Is Learning English Just a Fad?

If you live in Europe, chances are you have colleagues and friends who are taking English lessons, or maybe you are taking lessons yourself! Individuals and employers spend a lot of money on English lessons for adults, especially those working in multi-national companies or those who travel for work. In fact, many (if not most) employees here in France use their yearly training allowance for in-company English lessons, which are very common. Many schools specialize in catering to large companies by sending teachers in for group or individual courses, which are catered to the needs of each person: giving presentations, conference calls, language for traveling, etc. But is all this really necessary? Is English really so important in today’s business world, or is it just a passing fad, like Mandarin Chinese was a few years ago?

That’s right, learning Mandarin Chinese was becoming a trend in high schools and universities in the past few years. That’s because China is on course for becoming the world’s leading economy very soon. The idea is that young people in the West who speak Chinese would have an advantage in the future business world. Chinese is also the most spoken language in the world, boasting many more speakers than even Spanish. So, lots of students jumped on the Chinese-language bandwagon. However, considering the difficulty Westerners have learning Chinese and its written form, which doesn’t easily lend itself to today’s language of the internet, it is unlikely to push English out of it’s place as the international business language.

So what kinds of careers use English? Isn’t it just for international sales executives? Not anymore!

For those who work with the internet, whether in marketing, sales, or development, English is also the main language of the trade, with many online platforms and computer programs based in English. The HTML code used to write websites is based on English and most retail websites have an English-translated version. You might have also noticed that more and more English words are being inserted into the mainstream vocabulary all across Europe, especially as technology like Facebook and entertainment like Netflix continue to be major cultural influences.

But many other fields besides the internet use English just as frequently, and being fluent can change the quality of your work or of your personal experience within your field. More and more professions have a need for English comprehension or fluency such as magazine or newspaper editor, engineer, journalist, teacher, banker, lawyer, scientist or researcher, entrepreneur, travel agent, sports trainer, diplomat, and the list goes on. Even jobs in the restaurant and hotel service industry  have an increasing need for English for customers who are traveling for work or studies. Here in Europe, the opening of borders also means that people are seeking jobs outside of their home country—and they can communicate across borders easily is using English. Consumers around the world are increasingly using English for online shopping or customer service calls. And that’s one reason why, in most kinds of jobs, being able to speak English can make you more hireable, and more eligible for promotions or travel opportunities.

You’ve been getting by for years without using English, you say? That’s highly possible, and it’s the case for many aging workers who came into the workforce before the impact of globalization was relevant, and before much of the technology we use today was invented. But keep in mind that most of today’s incoming workforce will not only have an advantage over you with their mastery of technology, but they’ll also be more fluent in English than you. While you might have been chalking it up to age discrimination, this is one reason why employers are favouring younger workers for some positions. So obtaining an English certificate like the TOEIC, TOEFL, Cambridge or another standardized exam is a good way for older employees to show their competence in English. These certifications can be obtained through schools like Speak English Center (that’s us!)

So, the good news is that you haven’t been wasting your time and money on those English lessons: learning English is definitely NOT fad! In fact, the language is only likely to become more spoken as time goes by. If this ISN’T good news for you, then it’s time to get busy! For tips in improving your English on your own, follow our blog. For training or any other information, don’t hesitate to get in touch! Classes to suit your needs and schedule are filling up now!


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April is an e-marketing specialist, English instructor and freelance writer living in Grenoble, France.

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