I believe that the fallout in the ESL-industry is inevitable. First, there are pockets of people who are pushing for Esperanto but more importantly, there is now a critical mass of non-native English speakers who are effectively bilingual and proficient in the language. I believe that the number of non-native English speakers who can read, write and speak at a level of a professional, educated native speaker has exceeded the total number of native-English language speakers.
What this means is that with the emergence of this class of people who are highly intelligent, driven and are effectively bilingual, they would be enough to meet the needs of establishing a new business order of international bilingualism. We do not need every single person to be able to be driven, diverse, highly knowledgeable and effectively bilingual, we need just enough of them to get business going as usual. And I believe the tipping point has arrived. From my experience I can safely tell you this : the success of second language learning is highly correlated to 3 things :
- knowledge (usually transferred from Mother Tongue)
- immersion for modeling language after.
The key to success of learning English is not grammar; it is immersion and drive. Anyone who has the drive will plot themselves a chart to immerse and engage themselves in an environment where they would be able to acquire English in a relatively short period of time, say 2-3 years. On top of that, English is an easy language to read and understand provided you already read and comprehend well in your own language. The language is widely spoken and easily available, including dictionaries, fantastic software and translation and an availability of proficient English speakers to ask, learn and model from.
The only people who keep falling back learning English are actually weak and poor in their own mother tongue as well. Our world economy is such that those who are bilingual or trilingual tend also to be of above average drive and intelligence. Drive and diverse intelligence is more important than anything else in a Knowledge based, rapidly changing economy. Bilingualism or trilingualism etc will become a marker, consciously or not, of one’s drive and intelligence. The ability to use a model of English that is more superior reflects the social-economic background one’s drive and intelligence drove one to acquire the English language. When acquiring a second or third language, a more discerning individual would realize that if he/she were to immerser him/herself in an environment, it’d better be one that has a language use in place to model that is socially and economically more desirable.
From a business economic perspective, a person’s status would now look like this :
(1) multilingual in spoken and written (high drive, high knowledge, diverse intelligence)
(2) bilingual or trilingual in spoken and written (drive, high knowledge, diverse intelligence)
(3) Native speaker with expertise and knowledge in one’s field. (knowledge, intelligence).
(4) ineffective bilingual speaker due to poor mastery of written and spoken mother tongue. (lower drive, lower knowledge and skills, lower diversity in intelligence.)
(5) Native-language speaker with full mastery of spoken and written knowledge in Mother Tongue. (reduced opportunities, reduced effectiveness, reduced skills, high knowledge.) and at the bottom of this hierarchy of the new economy are people who are ineffective in using any language.
Given, many bilingual speakers are not yet at a level where they can confidently say that they are as good in communicating and acquiring knowledge in English as they are in their Mother Tongue but many are already at a place where a couple of years more of immersion will bring them there.
When you look at what is happening in most ESL language classes around the world, learning is very slow. I think one reason for this is because the people who take up language courses lack the sort of drive and initiative for “high speed success”. Looking at course books available nowadays it takes an average of 8 months to a year to complete one level of English. Everything else remaining constant, there are generally 5 level for English proficiency : Beginner/False Beginner, Lower Intermediate, Intermediate, Upper Intermediate, Advanced (which can be split up into lower and higher). For those students with lesser teachers the journey could take a lot longer. And that is pretty common from where I come from; students who CANNOT speak and be self-directed after 2-3 years.
When I go out with my students, relatives or friends (especially foreigners) ask me why are they still my students if they can read, understand, write and speak English so well already. Any idea why?