Thursday, 30 June 2016

English as an island

Here’s how I like to picture the situation of people around the world trying to learn English:

Imagine the world as a globe. People live all over it, right? And then imagine English as existing somewhere on that globe.

Suppose that learning English is a matter of traveling from where you are to where English is. For instance, English might exist on one of the Hawaiian Islands up on a mountain. Then for most of us, we have a journey in front of us.

Our journeys are of different distances. They are likely to include travel over land and across water. We may share parts of our journeys with others, but really we each have to make individual trips. No two trips are the same.

We also have choices. Across land we may walk, run, travel by train, drive our own vehicles or take public transport. And across the water we may swim, paddle, go by cruise ship, fly over by helicopter or plane. There are all sorts of ways.

Some things we can expect to be fairly common among the world’s population. Most of us will set out on land, eventually face a sea voyage, and end with a climb. You could form an analogy with learning vocabulary, getting a sense of the grammar, and finally producing output.

So what is the point of this little story?

To point out, I suppose, that everyone’s language learning journey is different, but that most of our journeys have similar elements. And finally, I suppose, it serves to suggest that some itineraries involve more effort and time than others. And that by carefully selecting your mode of travel you can make the journey much easier—maybe even a pleasant experience.

Hey, maybe someone knows of a matter transporter!

“Beam me up, Scotty!” and . . .

Bon voyage.

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