Teaching Online Contents
The English Effect
The English language is perhaps the United Kingdom’s greatest and yet least-recognized international asset. It is a cornerstone of our identity and it keeps us in the mind of hundreds of millions of people around the world, even when they are not talking to us.
English is spoken at a useful level by some 1.75 billion people worldwide – that’s one in every four. By 2020, we forecast that two billion people will be
using it – or learning to use it. And it is the economically active, the thought leaders, the business decision-makers, the young, the movers and shakers present and future who are learning and speaking English. They are talking to each other more and more and English is the ‘operating system’ of that global conversation.
The English language was forged by the UK’s unique history and now provides a major economic contribution to the UK’s prosperity. Thousands of students come to the UK to study English, contributing some £2 billion a year to local and regional economies across the country. Many carry on to further and higher education, continuing to contribute directly through tuition fees and by living here. In the process, they form personal, professional and business relationships with people and organisations in the United Kingdom which will continue when they return to leadership positions in their own countries. Much less of this would happen without the attraction of the English language. But English adds value well beyond then UK economy. Research shows how a good command of English can not only enhance an individual’s economic
- English is the world’s common language. English has come of age as a global language. It is spoken by a quarter of the world’s population, enabling a true single market in knowledge and ideas. It now belongs to the world and increasingly to non-native speakers – who today far outnumber native speakers.
- English gives the UK a competitive edge. For the UK today, it provides a strong competitive advantage in culture, diplomacy, commerce, media, academia and IT, and in the use and practice of soft power.
- English drives growth and international development. For developing and emerging economies, there is enormous demand and need for English in public education systems to boost stability, employability and prosperity.
- English changes lives. The impact of globalization and economic development has made English the language of opportunity and a vital means of improving an individual’s prospects for well-paid employment
THE GLOBAL LANGUAGE
The Evolution of English English is the dominant international language of the 21st century. It is spoken at a useful level by some 1.75 billion people – a quarter of the world’s population. As the language of communications, science, information technology, business, entertainment and diplomacy, it has increasingly become the operating system for the global conversation. How did this happen? What does it mean? Two qualities have been pivotal in the evolutionary rise of English: momentum and adaptability.
The momentum was originally provided by the political, military, religious and merchant classes. Through colonization, ship-borne trade with the Americas, North Africa, the Indies and China, and the attendant role of Christian missionaries, the English language was exported worldwide. Arabic and Spanish spread similarly through conquest and religious conversion, across the Islamic world and the Americas, in parallel to the rise of English.
But they did not adapt and adopt with the pace and flexibility of English.
Though the UK’s political and military power was crucial in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Louisiana Purchase 1 in 1803 was to prove of major significance. This established English as dominant over French in the United States; and then – as the UK’s empire shrank in the 20th century – rapidly growing American global influence gave the language a momentum perhaps unique in modern history.
HOW ENGLISH IS CHANGING LIVES
English has developed as a global language for a range of reasons, many of them historical, rather than anything intrinsic in the language itself. The
enormous irregularities in the English system of spelling, for example, may often be seen by a newcomer as a disincentive. Millions, however, are
undeterred. One of the strongest incentives for learning the language is the use to which it can immediately be put, socially, economically and culturally.
“English language skills are an indispensable tool for daily communication with most of the outside world, either in my professional or personal life. Through English I was not only able to assemble a vast professional network spanning around the globe, including China and Japan, I was also able to meet and get to know very inspiring personal friends around the region and in other, very different countries in Europe. It is vitally important that I am able to speak English; as important as being able to speak at all.”
THE ECONOMIC BENEFIT
The ‘Global Ranking of the Publishing Industry’ 24, A Livres Hebdo research project, highlighted that while the US may be dominant in trade publishing, UK publishers punch significantly above their weight when it comes to academic and scholarly publishing. Indeed the top five UK companies included in the rankings – Pearson, Reed Elsevier, Informa, Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press – accounted for €13.39 billion, nearly a quarter of total global publishing revenues.
Asia is now the fastest growing market for many publishers’ English language content. Demand in rapidly developing countries such as China, Indonesia and Malaysia reflects the high status these societies place on education and particularly English language learning and the research singles out these two sectors as areas of significant growth.
Conclusion and recommendation
English is now spoken by a quarter of the world’s population, enabling a true single market in knowledge and ideas. Non-native speakers now substantially outnumber native speakers and as a result, English increasingly belongs to the world rather than to any one country.
- The UK should recognition the significant contribution of its dynamic and entrepreneurial ELT sector and do more to support its growth. A strategic and joined-up approach to market development and intelligence, involving government and the private sector, should be encouraged.
- The UK should use its huge strengths in English teaching, curriculum development and assessment to enable low and middle income
countries around the world to improve the provision of English in public education systems.
- More should be done to encourage and enable the brightest and best young people from the UK to explore opportunities to teach English around the world.
- There is an urgent need for a step change in foreign language learning among st young people in the UK, ensuring that we continue to learn
from and engage with people from other countries and cultures.
The British Council helps millions of people around the world to learn English as a central part of its work for the UK. No organisation does more, in more places, to share the benefits of the English language with the world.