Published 30th November 2018
As English as a Foreign Language teachers, we hope that our lessons have some impact on our learners’ lives. We all know that learning English will benefit learners – and this is why we do our job – but have you ever thought about exactly what benefits it will have? Recent research from the British Council wanted to find out exactly that. They interviewed a number of students from a variety of backgrounds on the benefits they perceived from learning English, and this is what they found.
Not surprisingly, communication was noted as a benefit. A knowledge of English allowed learners to communicate beyond their geographical locations. This is not only to communicate in English-speaking environments with native speakers, but with speakers of other languages in international contexts. In other words, English was noted as an international language.
Employment is another obvious advantage. Being able to speak English opens learners up to a number of jobs where speaking English is a necessary skill. This means not only jobs in English-speaking countries but jobs in their own countries which require international communication. In many countries, speaking English can lead to promotions and career progression, as well as opening up the speakers to international learning opportunities.
Knowledge and thinking
Understanding English also has an effect on knowledge and, perhaps surprisingly, thinking. Being able to read in English gives access to information and resources that may not be available in other languages. At the same time, this knowledge has the power to alter a person’s worldview, as it introduces its speakers to the wider world. Because English is so international, if you speak English, you are more aware of other places in the world besides where you live. This in effect changes how you think.
English can have an effect on personal development too. In many countries, higher status is attached to English and people who can speak English are seen as more powerful than others. This has a negative effect on those who cannot speak English. Being a part of the English-speaking community brings to light the flaws in this idea and helps learners develop their own cultural and linguistic pride. It gives more confidence to learners and helps them speak out in bilingual or international situations.
Knowing English means knowing English-speaking cultures, such as British and American (among many others). In this way, speaking English will expose learners to other ways of life. This expands their worldview in terms of lifestyle, in that they will be exposed to, for example, Australian brands, products and popular culture.
Finally, learning English usually means communication with speakers of other languages, be it in the EFL classroom, online or through travel. English learners often travel out of their countries and this results in them finding friends and making relationships with people from all over the world, which wouldn’t be possible, or would be much harder, without speaking English.
The original report from the British Council can be viewed here: http://englishagenda.britishcouncil.org/research-publications/research-papers/impact-english-learners-wider-lives
So you now know exactly the benefits learning English has on our learner’s lives in terms of communication, employment, personal development, lifestyle, relationships besides just learning the language.