We always read and hear about the importance of knowing English…but how true is this? Is English really that important?
Well on a day-to-day basis, when I go to buy bread, milk, a newspaper – I don’t need English. However, as soon as I leave the local community and need to know what the recent news is, then I find myself switching on the television to watch CNN and BBC to see what’s happening in the world. Whenever I need to travel (mostly on business), even though I speak a number of languages, I find myself looking for signs (exit, toilet, departures) in English, especially if the local language is an unknown.
On a recent visit to Amsterdam, I booked a canal cruise, ordered a meal in a restaurant and asked the hotel concierge to book me a taxi – all in English. This is mainly not due to the fact that I don’t speak Dutch, but to the fact that most people I encountered in this cosmopolitan city don’t speak Dutch either. This is true of most cities I have visited over the years.
This language has fast become not only the language of business, for obvious historical reasons, but also the lingua franca of the man in the street.
I have come to realise that if it were not for English, I would be at a loss on the internet, for example, where the most commonly used language is English.
Knowledge is power, but the key to that knowledge is the English language.