English as lingua franca

English is probably the most important language in the world. Although there are other languages spoken by hundreds of millions of people, such as Chinese, Spanish, or Arabic these languages are not mandatory to learn in school around the world (in the countries where other native languages are spoken). In many cases English is!


It is incredible to realize that people from two different parts of the world, who speak two very different native languages, are able to communicate using another language. It is very often but not always English. I have traveled extensively in my life and I have been able to talk with people from Korea, Israel, Argentina, Russia, Egypt to name just a few countries using English.


I think that you should not obsess over using English properly in every single situation when you are a student of English. I know that a lot of people have a language barrier and they don’t want to lose face but let’s not forget that communicating in a foreign language, any foreign language one speaks, is exactly about that, communication. It doesn’t matter whether you know all forms of the irregular verbs or you know the difference between present perfect simple and past simple and you know how to use these tenses well. What matters is the fact that you are willing to try to express yourself in the language you don’t know that well. It brings me to a funny observation I made years ago. The native speakers of English sometimes don’t understand the non-native speakers of English trying to talk to them in English. At the same time, a lot of native speakers expect to be communicated while abroad in perfect English by every single person they meet, be a waiter in a restaurant, a receptionist at a hotel, a cleaner in a public toilet, and any other profession you can think of. It is a very stupid expectation and very often people will dislike you from the start because you come across as an arrogant prick unwilling to learn a few basic phrases in another language.


English has in a way been so successful as a tool of international communication that it no longer solely belongs to the native speakers of English with all its varieties heard around the world. It has been hijacked by billions of people living in every corner of the globe and shaped to suit any type of oral and written communication for people in need of a language to communicate in. No other language has been elevated like this. That’s why I think it is easier for people who don’t speak English as their first language to communicate in it. At the same time, English spoken by non-native speakers is a separate variety of English that, in many cases, doesn’t follow any specific rules regarding grammar or pronunciation. It obviously is not English spoken by the native speakers but who cares as long as it works!



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