Why do people need to learn English?

Why do people need to learn English?

Diary submitted by Tom B. Valencia

Carry out a poll on assessing needs outside of the language school. (Questions like: Do you need English for your job? When was the last time you spoke English outside this school?) 

Why do people need to learn English?

Throughout my four weeks working in Valencia, I have conducted a poll in which I have asked my students and others at the language school why they intend to study English and what they hope to gain from the experience. On some occasions, I was given the opportunity to gauge the level of the student’s English before the course started, and this is where the students were most helpful in conducting my research. Having asked twenty students the reason why they wanted to learn English, I ended with the results that eight were there because they hoped a qualification in English would improve their work prospects for the future, four needed English to gain a promotion quickly, two wanted to learn English so that they may have the option to travel and work in a foreign country, and finally six had enrolled as they wanted to learn English as a hobby.

One of the interesting conclusions I discovered from my research was that of the people that were learning English as a hobby, five of the six were retired from work and they were the ones who practised the most outside of the language school. The other was a student, who, having some free time in his summer holidays, was keen to learn a language, and he was the most proficient of all the students I taught. He made it his aim to speak English to his friends and he told me that he had been attending Erasmus events in an effort to find people to speak English to. On the other hand, I discovered that only two of the eight hoping to secure a qualification that may enhance their work prospects actually had much English contact in their jobs at the moment, and for this reason, they had been struggling to be able to practise outside of the language school.

Following the results of my research, I started to wonder why English was so important here and why so many people were desperate to learn it in a way that we are not used to in the United Kingdom. However, I became more focused on the difference between the people that needed English for their jobs and those that purely wanted to master a foreign language. As a teacher to non-native speakers, ‘we focus our teaching on the spoken, socially-acceptable colloquial form of the language’ (Scott), and this is what seems to interest those in desperate need of English. However, those who wish to pursue the language as a hobby seem more inclined to focus on the intricacies of the language and would look to go beyond the basic structures and test themselves. I discovered that my students who used English outside of an academic or working atmosphere and made an effort to go out of their comfort zones were able to develop their use of the language in a way that is beyond the depths of solely being a student in a class.


  • Scott, Charles T (1965), Teaching English as a Foreign Language, The English Journal Vol. 54, No. 5, (May 1965), pp.414-418
  • My own personal survey.

Why do people need to learn English?

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