Not until I left the United States did I come to realize how much English content of all kinds dominates the international world. I had known this intellectually from traveling, when I had seen that Hollywood movies play in theaters on all continents and that Beatles and Bob Marley songs are maybe the most popular, well-known songs around the world. But I hadn’t appreciated what English’s omnipresence means for English learners until I started teaching the language—and until I started making friends who have learned or are learning English.
I’ve already written here about how English has come to dominate international business, travel, and technology. In that post, I made the argument that it is important to be able to write well in English because so much communication between people, even in non-English-speaking countries, happens in writing and in English. But I didn’t mention that, because English is so common, it’s also easier to learn than lots of languages.
The help Isabel’s English got from YouTube tutorials showed me that I’ll never be able to imagine all the resources English learners have at their disposal. If ESL students choose to expose themselves to English while learning and working on other things, they can probably find English resources on any subject they want—and they can multitask, learning English while they’re learning something else. Good language resources don’t always have to be presented as ESL resources; in fact, they can take any form, as long as they’re in English and engage people. Some of the best learning, of course, is what we learn when we’re not trying to learn.