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Published On: Tue, Sep 8th, 2015

The Benefits Of Proving Your English Skills

The birth of Modern English happened just prior to that of William Shakespeare, just in time to incorporate the works of the language’s most important writer into its corpus of literature. More importantly, this development came about just before Elizabethan England was starting to look beyond the shores of Great Britain and Ireland to build a global empire similar to those Spain and Portugal were running at the time.

Today, English is the native tongue of approximately 365 million people. These are mostly citizens of the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, the United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This ranks it as the third most common native language in the world, with Mandarin Chinese and Spanish coming first and second respectively. However, it is used to various degrees in several ex-colonies, with use ranging from countries whose citizens have a good grasp of the language to others where the entire educational system is based in English.

Ironically, after the United Kingdom itself, no country did more to spread the use of English than the first British colony to declare independence from the Empire. The latter may have turned English into the lingua franca of the world, making it the one common language spoken by the likes of diplomats, businessmen, artists and scientists from around the planet. However, it was the United States of America that truly solidified the position of English in the modern world.

By virtue of its status as a military, economic and technological superpower, the USA has long been in a position to export its Anglo-Saxon-based culture across the world. Millions of people around the planet have for decades been watching Hollywood movies, American soap operas and television series. Perhaps even more have grown up listening, dancing and singing to American pop and rock stars from Elvis Presley to Michael Jackson to Madonna. Still, most of what people watched in the cinemas and on their TVs was either dubbed or subtitled and it’s arguable how much of the lyrics of their favourite artist they actually understood.

photo/David Shankbone

photo/David Shankbone

In fact, one could argue that, up to the 1990s, English was a language that was only important to a relatively small subsection of global society that sought to collaborate with others across borders. It was important to read, speak and write English, but it certainly was not a must.

That all changed when a piece of US military technology was released into the public domain and the global village that is now modern society came into existence. The Internet did more to spread the use of English than any medieval, circumnavigating English explorer could ever have dreamed of.

Nowadays, most countries’ populations interact with non-nationals in ways that just 30 years ago would have been inconceivable. Whether passively through reading text on websites or watching video clips on YouTube, or actively through written or verbal communication over platforms like Facebook or Skype, the vast majority of people connected to the Internet are communicating on a daily basis with others who speak a different native language to them.

What’s more is that in business, command of the English language has become a must-have skill, thanks to the evolution of e-commerce, social, chat and email platforms. Services like Ebay, Alibaba, Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype, have changed the way businesses conduct their affairs. The whole world is now open to interact and do business with. Retailers in Europe can negotiate with Chinese suppliers to provide them with cheaper merchandise using Alibaba or Ebay; recruiters around the planet can search for those hard-to-find skills on LinkedIn; and entrepreneurs can build up a distributed team of the best workers they can find irrespective of their location. The common language that unifies all these people is English.

In other words, being able to speak, read and especially write in English not only makes business easier to conduct and more lucrative, the lack of those skills could really translate into an inability to compete at all. Anyone who wants to succeed in the modern world must learn English.

For people whose mother tongue is not English, proving proficiency to help gain entry into a university or for job applications is important. There are different types of course and examination possible. Almost anyone that has considered long-term travel as a lifestyle choice will have thought about TEFL qualifications (Teaching English as a Foreign Language).

However, for people that do not wish to teach but do want to open up the job market in a foreign location, IELTS may be the better option. The International English Language Testing System is a stringent set of tests, including a reading and writing task, and is recognised globally. This recognition is partly because of the large numbers of people that sit it annually. In 2014, for example, over 2 million tests were taken worldwide.

As might be imagined, 2 million tests per year means that there is also quite an industry that has grown up around the test. There are now a great many blogs, books, articles, podcasts and videos to help a student prepare and pass the test.

Considering the opportunities to study, live and work that open themselves to people with this proven extra skill, it seems reasonable to think that the sector will continue to grow strongly.

Guest Author: Stuart Langridge

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About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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  1. English As A Second Language Course Canada | English Language Course says:

    […] The Benefits Of Proving Your English Skills – The birth of Modern English happened … the United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This ranks it as the third most common native language in the world, with Mandarin Chinese and Spanish … […]

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