Why Learn English?
There are many points that we could discuss about the benefits of learning a second language: mental expansion and stimulation; job opportunities; ease of travel - the list goes on.
But if you really want to know why you should learn English, visit Denmark!
I used to be a little annoyed when, as a native English speaker, I couldn’t go anywhere without someone answering my brash attempt at (insert language here) with a reply in much better English than I was attempting in (language).
Then I went to Denmark. Everything was very – well, Danish! A huge sense of identity and pride in their heritage, culture and language. And then there was English. Gone are the days when, half embarrassed / half relieved, you had to ask if the person standing in front of you spoke English, just so that you could ask for a pastry. (Oh my, you should ask for a pastry!)
In Denmark, everyone, I mean everyone, speaks English. It is used as a means of communication with us tourists, with visitors and those who also speak English as their second language. No one seems to bat an eyelid that everyone there is bilingual – at least. It is taken for granted. From the elderly fellow at the market stall selling me Glogg, to the youngsters in the street, and the staff in the shops. No one shrugged their shoulders when we defaulted to English.
I have been lucky enough to travel a bit and I have many fond memories of my miscommunications in Italy, Brazil and with that lady in the supermarket in Japan - I’ll tell you about that one day. Not to mention the pharmacy conversation I had in Moscow, no idea what about, but it went pretty well…
After about three hours in Copenhagen, I stopped asking the question. “Of course!” was the reply I got every time. From a linguistic point of view, I was gobsmacked. Danish people speak amazingly well in English. There – I’ve said it. But it got me to thinking about why their English is so good? Reading up on it, I see that Danish and English are similar. Great – why don’t I speak Danish then? So, it can’t be that simple. Danish students start school at 6 or 7, so they start early? Wait, I started school at 5, others start at 4, so it can’t be that. So, what is it? Reading further, it seems that English as a Foreign Language is a strong subject, like maths or science. “Compulsory” was a word I read many times. Having been an EFL teacher abroad, I was really dismayed to see, back in the noughties, that children at high school were given text books to study, about the works of our wonderful Mr Shakespeare, which is fantastic, but doesn’t help you understand a visitor to your country. Unless they come from the 16th or 17th century, of course.
I feel that the Danes got it right and I am sure many other countries have too. They have focussed on communication skills, less gap fills and more situational use of English. This is what we do in BLISS. I have seen many students come to us from all over and go home excelling and outperforming in English back home, because that is what we do when students are with us. Gone are the texts from the 17th century, arrived are storyboards, debates, presentation skills, CV writing and how to use the internet from the very start, all in English. And that is just in the classroom. Whether on the sports fields or at the disco, you have to request your song in English. The tuck shop helps you understand money in the UK and how to ask for things you need, in this super safe environment. BLISS students spend all their time speaking in English to us, each other and to the people they meet during their time with us. The effect of that is outstanding. It is the way I learned my second language and it is called Natural Acquisition. It works and it is the foundation of everything we do over summer school.
I was struck by the English of the Danes. The national average is probably perfect. From a native point of view, it made my stay there easy, comfortable and accessible. Thank you, Denmark and your bilingualism. It’s awe-inspiring.
We are English language experts. We think about English and the teaching of English, we implement that in our school. The BLISSful blog is an insight into English language summer schools and why we are different.
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