The Beatles and Harry Potter inspire English language learning

Today Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, has published research which shows that The Beatles and the Harry Potter film series have been voted as the most popular sources of culture that help people learn the English language, fighting off competition from the likes of Justin Timberlake, One Direction, Madonna and Adele, and TV series House of Cards(1).

The research - commissioned by Pearson English, the English language learning division of Pearson - surveyed over 6,000 English language learners from 12 countries to understand more about why and how they choose to learn English as a second language. Whilst the key driver for many was to make travelling abroad easier (56%), over 50% are motivated to learn English to improve their career prospects, and with 82% of respondents stating that English should be the official language of business it is easy to see why. The results reflect a recent LinkedIn(2) survey in which 80% of global businesses agreed that individuals who are able to speak good English are more likely to succeed in their business.

There is a clear demand to master the English language for both personal and professional reasons; and to help individuals understand their proficiency, Pearson English has developed the Global Scale of English (GSE) - the world's first truly global standard for recognising and quantifying the level of an individual's English.  The GSE will allow people across the world to clearly benchmark their English ability, whether they are learning the language to understand the lyrics to a Lady Gaga track or trying to secure their next big career move.

Perhaps not surprisingly the research showed that those surveyed believe that William Shakespeare (42%) has demonstrated the best mastery of the English language. Perhaps more surprising is their choice of celebrity English teacher - whilst you might think the majority might like to take lessons with royals, William and Kate, it is in fact the billionaire Microsoft boss, Bill Gates, who wins out with 19% of the vote, narrowly beating his fellow countryman Barack Obama (14%). And who is it that these learners are looking to for inspiration? Well it seems that Canadian songstress, Celine Dion, is the non-native English speaker who has gone on to achieve most success through learning English, according to 27% of respondents, just ahead of Colombian diva, Shakira (25%).

'Thank you' is the most useful English word cited by respondents, and showing that we are all romantics at heart 'love' is the favourite English word.

Visit  for more information on the Global Scale of English or

Infographic download - Get Inspired to Learn English (PDF - 890KB)



Liz Tudball
+44 (0) 207 873 3002

About the Global Scale of English

The Global Scale of English means English language proficiency no longer needs to be measured in vague terms like basic, intermediate or advanced. It enables English learners to accurately score and communicate their English language skills and progress on a granular, numeric scale from 10-90 providing a far more precise measurement of the learner's ability than any existing methods which tend to categorise in broad bands.  It is rooted in real life so that learners can clearly see what they can achieve at every level, for example, if you score 29 on the scale, you are able to identify and order very common food and drink from a menu; at 62, you can write a structured review of a film, book or play; at 74 you can extract the main points from news items with opinions, arguments and discussion.

About Pearson

Pearson is the world's leading learning company, with 40,000 employees in more than 80 countries working to help people of all ages to make measurable progress in their lives through learning.

Pearson English is a division of Pearson and more than 1.5 million teachers and 35 million students use our English language learning resources and tools each year.  We offer dynamic and effective learning solutions to individuals, institutions and corporations in over 150 countries.

Our key businesses include: Wall Street English (centre based learning for consumers); Pearson English Business Solutions (online business English learning solutions formerly known as GlobalEnglish) and ELT (institutional English language publications including brands such as Longman). In 2013, Pearson announced a strategic investment in English language learning platform Voxy and acquired Grupo Multi, the leading adult English Language Training company in Brazil.

In 2014 Pearson English released the Global Scale of English, the world's first common, global benchmark of English language learning. It measures English language progress on a numeric scale in a way that is consistent, granular and actionable for governments, corporates, academics, institutions and learners. The Scale has been created as an Open Standard for English that meets a global need.

Note to editors


  • Best female artist to help you learn English – top four: Adele (23%), Madonna (22%), Katy Perry (13%) and Beyoncé (12%)
  • Best male artist to help you learn English – top four: Justin Timberlake (28%), Bono (18%), Justin Bieber (15%) and David Guetta (11%)
  • Best band to help you learn English – top four: The Beatles (48%), U2 (12%), One Direction (10%) and Nirvana (10%)
  • Best movie to help you learn English – top four: Harry Potter (36%), The Lord of the Rings (20%), Star Wars (14%) and X Men (14%)
  • Best TV programme to help you learn English – top four: House of Cards (24%), Breaking Bad (19%), Downton Abbey (16%) and Mad Men (14%)


  • LinkedIn research for Pearson English, May 2014