Scallywag Words' Thoughts on Learning English
Updated: Jan 25
It’s well-known that English has become the most commonly utilised language across the globe. Whether this is desirable, good, fair, sensitive, or not is an issue widely debated. Whichever way you lean, the 21st century and the English language have taken off hand in hand. Hopefully, things will shift to better reflect the many languages of the world in the future. But for now, this is where we’re at and people are working tirelessly to develop their English in order to take to the stage and seize the moment to express themselves.
The good thing is that the further the English language spreads and gets used, the more it changes and becomes the property and language of the people in those places speaking it too.
If you speak English as a second language, your use of English will never be the same as someone who's mother tongue is English, but your personal and cultural approach to English is equally valid, effective, and powerful.
The Purpose of Language
Ultimately, language is a tool with a purpose just like a pencil for writing, a spade for digging, or our phones for taking selfies and sharing them with friends.
Language is a tool for communicating important messages.
There’s safe drinking water downriver...
I love you...
There’s many, many, many ways you could phrase the sentences above. You could say them simply, poetically, in a detailed way, or in a not entirely accurate way. The only thing that matters, in terms of language as a tool, is that the necessary meaning is transmitted.
Drink there, not here.
You love me. I love you too.
You’re hurt. I have paracetamol, and the kettle’s good for another cup of tea if you need something warm and soothing.
But surely you need to learn tenses, grammar, and the rules?
Of course! Grammar knowledge is totally necessary for knowing what to do with the language. You can’t build a house without bricks after all.
Sometimes one word is better or more accurate than another, especially if the hospital’s to the right and the garden centre's to the left and someone wants to buy an apple tree. You don’t want to waste anyone's time by sending them right. Right?
But there’s LOADS of free resources online that teach you the building blocks of language.
The thing you can’t get from the free online resources is the face-to-face, confidence-building, question-answering, creative practice that I offer with Scallywag Words English lessons.
But everyone says you have to speak 'correctly'…
The person that says you must always speak 'correctly' is dreaming OR they’re preparing you for an exam (I smile knowingly writing this because I used to be a classroom teacher).
Sadly, you do need to know and evidence your knowledge of the rules for exams.
Exams are society's way of verifying skills. This is a fact.
English is the current global language.
Exams are immensely important.
But the language skills that will lead and guide you into your future are the ones that help you say, ‘Hello, I am me and this is what you need to know about me. And what’s more, this is what I’d love to know about you!’
Where does the fear of learning a language come from?
In every society, there’s unspoken agreements about which accent is the most attractive. As a result, every voice that doesn't meet the social standard is excluded and not celebrated. Humans naturally fear social exclusion, and that's a big contributing factor as to why we hesitate when starting to actually use a language. Will I say it right? Will I make a mistake and look stupid? Will they laugh?
History teaches us though that these preferences are momentary. The constant change in what accent and dialect sounds good is something we should try to remember and embrace in our approach to learning a language.
Back in the day in merry ol’ England, French was the ‘sophisticated’ language of the upper classes. Not a single word was written in English because it was considered the language of the ‘common people’. No English written in England. Can you believe it?
I'm from the south of England, and when I grew up, received-pronunciation (RP) was the sought after accent and this had been the case for a long time.