6 Reasons Why Knowing English Is Important in Today's World
Language is our primary source of communication; it's how we share ideas with others. Some people even say that language is what separates us from animals and makes us human. There are thousands of languages in the world; countries have their own national languages in addition to a variety of local languages spoken and understood by their people in different regions. Some languages are spoken by millions of people and others by only a few thousand.
English is one of the languages known by many, with about 20% of the global population speaking it (that's 1.5 billion people). But did you know that most of those people aren't native speakers? Only about 360 million people speak English as their first language. Given its popularity in everyday communication, academia, business, and entertainment, it's no wonder many are saying it's important for non-native-speakers to hurry up and learn English.
Six Reasons Why English Is Important
- It's an international common tongue.
- It's the language of academia.
- It gives you access to a wealth of written media, online and printed.
- It comes in handy when traveling.
- It's essential if you want to work in international business or commerce.
- It's the language of Hollywood.
1. English Is the International Common Tongue
There are several factors that make the English language essential to communication in our current time. First of all, even for those who don't use English as their primary language, it is a very common second language in various cultures. This means that two people who come from different countries (for example, a Mexican and a Swede) usually use English as a common language to communicate.
I think everyone needs to learn the language in order to get in touch on an international level. Speaking English will help you communicate with people from countries all over the world, not just English-speaking ones. That applies whether you're traveling, doing business, or communicating with others on social media.
Most English speakers aren't native speakers.
It's the first language of about 360 million people, but the total number of people in the world who know English is 4 times that amount (about 1.5 billion people).
How Did English Become So Popular?
English originally developed in England as one of the Indo-European languages, but through the historical efforts of the British Empire, it has become the primary or secondary language of many former British colonies such as the United States, Canada, Australia, and India.
Currently, English is the primary language not only of countries actively touched by British imperialism but also of many business and cultural spheres dominated by those countries. It is the language of Hollywood and of international banking and business. As such, it is useful and even necessary for many to understand the language.
List of Countries by English-Speaking Population
% English Speakers
Total English Speakers
2. It's the Language of Academia
English is also essential in the field of education. In many countries, children are taught and encouraged to learn English as a second language. Even in countries where it is not an official language, such as the Netherlands or Sweden, we will find that many syllabi in science and engineering are written in English.
Furthermore, English is generally thought to be the language of higher education. Many of the world's top universities are English-speaking schools. Because English is the dominant language in the sciences and international research, most of the research studies you find in any given scientific field will be written in it as well. At the university level, students in many countries study almost all their subjects in English in order to make the material more accessible to international students.
According to Pew research in 2010, over 90% of secondary school students and 73% of primary school students in Europe were taught English at school.
English as a Medium of Instruction
In fact, English as a medium of instruction (EMI) is an increasingly popular model. Educational institutions may choose to use the English language to teach any given subject, sometimes because it is a commonly spoken language in that geographic region, but also sometimes because the institutions seek to attract a population of students who believe that conducting their studies in English makes them more employable in the world.
There is some contention about whether EMI is beneficial on the whole. While it's true that studying in English can be a highly sought-after and employable skill, some worry that using English in academics can threaten local languages and therefore erase learners' identities. Furthermore, if teachers and students aren't all personally invested in using EMI, the quality of learning can be diminished. Its effectiveness can also suffer if teachers and students aren't actually fluent in the language, as that impacts critical understanding.
3. It's Favored by the Internet and Press
On the internet, the majority of websites use English. Even sites in other languages often give you the option to translate the site. The runner-up language is Russian, which only claims about 6% of websites. So English is the clear winner when it comes to the internet, with over 50% of the content in that language. And the amount of educational content on the internet is probably even more heavily skewed toward English dominance since, as we've already discussed, the modern world of research and academics favors English.
One in five people in the world understand at least a little bit of English.
English Publications Are Everywhere
It's also the primary language of the press: more newspapers and books are written in English than in any other language, and basically no matter where in the world you are, you will find some English books and newspapers available. In fact, because it is so dominant in international communication, you will have access to more information regarding nearly every subject if you can understand this language.
The World of Literature
If you know English, you'll also be able to read many great works of literature in their original versions. Of course, there are also great works of literature originally written in French, Spanish, Sanskrit, Greek, Chinese, and countless other languages. Nonetheless, a good portion of the classic literary canon is made up of works that were first written in English. And translations don't always capture the magic of great writers and poets like William Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson.
4. English Is Useful for International Travel
Having a good understanding of communicating in English makes it easier to travel around the globe. Because it is the main international common language for foreigners, knowing English makes it easy to get assistance and help in many parts of the world. After all, about one in five people know or understand at least a little bit of English—that's not true of any other one language. You can test this by looking at online travel options; any travel booking site you can find will have English as a booking option. And it's a good language to know for navigating airports and other transportation hubs as well.
Not only is English useful for tourism, but many international conferences, competitions, and celebrations are held in English as well—the Olympics, for example. It comes in handy almost wherever you go, for business or leisure. Even if you're not actively working on improving your overall understanding English, you might find it helpful to memorize a few English phrases before traveling to help you get around.
5. It's Essential for International Business
English skills are likely to help you in any business venture you choose to follow. That's especially true if you're working in the international sector, or if you'd like the option for your career to move from the local to international scale in the future. If you visit certain offices of private companies, governmental organizations, or even math or engineering companies, you will notice the prevalence of English.
Many big companies will hire professional staff only after getting to know whether they have good English or not. It's not uncommon for companies who want to function at an international level to only consider their staff to be well educated if they are fluent English speakers, writers, and readers.
6. It's the Language of Hollywood
Everyone knows that Hollywood is in the United States and that the biggest television and music industries on the planet are based there. According to UNESCO, "a look at the languages used in the top 20 most popular films of 2012 reveals that there is a clear and almost undisputed predominance of the English language."
As I mentioned above, TV and movies are a great way to practice your English once you start learning. What's more, knowing English opens up thousands of movies, television shows, and games for your enjoyment. And if you want to work in the entertainment industry one day, English is even more essential.
I believe that those who are still unaware of the importance of English should start learning it, because it seems like the time is fast approaching when just about everything will be done in English. In some ways, that time is already here.
If you're interested, a good first step is to familiarize yourself by exposure—so go ahead, watch some English movies to get an idea of the language.
Should English Be the World's Official Language?
There are many ways that individuals can benefit from understanding English. The idea of having an international common tongue seems pretty great; it opens paths of communication between more communities than ever, and it seems to level the playing field in some ways—in the globalized world we live in, everyone having the best tools possible sounds like a good thing, right?
Language Is Tied to Cultural Identity
Some would disagree. First of all, language and culture are closely tied. The idea that English is the most important language can erase the importance of cultural identities that are tied to languages other than English. The increasing use of English could also contribute to the decline of less popular languages that are nonetheless fundamental to many people's lives.
Is English the Official Language of the US?
No. The United States has no official language, and it is a melting pot of various cultural and linguistic origins. However, most US states have made English their official language.
English Was Originally Spread Through Imperialism
It's also worth acknowledging the violence that contributed to the dominance of English throughout history. As mentioned, the language was mainly spread through British colonialism. That doesn't mean we should stop using the English language, but some do believe the oppressive aspects of language's history count against it, and that its continued spread is also a continuation of imperialist dominance and erasure.
Computer Translators Are Getting Better
It's possible that the rising quality of computerized translation technologies could make knowing English less necessary when communicating globally. Even though most web pages are in English, many can be translated. Many videos have subtitles available in multiple languages, and an app on your smartphone can help you have a conversation with someone who doesn't share any common language with you.
Resources for Learning ESL
Although many people think that it is very difficult and confusing, English is actually the easiest language in the world to learn because there are so many resources available. As soon as you decide you want to start learning English as a second language (ESL), you'll find there are thousands of resources on the internet and in bookstores.
I'm not just talking about lessons and grammar books. You can supplement traditional learning materials with children's TV shows and books. I suggest watching as much TV as you can, in English with English subtitles, and you will pick up conversational English in no time.
Tips for Improving Your English
- Take a class online or in person.
- Read books and watch movies in English to expose yourself to the language.
- Watch English TV shows or newscasts regularly.
- Make a point to learn five new English words every week.
- Listen to English songs and learn all the words.
- Practice with a mentor, or find a conversation buddy who also wants to learn English.
- When reading a book in English, say the words out loud.
- Use online dictionaries and translators.
- Watch educational YouTube videos that teach English as a second language.
- Get an instructional book on ESL to guide your learning process.
- Use your phone's voice-to-text function to improve your pronunciation.
Exposing yourself to a new language through listening and reading helps a lot, but it's still extremely important to also practice saying words out loud and conversing with others if you want to improve.
Finding time for English classes or paying for a tutor are some ways to practice face-to-face conversation. And since so many people already want to learn English as a second language, you might be able to find a study partner who wants to practice speaking English with you! That way, you can become more fluent together. Learning a language sounds daunting, but there are many resources out there to help you along the way.