The English Speaking World (1)

The English language spread from Great Britain throughout the world from the 16th to the 19th century as a result of British colonization.  As a result, it became the dominant language of the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand.    As the U.S. emerged as a world leader in many ways, the English language became established over time as the most widely used language in technology, education, economics, entertainment … etc.  While non-English speaking countries certainly have many great achievements and characteristics, because most of my readers come to this site to learn English I think it’s appropriate to tell them some things about the countries that speak English.

 

The United States of America

capitol-building---washington-dc-1207859-m
The USA was born on July 4, 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was adopted, declaring the thirteen British colonies as independent states free from British authority.  Although natives had occupied the land for thousands of years, and Spanish and French forces occupied different regions at various times, Britain prevailed as the great colonizing power until they were defeated in the Revolutionary War in 1783.  Eventually the nation expanded westward, defeating Spanish and Mexican forces to capture the western half of the country.  That’s the reason so many cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Fe, El Paso, San Diego … etc.) and states (Montana, Nevada, New Mexico) have Spanish names.

In 1912 Arizona became the 48th state, completing the contiguous (or “connected”) states that remain to this day.  In 1959 Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states.

Although the USA is the largest English speaking country in the world, it is also one of the largest Spanish speaking countries with 38 million native Spanish speakers.  There are 2.5 million people who speak some Chinese dialect, and more than one million who speak Tagalog, French, Vietnamese, German, and Korean.

Some of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States are:

  • Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida

  • Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota

  • Times Square in New York City, New York

  • Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada

  • National Mall and Memorial Parks in the capital city of Washington, D.C.

  • Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California

  • Fisherman’s Wharf/Golden Gate Area in San Francisco, California

  • Niagara Falls in New York statevada

  • SeaWorld Orlando in Orlando, Florida

  • San Antonio River Walk in San Antonio, Texas

  • Salt Lake Temple in Salt Lake City, Utah

  • Universal Studios Hollywood in Universal City, California

  • Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, N.Y.

  • Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii

  • Grand Canyon in Arizona

Unlike most of the rest of the world, soccer (or football) isn’t the most popular sport in the United States.  American football is, followed by baseball, basketball, and ice hockey.  Soccer is #5, followed by tennis and golf.

 


The United Kingdom

britain-buildings-london-england-great-historical_121-97420
The UK is comprised of several countries including England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  In addition to 60 million people who speak English, there are over half a million who speak Welsh and Polish, 100,000 who speak Scots and Irish, 275,000 who speak Punjabi, and  175,000 who speak Arabic.

The most popular tourist attractions in the United Kingdom are:

  • Big Ben in London

  • Tower Bridge in London

  • Tower of London in London

  • Blackpool Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, Lancashire

  • The Lake District in Cumbria

  • Buckingham Palace in London

  • Blackpool Tower, Lancashire

  • Houses of Parliament

  • Natural History Museum

  • Westminster Abbey

  • The London Eye

  • Lake Windermere, Cumbria

  • Edinburgh Castle

  • St Paul’s Cathedral, London

  • Stonehenge, Wiltshire

  • White Cliffs of Dover, Kent

David Lyons of the Wallabies in action during the Rugby World Cup Pool A match

The most popular sports in the UK are football, rugby, tennis, cricket, athletics, snooker, motor racing, boxing, golf, and darts.

 


Canada

Canada is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, an organization consisting of 53 sovereign nations that are mostly former members of the British Empire.  It is the third largest country for

vancouvernative English speakers with a total of 20 million, although 8 million people speak French which is the official language of the province of Quebec.  It is the second largest country in the world in area, slightly larger than the United States of America.  However, because of its location much of the country is uninhabitable because of the incredibly cold climate.  That’s why the population is only 35 million, which is a little more than 1/10 of the US population.

The most popular tourist attractions in Canada are:

  • Niagara Falls (on the border with the US in southern Ontario)

  • Banff National Park

  • The Rocky Mountains in British Colombia

  • Historic Old Quebec City

  • Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse in Nova Scotia

  • Bay of Fundy

  • St. John’s Signal Hill

  • Polar bear watching in Churchill

  • Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights) in the Northwest Territories

aurora borealis

The most popular sports in Canada are ice hockey, basketball, football, soccer, baseball, cricket, tennis, rugby, curling, and lacrosse.

 

 


Australia

koala
Australia was colonized by the British in the 19th century, and won its independence in 1901.  As a result it has 15 million native English speakers.  The other 8 million citizens speak one of many languages including Mandarin, Cantonese, Italian, Greek, Arabic, Vietnamese, and native dialects.  The country has six states – New South Wales, QueensSydney-harbourland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia.  Distinguishing wildlife includes the koala bear, the wallaby,  the dingo,  and the kangaroo.  Australia is also known as the land of origin for the boomerang and the didgeridoo.

The most popular tourist attractions in Australia are:

  • Sydney Harbour

  • The Great Barrier Reef

  • The island of Tasmania

  • The city of Melbourne

  • Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park

  • The Great Ocean Road in Victoria

  • Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory

  • The Gold Coast in Queensland

  • The Barossa Valley in South Australia

  • The Kimberleys in Western Australia

 

 

South Africa

south africa blue-monday_2776025
South Africa has 5 million native English speakers, although there are a total of eleven official languages, as well as several unofficial languages.  It is perhaps best known for its struggle against the segregationist policy of apartheid, and the anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela.  It is also known for its large mining industry.    It is comprised of nine provinces and is a parliamentary republic.

The most popular tourist attractions in South Africa are:

  • Kruger National Park

  • Table Mountain

  • Amphitheatre, Drakensberg

  • Durban Beaches

  • Knysna

  • Sun City Resort

  • Blyde River Canyon

south_africa

The most popular sports in South Africa are rugby, soccer (football), and cricket.  Golf, tennis, cycling, and athletics are also very popular.

 

 

 

 

Ireland 


cliffs-of-moher

Ireland has 4 million native English speakers.  The second most popular language is Irish, followed by French and German.  The Irish language (also known as “Gaelige” or “Irish Gaelic”) is the official language, even though it is the first language of a small percentage of the population.

The top tourist attractions are:

  • Guinness Storehouse, Dublin

  • Dublin Zoo

  • Cliffs of Moher

  • National Aquatic Centre, Dublin

  • Book of Kells, Dublin

  • Tayto Park, Co. Meath

  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

  • Fota Wildlife Park, Cork

  • Blarney Castle, Cork

  • Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin

The popular sports of Ireland include Gaelic football, hurling, soccer (football), and rugby.  The individual sports of golf, cycling, swimming, and billiards (snooker) are also very popular.

 

New Zealand

New_Zealandchristchurch
New Zealand was colonized by the British in the 18th century, and has 3 million native English speakers which represents about 98% of the population.  The remaining 2% speak mostly either Samoan, French, Hindi, or Chinese.

The government is a constitutional monarchy (as a member of the British Commonwealth)  and a parliamentary democracy.

New Zealand is known for its beautiful landscape and protected environment and wildlife.

Among the top tourist spots in New Zealand are:

  •  Milford Sound

  • Bay of Islands

  • Tongariro National Park

  • Franz Josef Glacier

  • Sky Tower

The most popular sports in New Zealand are rugby, cricket, netball, basketball, golf, tennis, and various water sports.

 

The Psychology of Learning English

london-parliament-at-night--architecture_19-135323
Have you ever tried to learn English by taking classes? If so, you probably never advanced beyond the beginner stage. The reason is fairly simple. You can’t become proficient in anything by only taking one or two classes a week. The classes are designed to assist you as you study on your own time, but so many people have trouble managing their time that they don’t practice much and don’t make much progress. As a result they eventually lose heart and quit.

Can you imagine having the goal of playing the violin but you never practice at home? How good would you be if you only picked your violin up once or twice a week? Can you see the parallel? Learning a foreign language is like learning to play an instrument. You have to practice every day. The problem for many people is finding the information that they need or finding somebody to practice with.

There are hundreds of books that teach English.  There are CD’s and videos that teach English, too. With so many ways to learn English, why would anybody need to know how to learn it? But the fact is that most people who study English don’t succeed. They learn basic things like “Good Morning”, “Hello”, and “Thank you”, but they never achieve their goal of fluency or near fluency. Why?

It is my belief that people fail because they aren’t adequately prepared to learn. Learning a language requires a good foundation. When a building is constructed, a great deal of work is done in laying the foundation before anything else is added. In fact, the taller the building will be, the deeper the foundation must be for that building. Have you ever walked by a construction site and seen an area surrounded by a fence where a huge hole had been dug? That hole is planned ahead of time. It is created in order to give that building a good foundation so that when it is finished it will be strong and remain for many years to come.

When a person prepares for a career in medicine or law they prepare for many years. Why? Because the demands of those careers require that much preparation. Who would want to have a doctor who only studied for six months and has only been practicing for a few weeks? Not me.

When it comes to learning a language, the emphasis has usually been placed on the vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation rather than the foundation. All of those things are important, but without the right foundation you are likely to fail.

There is a verse in the bible where Jesus said to count the cost.

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sits not down first, and counts the cost, whether he has enough to finish it? Lest perhaps, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sits not down first, and consults whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation, and desires conditions of peace.” (Luke 14:28-32)

This is a valuable life lesson. Before you begin any venture you need to take some time to honestly consider what it will cost you, not only in terms of money but also in terms of time and effort. Learning a language takes time. It requires practice. It might mean that you have to skip watching TV or playing football with your friends. It might mean that you need to stay home to study instead of going to the movies or the beach. If you truly believe that you can study for two hours a day then make the commitment to do so. If it’s only one hour then do that. If it’s 30 minutes then it’s 30 minutes. But once you determine how long you can commit each day, write it down somewhere that you will see it every day to remind you of your commitment to learning. Make that determination right now, because if you don’t you’re going to end up like the man who built the foundation for a tower and ran out of money.

golden-gate-bridge_2220093
I’ll tell you right now that there will be obstacles placed in your way. That’s just the way life is. Maybe your spouse will lose their job and you will need to work two jobs to pay the bills. Maybe you will get sick or injured and spend some time in the hospital. Maybe you will fall in love and start spending a lot of time with your sweetheart. Maybe you will get a great job that requires you to work 60 hours a week. Make sure that no matter what the circumstances are you will study and practice every day. If you have to study 15 minutes a day instead of an hour then so be it. If you have to miss a day every once in awhile that’s okay, as long as you get back to studying as soon as possible. If you are determined to succeed then you will. If you lack the determination then you won’t. It’s really not much more complicated than that.

Another reason people fail to reach their goals in learning English is they limit themselves to one or two classes a week. You won’t make much progress by doing that. Everybody I know who has learned a foreign language either did it by living in a foreign country or by studying at home every day.

Learning a language isn’t really that difficult. Think about it. A child can learn a language. And they do. Every day hundreds of millions of children around the world are learning a language. True, they learn their native language where they are immersed in the culture where that language is spoken, but the fact is they can learn a language even when their brains aren’t fully developed. Learning isn’t difficult, but it does require time. Those children spend hours a day every day developing their language skills. If you are willing to devote some time every day to learning and practicing you will succeed. In fact, you will learn at a faster pace than a child because your brain is fully developed and you are already familiar with most of the concepts that they are discovering.

For example, a child not only has to learn how to say “water”, they also have to learn what water is. You as an adult already know about water. You know that most of the earth is covered by water. You know that there is salt water and fresh water. You know that water comes in the form of a gas, a solid, and a liquid. All you need to know is how to say “water” in another language, and then practice saying it.

“But what about immersion?” you ask. Yes, children are immersed in the right environment for learning a language, but with the tools that I direct you to you will be able to simulate immersion to a certain extent. In the modern world communication and technology make learning so much easier than it was even ten years ago, and drastically different from twenty or thirty years ago before most people ever heard of the Internet.

sydney-opera-house--australia_2339468
Another important thing to remember is that learning a language isn’t like learning about history or geography or some other subject you might have taken in school. It’s more like learning to play an instrument. You have to practice, and by practicing I mean speaking or conversing. By saying words, phrases, and sentences repeatedly you create neural pathways in your brain that help you to remember. By listening to a person speaking in the language you are learning you train your ear to hear those words, phrases, and expressions. “But I don’t have anybody to practice with!” you might say. Well the resources in this website will help you to simulate conversations. Again, this is one of the marvels of modern technology. So now you have no excuse.

You will achieve your goal of speaking English by conditioning your brain to think in English. Instead of saying “I’m hungry” in your native language you say it in English.  By saying in English things that you say every day in your native language, you will train your brain to think in the language you want to speak.

How long will it take you to go from beginner to fluency? I can’t answer that. It depends on the individual. First of all, let’s define “fluency”. To me, if you’re fluent in a language you can have conversations without constantly stopping to think of words or saying “I don’t understand”. It doesn’t mean that you can speak the language like a native speaker or that you never make mistakes. (Even native speakers make mistakes.) Nor does it mean that you know most of the words or rules for grammar in that language. (There are between 170,000 and 1,000,000 words in the English language, depending on who’s figures you believe. Most native speakers don’t know more than 30,000.) It just means that you can speak the language well enough to understand what people are saying and effectively communicate with them.

canadian-parliament-library---hdr--yellow_19-133483
Some people claim that they learned a language in six months, but most people need 2-4 years. Usually it’s best to go by hours rather than years. About 1,000 hours of study and practice should have you approaching fluency. (This is assuming that your study time is well planned and free from distractions. Some people waste much of their study time talking in their native language or surfing the web. To achieve your goal you need about 1,000 hours of high quality study time that produces good results.) If you study one hour a day that’s 365 hours a year so you would hit 1,000 hours in about 33 months. Two hours a day would obviously cut that time in half. Naturally the more time you devote each day to learning the less time it will take. The important thing is to get started and never quit.

(Personally I believe that the claims that you can go from beginner fo fluency in a few months is mostly hype. I’m sure that some people have accomplished that, but most people aren’t able to study and practice 40 hours a week, which would be required to accomplish that. Stay grounded and accept the fact that becoming fluent in a language takes years, not months.)

Learning another language is a skill that you can use for the rest of your life. How many of us have spent countless hours learning how to do something that we no longer do? Think about it. Did you play the clarinet in high school? Did you play video games when you were growing up? Did you learn how to play a sport? How many of those things will you be able to do as you get older? Probably very few, but you will always be able to use your language skills.

And finally, you learn faster when you are relaxed. Enjoy the learning experience. Don’t get upset when you forget a word or make a mistake. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Learn to laugh at yourself. You’re going to make mistakes – lots of mistakes. The more you learn the more mistakes you will make. That’s all a part of the process. There’s no shame in falling down. The shame is when you fall down and you don’t get back up. There’s no excuse for quitting.

I have four simple keys to become fluent in English.

1. Determination – Study every day. Don’t let anything stop you from pursuing your goal of fluency.
2. Planning – Plan your study time just like you would plan your wedding or your education for a career. If you fail to plan you are planning to fail.
3. Practice – Don’t just read and memorize. Practice speaking with a language partner.
4. Evaluation – Constantly keep track of the progress you’re making. This will help you to stay positive and let you know what areas you can improve in.

At this point I am tempted to say “good luck”, but I know that success in learning a language has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with effort. So I will just say “good studying!”.