English Advantage: Overcoming the Language Handicap !
No doubt that proficiency in English language is a huge advantage – economically, socially, and psychologically. However, sometimes the lack of such proficiency negatively impacts people and affects them greatly.
This article tries to suggest how mastery of a language can be advantageous and how we can prevent the negative impacts of the lack of proficiency.
For centuries, in India and abroad, the debate on the need for English language proficiency has been done endlessly, often not arriving at a conclusion. This is because of the global privilege English has enjoyed at different points of time, ever since the industrial revolution.
All said the present globalised world and employers seek Good English language proficiency amongst their employees. So it is only obvious that the English language has the ability to make or break one’s career except for highly localised situations, especially at higher ranks.
Some common advantages of English might be:
1.Window to the world: With over 1.2 billion people speaking English as either their first or second language, English can help you communicate immediately with more than 20% of the total world population. With about 70 countries having recognised it as their official language, English widens your scope of communication across the world.
2.Employability enhancement: English language skills increase your employability quotient multifold. Corporate and multinational companies who often deal with many countries prefer people with good proficiency in English language communication.
So you stand a great chance of being recruited if you have enough proficiency in English, and your chances of growing in ranks are more with good English language command. Cyberspace has only increased the scope of employability for good English speakers.
3. Access to education: With almost all knowledge ever made available is available in English too, it helps you understand all subjects and get educated in prestigious institutions across the world.
4.Easy to travel: With almost all countries employing people with English knowledge in the areas where international travel happens, it is easy to reach any part of the world with enough power to communicate in English.
5.Confidence levels: Many studies have concluded that proficiency in English also helps a person become a little more confident than he/she was without it. Hence, you appear confident with good English and reap the benefits of being confident, too.
6.Social status: Achieving fluency in the English language is considered to be prestigious across the world, despite the controversies surrounding social status/stigma of attaching language proficiency to one’s status. And it is not uncommon that people who are fluent in English are looked up with awe.
However, in spite of the English language being a tool for success, there is a darker side too. For every successful learner of the English language, there are those in equal or greater numbers who failed in achieving that mastery.
The failure in mastering English is not just associated with the language per se but is extended to other faculties as well, like one’s cognitive ability, knowledge of a subject other than English, and even technical skills which are not expressed in English.
Such wrong associations have led to the heartbreak of many, and experts have debated in detail on the impacts of such failures. I am sure that many of us have either experienced such disappointments ourselves or have witnessed such failures in our proximity.
There are certain things that a learner of the English language should be aware of, in order not to succumb to such false stigmas. I propose the PPP (Positivity, Practice & Persevere) model to overcome the challenges and convert them into success stories.
Major challenges in any second language learning are psychological barriers. We fear to learn new things, we fear to make mistakes, and we fear being laughed at.
Once we are out of this anxiety, we would have already achieved half the success.
The secret to overcoming the fear is to stay positive. Mistakes are stepping stones to success. Instead of being scared, take pride in learning new things and committing new mistakes. Learning is more permanent when we learn from our mistakes. And be determined that you will not commit the same mistakes again.
When you take language learning as fun, the fear of mistakes disappears magically.
Secondly, positivity occurs while visualising the benefits of language learning, and ignoring the hassles that occur en route achieving this mastery. Once the eyes are set on the goals, all the challenges become enjoyable.
Thirdly, an understanding of the practicality of language learning can give us great relief from the anxiety. Most of us fail miserably only when we aim at using English in a way that the native speakers use. However, cognitive science says that the way we will learn a language gets imprinted in our brains as early as when we are just 11 months old. Hence, irrespective of the quantum of efforts that we put into sounding like a native, our mother tongue influence will continue to be there forever. Therefore, aim at the communication of ideas rather than sounding like somebody else.
Be aware of the fact that there are more people who speak English as their second language than those whose mother tongue is English, so the majority of us do not sound ‘native’.
All said we can still see that there are some people around us who speak better English than others. This happens because of practice. We know that Practice Makes Us Perfect, and it applies to language learning too. One who tries the most to use the acquired knowledge becomes more proficient than the one who does not try.
Hence, the more you speak English, the more you write in English and the more you ‘think’ in English – the faster you will learn English. I am sure that all of us have at least a few walking examples of how they achieved good command over English just because they tried a little harder than others.
When talking about practice, we need to talk about all the four skills of language learning – Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing. While listening and reading are considered to be passive skills, speaking and writing are considered to be active skills of language learning.
Ones who listen to a lot of English – through news, videos, movies, songs and to others who speak English, tend to pick language faster than others.
And most of those who have good grammar and vocabulary happens to be good readers.
While we improve our competence (ability to create language structures within us) through listening and reading, our performance (fluency/ ability to use the language) improves through constant practice in speaking and writing.
As a teacher, I have seen many students with average or below-average language proficiency scale high just because they practised enough.
Perseverance is the last in this list, but perhaps a decisive factor that results in language proficiency improvement. While many get inspired by others, such motivations are mostly short-lived unless they have self-motivation.
Many people get motivated immensely after they hear or see others achieving great things, but the enthusiasm dilutes gradually as days pass by. But there are few, who hold on to the motivation and work steadily towards achieving their targets. These are the ones who become achievers. Hence, language learning too requires long time action with a lot of conviction to achieve intended success.
The ability to persevere is the only thing that will help us withstand the factors that normally demotivate us, including the fear of mistakes, fear of ridicule, etc.
– Jayakumar K
Head, Department of Humanities, BIT