. If that sounds good to you, speaking English is pretty much essential.
It’s the official language in 55 countries, and widely spoken in more than 100
Of course, that includes the “inner circle” countries you automatically think of (such as Australia, New Zealand, the UK, US, Canada and South Africa). But the list doesn’t end there. English is an official language in many African, Caribbean and Asian countries. Set your compass to Kenya, Nigeria, The Philippines, Jamaica, The Bahamas, India, Singapore, Fiji and Vanuatu – and many more where you could be conversing with locals in English.
There are nearly two billion speakers worldwide
Because it’s so widely-spoken, English has been dubbed the modern-day “world language” or “lingua franca”. While over 360 million people count English as their first language, making them the third-largest cohort of native speakers for any language after Mandarin and Spanish, nearly two billion in total speak it as their first, second, third or even fourth language. In Europe alone, 38% say they speak it at a conversational level. If you’re only going to study one foreign language and want to get good value for the time you invest,English is a must-speak.
#1 language in international communication
From traditional print materials to the internet and international relations, English eclipses other languages. It’s a major player in academia, the language of aeronautical and maritime communications,and an official language of the International Olympic Committee, the United Nations, the International Space Station, NATO, Interpol, and the European Union. If learning English for an international or diplomatic career is your goal, don’t worry about becoming fluent at once though. After developing a solid base, work toaccelerate your progress,improve your writing, andgain greater speaking confidence, and consider living and studying in an English-speaking country to make the fastest progress.
It dominates in international arts, culture, entertainment…
There area number of reasons English leads – among them its flexibility, ability to evolve, connections to other languages, and large native speaker base. Just look at the command of English-language films at the box office (particularly American entertainment and media, which generatedalmost 30% of the industry’s revenue in 2012), as well as the music industry, and the variety of English-language series on services such as Netflix.
English is a major tool in banking and in the business world, where some of the biggest companies – among them Sodexo, Yokohama, Honda, and Siemens – have already implementedEnglish as their corporate lingua franca, or are taking steps to do so. World trade is also largely conducted in English as global deals need to be concluded on the basis of a language that is most likely shared by all parties (usually English). In science, English is the go-to language when coining terms or publishing theories, and as a result, in much of higher education too.
By 2050, half the world will speak English
Even now, a quarter of the global population speaks it and millions more are actively learning it. It is even estimated that by 2050 half of the world will speak it at some level. This sort of language dominance is historically unheard of – and the diminishing of English as a global language is extremely unlikely, say many experts including Manhattan Institute linguist John McWhorter, even as other languages like French, Spanish and Chinese grow and become more popular. “It is vastly unclear to me what actual mechanism could uproot English given conditions as they are,” he says.
You need English to communicate with the world
Whether your aim is to travel widely, learn about other cultures, socialize more easily with native speakers and other students, become an entrepreneur, work internationally or study abroad, building strong English skills will help you achieve these goals. And remember: as English spreads and gathers more speakers, it no longer “belongs” to native speakers. It belongs to the world – including you.