The learner's guide to why you need to learn English in today’s world

English has become, undeniably and indisputably, the language of the modern world. Spoken at a native level by hundreds of millions of people around the world and at varying levels of proficiency by billions more, it’s been variously described as a universal tongue, the world’s preeminent second language, and ‘hyper central’ – as in bringing together the global language system.

In short, it’s the unrivalled lingua franca, which is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as a shared language of communication used between people whose main languages are different. As the world becomes increasingly globalised and digitalised, English’s claim to these titles has only grown stronger.

It’s the number one business language in the world, accounting for global commerce worth over a fifth of global GDP. In Asia, one of the world’s most culturally diverse regions and home to hundreds if not thousands of local languages and dialects, English has become the language of the regional marketplace. In fact, English is the official language of the ASEAN bloc of countries, which includes major economies like Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

It’s little wonder then that proficiency in the language is regarded as an indispensable part of one’s professional skill set, capable of enhancing employability and unlocking a world of career growth opportunities, as well as paving the way for personal growth.

Millions of people across Asia now recognise this fact and are taking the plunge to learn the language and fulfill their aim to become global citizens. However, the path forward is not always clear, and learners can benefit from all the guidance they can get in order to make the most of their quest for proper English language education.

Several factors have contributed to the growing importance of the English language and the evolution of the instruction process in Asia. Starting from the top down, governments across the region are increasingly emphasising the value of English for inter-regional development while rapid globalisation and advances in technology are bringing major changes to the job market.

This means that new graduates, as well as experienced professionals, need to be nimble and proactive in learning new skills to replace obsolete ones, notes Kayo Taguchi, ELT Portfolio Manager, Pearson Asia.

One such skill is indeed the ability to communicate effectively in English. And research shows a positive relationship between investing in English-language education and the upward trajectory of an individual’s career graph, including in Asia.

This trend is exemplified by the Philippines’ formidable business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. According to Monette Fetalvero, Manager, Career Consultants Network and BADA Education Philippines, business communication and English language skills have become synonymous in the country, thanks to the growth of the BPO industry. 

Lorraine Loquisan, Chief Operations Officer, Enrich, agrees, noting that the industry – which is among the largest employers in the country and a major economic growth driver that has managed to cope with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic better than most other sectors – has been a catalyst in transforming English language instruction in the country’s schools into a highly evolved system that assigns equal importance to read, write and speak to produce well-rounded, effective communicators who can make the most of these skills in a professional setting.

BPOs in the Philippines employ over a million people and because a significant bulk of their client base is in English-speaking countries like the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia, these companies place a premium on employees with high English-language proficiency.