Skills in any language are important, but skills in English can be one of the most impactful for creating new opportunities in your career and your personal life. English is the most widely-used language globally, spoken by 1.5 billion people from all over the world. Moreover, the vast majority of these people aren’t native English speakers. Instead, they’ve learned the language precisely because it is so commonly used, and thus helpful for understanding global culture and making connections with people from all over the world.
Indeed, English is truly a “lingua franca,” defined by Oxford Dictionary as “a language that is adopted as a common language between speakers whose native languages are different.”
There are complex historical reasons behind the establishment of English as the world’s common tongue, including the global trade networks of the vast English empire and England’s requirement that colonies like India speak the language. The subsequent ascendance of the United States as the world’s largest economy and perhaps its most influential culture has only reinforced this status, as American English has become the main language not only of business but of technology, the internet, music, movies, television, and more.
Thus, regardless of whether you are a native English speaker or have learned it (or are currently learning it) as a second language, you can always benefit from improving your skills in this common tongue. It opens up the world more than any other language, whether for traveling through English-speaking countries like the United States and England or for working in tourism and hospitality in other countries.
English proficiency can also be a vital asset for your communications skills for business, particularly if you work in tech or other global industries. And even as a native speaker, you can always improve the clarity and concision of your writing, which can improve everything from your emails to your job prospects in publishing.
Because English is so widely spoken, virtually any career that crosses borders can benefit from English language proficiency, whether you have international business in America, England, or even non-English speaking countries where you aren’t fluent in the local language. And if you are one of the 65 million Americans that speak a language other than English at home, you can gain even more from improving your English skills, whether you’re a banker, a small business owner, or simply raising a family.
While native English speakers may have no problems navigating the world of business or daily life in their home country, improving your English skills can still give you a difference-making advantage in a wide range of careers. For example, any jobs involving writing require above-average skills in English, from copywriters to public relations professionals to journalists. And experts in fields like the arts and humanities, the social sciences, and other areas of academia rely on superior English language skills for close readings and analyses of texts.
Finally, there are also career paths specifically focused on language that require strong English skills, whether as a native speaker or as a second language. Since it is the most common language in the world of entertainment and culture, the majority of translators convert text either to or from English. And because these language skills are in demand everywhere in the world, native English speakers have exciting opportunities to live abroad while working as an English teacher.
Online courses are a great way to learn English or improve your existing English language skills, no matter what your goals are. If you need to improve your ability to speak English, you can take courses in English pronunciation and grammar or more specialized areas like business English and email writing. If you’re a native speaker looking to take your skills to the next level, you can take courses in areas like English composition, literature, and journalism. And if you want to teach English or English as a second language (ESL) to others, you can also learn through Coursera via courses as well as Specializations.
Regardless of what courses are the best fit for your needs, learning online through Coursera offers a terrific combination of quality, flexibility, and affordability. You can take courses from great schools like the University of Pennsylvania, Georgia Institute of Technology, Arizona State University, and University of California, Irvine at a significantly lower cost than on-campus students. And the ability to learn on your own schedule makes online courses perfect for improving your English skills while working full-time or raising a family.
Whether you are just learning to speak English or are a native speaker who wants to brush up on your skills, there is an English class suitable for every level of learner. Non-native English speakers who are just learning the language could benefit from a beginners' course that teaches vocabulary and reading skills as well as pronunciation and communication methods. More experienced English speakers may find success in a course that teaches learners how to write an effective proposal, report, and campaign in English.
Anyone who works for a predominantly English-speaking company or has team members who speak English can benefit from learning to speak English. Learning to read, write, and speak English may help you in your professional goals and bring your team closer together. Learning business English can also help non-native speakers navigate predominantly English-speaking countries. People who need to learn how to order food at restaurants, book a hotel room, and carry on a conversation in English are also well suited to learn English.
Cross-cultural communication can help non-native English speakers understand the nuances of English and how best to use tone and style in everyday written and oral communication. If you are interested in public speaking, topics that explore speech writing and delivery in a cross-cultural situation can help build your confidence and improve your English skills. English language learners can also explore topics specifically around preparing for a presentation, meeting, networking, or planning and negotiating. People learning English who work in STEM may benefit from specific courses that center around vocabulary and phrases used exclusively in this field.
Because English is spoken all over the world, it is a benefit to any profession to have an employee who speaks English. If you have advanced knowledge of English, you can work in journalism or as a copywriter writing text in English. Other career paths involve working as a translator for a company or private client. Teaching English as a second language is a rewarding career path for an educator who will teach listening and speaking strategies as well as conversational skills to people just learning to speak English.