I recently watched this TED talk with some of my students. (If you want a short and very clear TED talk to practise your listening, this is excellent by the way.)
Is learning English a mania? I'd never thought of it this way, but watching this video makes you wonder. It's mostly based on China, which is maybe particular. I certainly can't imagine any of my French students turning into English maniacs and going to English-learning rallies!
He said something very interesting in the talk:
"Is English a tsunami, washing away other languages? Not likely. English is the world's second language. Your native language is your life."
Is this some people's, and even some countries, fear? That if they learn English too well, their native language will be lessened or fall into disuse? This kind of thinking leads to resistance against English.
Take France (sorry French, I am not picking on you here, I just know your country well enough to comment.) I feel there is still a deep-rooted resistance to English, often on a personal and also on a national level. Things are improving, yes, and from what I have seen the younger generation are mostly very open to learning English, but there is still a feeling that if we learn English too well, French will disappear. Or perhaps too much good English learning will mean the likelihood of French becoming the world's language will move closer to definitely not at all likely ever.
On the other hand, take the Netherlands. It seems like at one point they said to themselves, well no one is ever going to learn Dutch, so let's get good at English. So they didn't bother to dub TV. They taught English in schools from a young age. And look. Do you know many Dutch people who don't speak excellent English? But they still all speak excellent Dutch as well.
I really like the idea of English as a universal language for a global conversation, as Jay Walker says. We often think that we will soon all have to learn Chinese, not English, but watching this talk I am not so sure. English is the world's lingua franca and I don't think it's going to change any time soon.
And you know what? We Anglophones don't know how lucky we are.
PS I thought Jay Walker was an academic. Not at all! He's a very interesting man - read about him here.
My blog has changed! If you're looking for my English-practice exercises, they're all still here, just look in the archives.
Catherine: blogging about learning, language, culture, France and more...