English and the Future

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ENGLISH AND THE FUTURE

 
What is the future of English? How will language learning change? Will students learn in the same way in the future? What will be the biggest change?

To fiind out some answers to these questions, we asked David Graddol, author of 'The Future of English?', to give us his views. Read his article below and then join in the discussion at the bottom of this page.

Introducing David Graddol

David Graddol|
David Graddol is a British applied linguist, writer, broadcaster, researcher and consultant on global English.

David wrote a follow-up analysis of global trends in English language learning - 'English Next' - which was published by the British Council in February 2006.

The Article - Learners of the future

A fast tain in Tokyo - picture by Carlos|
The world is changing so fast that English, perhaps the most worldly of languages, is struggling to keep up. One thing is for sure: the English learner of the future will be different from those of the past, will be looking for a different kind of English and will expect to learn it in ways which reflect the technology and lifestyles of the 21st century.

Learners in the future are likely to be much younger. Across the world, English is being made a central component of more general educational reform. English is losing its position in the foreign languages curriculum, where it was taught mainly to teenagers and has been reinvented as one of the basic skills which you need to learn when you first go to school. Textbooks and audio visual materials, methods of teaching and expected outcomes are already being transformed.

Children in Egypt - picture by Shaden|
Young Learners
Young children are often said to be better at language learning than older learners but they also have special challenges. Young children don't usually have the kind of instrumental motivation and determination for learning English that older learners often have (though their parents and relations may). English lessons must therefore be fun and rewarding. Young learners also have less experience at learning and so fewer cognitive strategies for remembering things, or coping with the discouraging setbacks that are typical of any learning curve. Highly visual websites with interactive games which rely less on written text will provide accessible support for such learners.

As General English becomes something done when you're young, teenagers and young adults will be seeking more specific needs and knowledge areas. In fact, one of the consequences of the universalisation of English is the convergence between knowledge, skills and English. So learning about anything in future - whether computers or football - may come with an element of specialised English learning.

The countries where English is most sought after are also changing. As developing economies and growing populations create more demand for English, the global classroom is getting ever fuller. Learners from Brazil, Poland and China are joining classmates from Japan and Korea. But the internet is also supporting many minority learners.

People in Brazil - picture by Denis|
Why Learn English?
The reasons why people learn English are also changing. Globalisation is bringing together more people than ever who speak different languages and who are turning to English as the means of communication. The English learner of the future may be less worried about sounding exactly like a native speaker and more concerned about how to use English effectively in cross-cultural communication. We may be hearing more non-native speakers in dialogues and a wider range of the 'New Englishes' now used around the world.

Technology will allow English to come to you, rather than you having to go to a special place to learn English. Podcasts and downloadable computer programs hint at the range of things to come as the distinction between televisions, computers, mobile phones and mp3 players gets more...
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