Why be fluent in English?
It has been said, relating to the speed at which life changes in the information age, “If you’re not moving forwards, you’re going backwards.”
The rate at which globalisation is progressing is unprecedented in history, and whether we like it or not, English has become essential for those wishing to live without limits, in their careers – and personal life.
English will be relevant for you even in the long-term.
A reporter asked Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, “Jeff, what do you think is going to change most in the next 10 years?”
Jeff Bezos replied, “That’s a good question. But a better question is: What’s not going to change in the next 10-20 years?”
He went on to add that from Amazon’s perspective customers would continue to demand lower prices and faster delivery even in the long term. (In other words, demand for lower prices and faster delivery won’t change even in the next 10-20 years.)
“When you have something that you know is true,” says Jeff Bezos, “even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”
If you think about it, it’s an extraordinarily valuable insight.
Let’s apply this insight to what we’re discussing.
Would you need strong communication skills in English in 10 years?
In 20 years?
You will continue communicating while you’re in this world. Even if you retire from work, you can continue to shine socially through your superior communication skills.
Contrast this with subjects such as math, science, history, and engineering you study in school or college. We devote so much time to them, but most of us don’t use them to any significant level once we walk away with our degrees.
Remember, English is a skill, not a subject.
Going by what Jeff Bezos said – and I strongly agree with it – it makes every ounce of sense to make your communication skills top notch if they’re going to matter in a profound way for so long. And guess what, you can improve your communication skills in the time you otherwise waste – commuting, gossiping, wait times, and so on.
Let’s come to professional reasons for why you should learn to communicate in English.
Strong communication skills are a key ingredient for professional success
While it is hard to measure efficacy of proficiency in subjects such as math, physics, history, and economics on employability, proficiency in English language skills has a strong impact on employability. Data is widely available and unequivocal in this regard.
If you observe around, you’ll find plenty of people struggling in one way or the other because of a lack of effective English, both spoken and written.
It also directly reflects in the difference in the earning power of people who speak English fluently and those who do not. A quick look on LinkedIn will clearly demonstrate this fact. Have a look at people in the most respected careers, and you will notice that English is usually shown to be of a very high standard. The opposite is also true; if you look at careers which are not well paid, the said person most often has no, or very limited, English skills.
People even with the best degrees may struggle if they don’t possess strong communication skills. And the opposite too happens all the time. People with average degrees make great careers on top of strong work ethic and communication skills. Look over your shoulders, and you’ll see plenty of examples from both the categories. Many get into the mad race of enrolling into the best colleges at the expense of everything else. By all means, do get into the mad race, but don’t ignore skills that may stymie your progress in future.
If you’ve strong communication skills in English, many more options open for you when you graduate from college. And as a cushion for future, you also have more options to start afresh in a different career if your industry slows down or you get laid off.
Another aspect of this flexibility may come into play for some when they’ve to change – voluntarily or involuntarily – their industry in future. Globally, major shifts have happened in the financial service industry in the last decade, forcing many to look for opportunities in completely new industries. In India, the telecom industry has witnessed tectonic shifts in the last one year, again resulting in loss of jobs. So has been the case in the information technology industry. And such disruptions will only accelerate in future.
When you enter a new industry, many of your past technical skills may be of limited use. In short, strong English language skills will act as a soft cushion, some insurance for future shocks.
In conclusion, there is simply no avoiding the hard fact – English language is necessary in today’s world, if you value the freedom to choose your own career and life path. The limit of your language really is the limit of your life.
Sam Koothington, English Teacher at Progressive English