1. It’s the “International Language.”
It never ceases to amaze me how many job opportunities there are teaching English abroad, but it’s because there really is that high of a demand to learn it. In many countries, speaking English is viewed as a necessity to having a successful career, getting a good education, or opportunities to travel. When meeting fellow travelers, it’s often assumed that English is the language used to communicate, even when it’s not the first language of either party! True, the number of native Chinese speakers is nearly double that of English, but the difficulty of the Chinese language still has students around the world opting for English as a second or third language to study.
2. America, Land of Pop Culture
It also never ceases to amaze me how much people from other countries look to countries like the U.S., England, or Australia for their pop culture fix. I found it refreshing to see that K-pop singer PSY was an international sensation for his song, “Gangam Style.” Let someone else have to Google Translate lyrics just to sing along and know when they’re saying something dirty for a change! But overall, Anglophone countries still lead the way in exportation of cheesy pop songs and high-budget blockbusters, so you’re lucky if you don’t need to learn another language to access these guilty (or not-so-guilty) pleasures. Or, on the flip side, to learn the language if you want to become a famous pop singer! (Does anyone remember Shakira’s earlier album, “Dónde Están los Ladrones?” or are you guys more interested in whether or not her hips lie?)
3. Tricky verb tenses!
When teaching English in Indonesia, I came to recognize the ways that the language was uniquely difficult for them because of the structure of their native language. In Bahasa Indonesia, there are no changes made to the verb to show if it’s past, present or future. Instead, you simply use context words to show the time the action took place. To me, that seemed so much more practical instead of having all these different verb tenses where the difference in meaning is so subtle that you don’t really need it. Let me give you an example:
In English we have the present perfect tense, which we use when the action was completed in the past, but not just the past, the past past. So, we can say “I saw the movie” in the simple past or “I have seen the movie” in the present perfect. The second sentence implies that you saw it a long time ago, but you don’t really need a different tense for that, especially if you can say “I saw the movie when I was younger.” Is this grammar lesson boring or confusing to you? Good, then you and most of my students have something in common.
4. Exceptions to the rules
When learning a language, a common approach is to learn general grammar rules so that when you encounter a new situation with that language, you know what is grammatically correct and what’s not. The annoying thing about English is there’s exceptions to almost every rule. Take for example the present tense. You would think that we only use this to talk about the present, right? Wrong. In some cases, we can also use to talk about the future. Example: We can ask, “when do you want to go” to talk about a future plan or say, “the movie starts in fifteen minutes” to make a future prediction. Also, I would tell my students in was incorrect to end sentences with prepositions then proceed to write on the board, “Tell me what things you like to talk about.” When it comes to English grammar, rules were made to be broken.