How to maximize your English learning

It’s the time of year when many people begin to make plans and set goals. Often those goals include finding a new job, improving employment prospects and developing some new and positive habits.

One decision that can help with all of those is to learn English online or increase your English proficiency.

There are a number of compelling reasons and some interesting anecdotal information concerning countries that speak English.

Most people are familiar with the countries where English is the main language. Those include the US, Canada (with the exception of Quebec), the UK, Australia and New Zealand. What many find surprising is the list of English speaking countries where English is the official language for business and higher education. Those countries include Singapore, Kenya, South Africa, Swaziland, Liberia, Malta, Botswana, Uganda, and Sierra Leone, among others.

Recently EF completed its annual English proficiency study. Over the past year there has been a large increase in the number of people who speak English as a second language and the number of people looking to learn English.

As expected, those countries that are considered “emerging economies”, such as India and South Korea have shown considerable growth in the number of people who speak English. However, the biggest growth and concentration of English speaking countries is in Europe.

In Europe, the Scandinavian countries rank at the top of the list. Sweden tops the list and is closely followed by Norway, Denmark, and Finland. Poland, Germany, Austria, and Slovenia also rank highly in the top twenty countries in terms of the number of residents who speak English.

Somewhat surprisingly the countries in Latin America rank fairly low in the number of English-speaking residents. The percentage of English speakers in the Middle East is very low, although Afghanistan has experienced some growth over the past year in terms of those looking to take online English courses and increase their fluency.

Another interesting finding is the growth of English speakers and English proficiency in Africa. South Africa has shown a marked increase in the number of English speakers as is to be expected in a country where English is the official language of business and higher education. However, the growth of English speakers in other countries is a positive sign for the economic growth of those countries and shows the impact of a younger population looking to increase their standard of living and career prospects.

The Importance of English in Business

It is logical to ask why English can have such an impact on one’s career and income.

English is the de-facto language of the business world.

Our study has shown that worldwide, a higher proficiency in English has a number of significant benefits including higher gross domestic product, higher average gross income, and other key economic indicators.

The study also shows that high English proficiency is one of the steps in an economy moving from an agricultural economy to a manufacturing or service one.

Retail businesses remain a key economic component, but as e-commerce continues its rapid growth, this area is changing as well. One of the key aspects of successful e-commerce businesses is making the site accessible to English speakers.

As more businesses, especially SMEs (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) do business internationally, the demand for English-speaking staff continues to grow. At one point the heaviest demand for English speaking employees was at the upper levels. Now the demand exists in most areas of the companies. To meet the demand many companies have begun to offer English language training to their employees.

English is also the main language for collaboration and idea sharing. More scientific journals are published in English than in any other language. This does not mean that ideas and concepts developed in Arabic, Chinese, or Polish are less valid and less feasible. The internet has made international collaboration the new norm. The ability to share ideas on a global scale is immensely positive.

English proficiency and a good internet connection also provide a wealth of educational and learning opportunities. The amount of information available with just a few keystrokes is staggering. A vast majority of this information is in English. Having English proficiency, rather than depending on translation apps, is a definite plus.

Other Findings from Our Study

One interesting note from the study concerns the apparent connection between English language proficiency and the society. The study shows that English speaking countries and those with a high degree of English proficiency are more open, less hierarchical and typically offer a better quality of life.

As is to be expected younger adults show the highest degree of English proficiency due in large part to an increased effort to teach English in primary schools.

Women tend to speak English better than men.

One somewhat surprising finding is that managers typically have higher English proficiency than executives. This may be in part a reflection of a younger workforce making its way up the corporate ladder.

Steps for the future

The New Year, new habits concept is a sound one and offers a number of benefits over the typical New Year’s resolution.

Here are some tips to help maximize your potential in the New Year.

  • Enroll in an EF English Live course. The online format makes the classes convenient and you will work with skilled, knowledgeable instructors.

  • Listen to English whenever possible. This includes listening to music, watching English language television programmes, movies, and plays.

  • Engage in English chat rooms online. The internet provides a great way to practice speaking English on a variety of topics.

  • Find books and internet articles in English. This not only provides practice but gives you the option to look up unfamiliar words.

  • Change your default setting on your devices. Many studies have shown that total immersion in a language speeds the learning processes. Changing the default language settings to English on your computer, tablet, and mobile phone provides you with a great way to practice the language.

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