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English - the language of Opportunity and Success

English - the language of Opportunity and Success

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English is widely acknowledged as the language of business and professional success. More than 2 billion people today that are learning English are a testimonial to this statement. It has the highest economic value in the world and many organizations in even the non-English speaking countries are mandating it as official language of business, recognizing the fact the lack of English skills in the company is one of the biggest barriers to globalization of operations.


In India, too, English has become a "social leveler" apart from spawning increasing economic opportunities. A taxi driver once told me that he wanted to learn English because he felt "inadequate" when he could not understand the conversation in English of the passengers in his car. A house-wife was studying English because her young son was embarrassed that she could not talk to his teachers in English at the Parents-Teacher meetings.


Apart from the language being socially aspiration, it provides a compelling economic logic. India is a diverse country possessing different languages, cultures and ethnicity. Since regional languages don't have any link in common; it has become difficult for people to communicate with each other and hence carry out business activity without the knowledge of English. It is a matter of common experience that seminars and conferences across the country are conducted in English. Underlining this situation is the fact that studies have shown that people with good knowledge of English earn about 35% higher than non-english speakers.


The nature of English has also changed over the years. Initially, during the early days of the British Raj, it was 'English as a Foreign Language (EFL)'. This meant that the expected standard what that spoken by the native speakers. It was then followed by 'English as a Second Language (ESL)' which referred to the ability of communicating with the native speakers. However, as English has evolved, and the number of non-native speakers have outnumbered the native speakers, a new type of English, popularly referred to as the "Global English" has become relevant.


Global English can be thought to as incorporating the idiosyncrasies of local communication to allow people from diverse backgrounds in a country like India to communicate effectively with each other. One of the biggest strength of English is the way it has adapted over the years as opposed to the classical languages like Latin and Greek, which refused to adapt and have therefore been rendered irrelevant.


There are several areas of English. The basic building blocks of the language is Grammar and vocabulary - these constitute the 'knowledge' part of English. The skill part is the LSRW - Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. Then there is the application part - the communication and the soft-skills. Soft-skills demonstrate ability to function effectively in a business setting - presentation skills, problem solving skills, etc. While these skills are technically independent of language, they have become part of the English study because most business is transacted in that language. A programmer for example will not be effective unless he is able to read the brief (usually in English) from the customer and is able to communicate with the customer.


The Indian learners face several challenges in their quest to become proficient in English language. First, there is a large number that either does not go to school or goes to a school where medium of instruction of language is not English. Then there are those learners who go to English medium school but are often taught English using a vernacular. This means that while they develop a basic vocabulary and grammar but are not able to converse in English.


There are three reasons people may want to learn English - for social, academic or professional reasons. Given the current prevailing scenario, learners would be well-advised to understand their need and seek solutions accordingly. This is where technology can play a significant role. Many solutions, include ours, is available for study on computer, internet, mobile and tablets. Learners can access the learning where they wish and when they wish. This can dramatically alter the opportunity landscape for them.


One final word.Should we be worried about the predominance of English and whether it will sweep aside the other languages? Experience shows that this is unlikely.English is our second language, which allows us to function and create value in a larger context. Our first language or our mother tongue will always be our first choice of communication.




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