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Globalization and ELT

September 27, 2005

I'd be interested to hear what readers think are the main reasons for students learning English nowadays. Of course, English has been seen for many decades as an asset when it comes to finding a job. This was especially true for nationals of countries that had a thriving tourist industry. But the increasing globalization of business seems to me have changed the way we use English in workplaces.

In the nineteen-eighties I would teach lots of Italian and Spanish students who expected to work in tourism. They would speak their own language to colleagues and English to visitors. Now, however, workforces in global companies and organizations are increasingly international. Or, even if the local workforce might be one nationality, managers from other parts of the world could be involved in running local branches. For multi-national workforces, English is usually the lingua franca, although the English will be spoken by non-native-speakers to other non-native-speakers.

In many fields: finance, aviation, pharmaceuticals, IT, and so forth, the most successful companies work globally and ambitious youngsters seeking posts with these companies will want to demonstrate a high level of proficiency in English. But it needs to be the kind of English that is readily understood by non-native speakers. As a teacher, I love language and nothing gives me greater pleasure than exploring its history and its strange quirks and intricacies. But this is not what today's students need. They need something practical, easily comprehensible, and something into which they can comfortably slip their own cultural norms. All this must be having an influence on how we design and deliver courses.

Please let me know your thoughts on the trends in ELT. How is this influencing what you do and how you do it?

Bye for now,

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  1. Cvetanka Says:

    Here I am again with my opinion.
    In the country where I come from FYRMacedonia nowdays a lot of people learn English.
    I'm teaching both adults and children. When I ask them why are they learning Englih language they say that If they don't know English they feel as they are deaf and blind!
    My students say that in today's world If you don't speak English you are nobody,you can't communicate and even you can't work on the computer!!

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