English is one of the most spoken languages in the world. As a language, English is also present in several countries. Treated as a universal language, English, around the world, is used and learned by speakers of different native languages.
Many international organizations specify English as an official or working language. Among these entities are the UN (United Nations), WTO (World Trade Organization), WHO (World Health Organization), EU (European Union), IOC (International Olympic Committee) and FIFA (International Football Federation).
Considered a global lingua franca, English is a protagonist in activities such as international trade, international political relations and scientific dissemination.
Counterpoints of teaching English as a global language
There are some pertinent questions regarding the teaching of English as a global language, when this happens unwisely. Does the exaggerated focus of English as a global language get in the way of spreading great ideas in other languages? What to say about mercantilism in English teaching? What about the overuse of English to the point where words from other languages can be suppressed, replaced by English words in their everyday use by speakers?
English educator and teacher Patricia Ryan, born in the UK, with many years of experience teaching English to foreigners, punctuates the questions above.
For Patricia Ryan, teaching English has gone from a mutually beneficial practice to a massive international business. It has become an opportunism for countries whose native language is English.
Fame and prestige do not always mean quality, but some of the most famous and prestigious universities in the world are in the West and in English-speaking countries.
If someone plans to study at a university in countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, for example, they often need to prove that they have the ability to speak and study in English. And for that there are English language proficiency tests. Among the best known are the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) and the IELTS (International English Language Testing System).
Patricia Ryan disagrees with the proposition of these tests, as she believes that they are barriers that can hinder or prevent the development of many talents around the world. And it also takes into account the costs involved in preparing courses for English language proficiency exams, something that many students cannot afford.
There are numerous English tests. For Patricia, fortunately, the German physicist Albert Einstein and other historical thinkers of humanity did not need to pass these tests, which were not practiced or required until the mid-1960s.
They are reproaches of unscrupulous marketing exploitation in English teaching. English should just be the language of opportunity, not opportunism.
Reasons to learn English
Professionally, English is very useful in various sectors of activity. Science, computing, medicine, diplomacy, international trade, tourism and aviation are examples of industries in which English is heavily involved.
English is also important in the international relationship between companies and professionals, and in representation at international events and conferences.
The usefulness of knowing English is not restricted to professional aspects. Knowledge of English is capable of expanding the possibilities of communication and learning.
In this way, for example, you can learn from various contents that are in English. From academic research to entertainment and culture such as books, magazines, movies, podcasts and documentaries.
In terms of communication, those who know English can communicate internationally and with populations of different cultures.
When learning English for survival
Deng Majok-gutatur Chol was just ten years old when a terrible civil war in Sudan forced him to flee the country. Air bombings became frequent and many children became targets of persecution by rulers who wanted to execute them before they could grow up.
In Duk, in central South Sudan, the newly formed country, was where Deng resided. At that time, Duk was part of Sudan. In 1987, Deng was one of tens of thousands of children who had to flee the country, and without the company of their parents.
Toward an unknown destination, barefoot Deng fled east. Only later would he know that the walk was towards Ethiopia. There were more than a thousand kilometers of walking in a trip that lasted about four months and went through aerial bombardments, lions and other wild animals, high temperatures, deserts, jungles, forests and rivers, hungry and thirsty at various times, until reaching the Ethiopia, the first refuge. Some of Deng’s companions didn’t make it to the end of the trip.
For the next three years, Deng remained in a refugee camp in Ethiopia.
Initially, the environment was peaceful, but hunger was widespread and there were many cases of chickenpox, measles, typhoid, hepatitis and acute malnutrition.
In 1991, refugees were persecuted in Ethiopia and expelled from the country, which was also experiencing conflict. Again, Deng found himself homeless. In this period, horrors of human insanity were responsible for fatally victimizing many children, among them, several of their companions. Gunshots, exhaustion, hunger and dehydration were the causes.
Peace, hope, joy, calm and education were still far from the reality of the environment.
With refugees expelled from Ethiopia, Deng again had to flee and this time he went to a border area between Sudan and Kenya. So it was a year in this jungle region, dodging aerial bombardment, wild animals, disease, famine and armed belligerents.
With the support of some NGOs, Deng was taken to the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya.
Until the age of thirteen, Deng could not read and write. In the midst of all this terrible journey, Deng began to study. However, several times, due to the lack of suitable material, without a notebook and pen, Deng used the sand from the ground as paper and his own finger as a pen.
And it was in this scenario that Deng learned English on his own. With word comparisons in English and his native language Dinka, Deng has handwritten his own dictionary.
It took ten years in refugee camps or on the run, before Deng had the opportunity to be received in the United States, along with about 4000 refugees, who became known as the lost boys and girls of Sudan.
In the United States, Deng earned an undergraduate degree from Arizona State University, an MBA from George Washington University and a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University.
Professionally, Deng became a researcher, speaker, consultant, and writer. In addition, he was one of the founders of the institution Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan, and contributed to the stability and education of his thirteen siblings.
The world has seen many conflicts and millions of refugees, which Deng calls a waste of human capacity.
At this very moment, probably, whether in a refugee camp, in a renowned educational institution or in an online course via the internet, someone is looking to learn English in search of opportunities and/or the improvement of knowledge. May the world be able to translate the meaning of the word peace.