Why People Need to Learn English


The other day I got a message from an old friend. He asked my advice, what would be the most efficient way to set up English classes for his son. The thing is that his son hates English and has already pushed away several English tutors by simply persuading them that he doesn’t need the language. So far, only parents’ pressure can force him to learn English, temporarily. Now they feel at a loss what else they can do to coax their son into learning.

When my friends complain about children who don’t see any sense in English, I feel a bit puzzled. In my childhood I didn’t even question the importance of learning foreign languages. With my parents as role-models, occasional communication with educated foreigners and a few precious journeys abroad, I couldn’t wait till the moment when I would speak several languages fluently. My father could speak French without accent and some English, my mother learned English on her own and practiced speaking with our guests. I observed two important things: first, it is possible to learn a foreign language and reach proficiency; second, the world becomes wider when you can communicate in English.

When I was a student, foreign companies started opening their offices in my country. Youngsters who spoke English could land with better jobs, enjoy higher salaries, business trips and perks even without much work experience. Furthermore, a new wave of emigration started: Green card lottery, work emigration to Canada and even exotic Australia. Knowledge of English opened many new doors to education, career and better living standards.

Now English doesn’t mean a “magic ticket” to get a great job. You need some strong reasons to spend several hours a day doing English assignments instead of enjoying Facebook entries, browsing the Internet, reading or just pottering about your house (you can add whatever activity you usually do to relax).

For me, there are three important reasons to learn foreign languages.

1. Freedom of choice

At some point, you understand that you can choose the country to live, the work to do and the education to get. You can work at the office or at home, you can study in your country or abroad, you can live in a city or near the sea. People who can speak English have much more choice than those who speak only their mother tongue. Take my classmates as an example. One girl lives in the USA, another one in Great Britain, another one in Ireland, another one in the Netherlands, another one in Hungary and another one in Germany. Some people took Coursera online courses, one person found a job in Google, one girl became a top-manager in an international corporation.

2. Life wisdom

When I communicate with people from all walks of life in different countries, I learn so many new things! Once I lived for a couple of days in Great Britain in a family and visited another wealthy family of Scottish people who had a mansion with a golf lawn and a Rolls Royce, which allowed me to experience a different life style. Our Sri Lankan guide told us so many funny stories about his life. This way we could feel how people live there.

3. Interest

It’s interesting for me to communicate in English, to learn new collocations and idioms, to listen to podcasts and to read books in English. One can learn a language for years only if this activity brings a lot of pleasure.

Now let’s get back to the question in the beginning of my article, what can anxious parents do to motivate their kids?

1. Serve as role models

If parents really believe that English is important, they need to learn it themselves. No child will believe that smoking is harmful if parents smoke like a chimney. No child will believe that English is necessary if parents don’t bother to learn even the basics.

2. Create the environment

Find a school with intensive English lessons and reliable teachers. Send your kid to an English summer camp. Travel abroad.  Watch English films and TV series in the evening. Speak some English at home.

3. Invite foreign guests

You can make friends with native speakers who live in your town, join an international club or even register at Couchsurfing , letting foreign guests stay at your home for a couple of nights. Make sure that you have regular meetings with different native speakers. This way your child will get plenty of communication and will learn a lot.

Isn’t it easier just to force your kid to learn? The answer is no. You can spend a lot of money on tutors, courses and textbooks, but this will yield poor result without kids’ desire to learn. It’s so much better to nurture interest and intrinsic motivation.