For decades, English has been the "lingua franca," the international language which people need to know in order to communicate with others around the world. It is second only to Mandarin Chinese in the number of people who speak it. For this reason, schools in countries with other primary languages often require students to study English as a Second Language (ESL).
Students in countries where English is the official language (including the United States, Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) are also required to study English literature, speech and writing in order to improve their communication and critical thinking skills.
Twenty percent of the world's population speaks English competently. According to Barbara Seidlhofer, a professor of English and Applied Linguistics at the University of Vienna, three out of four people who communicate in English are not native speakers. If you speak English well, you will be able to communicate with others--even with people for whom English is not their mother tongue--virtually anywhere in the world. You might have to look around for an interpreter, but you are likely to find one.
In today's global marketplace, you need to speak English to negotiate deals with international partners and read international contracts. Those who speak good English have a significant advantage when working with customers and clients around the world.
Research and Academics
In many academic areas, textbooks are available only in English. Many scientific studies and academic journals are published only in English. On the Internet, 80 percent of home pages are written in English (the next most-used Internet language, German, accounts for less than 5 percent of home pages). Being able to read English, then, is a key to advanced studies.
Reading and Writing Skills
Native English speakers study their own language at a more advanced level in order to improve their reading and writing skills. English classes help students learn to comprehend complicated texts, including works of literature that are important in Western culture. English classes also give students a laboratory in which to experiment with language and become better writers.
English classes help both native and non-native speakers improve their English vocabulary and gain confidence in speaking English to others. Students in English-speaking countries improve their grammar, learn to articulate themselves clearly and often develop skills in writing and delivering speeches, giving presentations or acting in plays.
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