If I didn’t speak English, I couldn’t show up in nearly any village in the world and find someone to act as my translator.
Given that, I wouldn’t have met any of the people who made my clothes, or the people who grow our food, and I wouldn’t have a career telling stories. I wouldn’t receive invitations to speak in Peru. If I only spoke Spanish or Mandarin or any other language, who knows what I would be doing?
I wouldn’t be able to go to almost any website and have the option to view it’s contents in my language.
I would struggle to find my way around most airports.
I wouldn’t be able to have the vast reading choices that I have. Each year more than 550,000 new books are published in English.
1 in 5 people on our planet speak English to some proficiency and the other 4 likely want to learn English. I’ve me people on my travels who have never been to school who speak a little English.
The fact that English, my native language, is the most recognized global language doesn’t make me superior, it makes me lucky. This is something that all English speakers need to remember.
I’m traveling to China in August. China is perhaps one of the least English-friendly countries I’ve visited. Menus and streets signs are mysteries. I’ll rely on countless strangers to help me navigate my adventures. No doubt, in a moment of weakness, I’ll curse the lack of English at some point, but the experience will be an important glimpse of what it’s like to move through a world that doesn’t speak my language. I’ll only have to get by for less than two weeks and then it’s back to English Land.
To this day one of my biggest regrets from college is not learning another language. But, again, I’m lucky that I speak English.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like for non-English speakers to move through a world of English?
I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in Muncie, Indiana, my hometown, and not speak English. Sure the occasional ATM offers an Espanol feature, but most Hoosiers, like me, don’t.