How Learning English Can Make You a Global Citizen

earth-global-citizenWhy are you learning English?

This is probably the most important question you can ask, but the depth and sincerity of your answer will not only determine the quality of your learning experience, but also the reward.

Most people would say that they are learning English for professional reasons, some would say for travel, cultural reasons, or to form relationships, but few people have any idea of the huge impact that English fluency can have upon human consciousness, global interconnectivity, and the way we perceive ourselves in the world.

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English is without a doubt the universal language. This is not a question of linguistic imperialism, but rather the reality of living in a modern, globalized world. Not only is English the international language of business, diplomacy, and tourism, but it can also open your mind to an entirely new perspective on the world.

We call this new perspective Global Citizenship, and it’s a collection of processes, skills, character traits, and attitudes that together form an identity that transcends geographic and political borders to include all of humanity.

We may not be free of borders in the physical sense (yet), but we have the means, the opportunity, and the responsibility to actively participate in an already existing international community and field of awareness that promotes a better, more peaceful, unified, and diplomatic path to solving global problems.

The problems are many, they are severe, and if we are to save ourselves from our own cancerous ways, we must dramatically expand our worldview to make space in our identity for all cultures and religions, to celebrate our differences, but ultimately to recognize that what we have in common as human beings is much, much stronger than what separates us.

As we learn, as we meet people from around the world, and as we open our minds to new cultures, information, experiences, and ways of looking at the world, we unlock the hidden and life-altering potential of learning English: World Citizenship.

Here are 4 ways that English helps us build a global perspective.

Communication is the Key

The first and most immediate effect of English fluency is that you can communicate with people from different cultures, and this alone will transform your perspective. Nothing can replace communication, which is the gateway to true human connection and relationship. Not travel, not education, not intelligence, and not even good information can replace this.

When you truly connect with people from other cultures, you are exposed to the naked truth, which forces you to challenge the beliefs and stereotypes you’ve inherited from your culture and put yourself in their shoes.  This makes it increasingly hard to project your fears and misconceptions on others, and you realize that other people from other religions, cultures, and backgrounds are not as different as you once thought.

In fact, your conception of “they” as an external group of people that is different from you starts to dissolve and turn into a “we” that you can identify with. This happens through personal and professional contact, as well as being exposed and enriched by other aspects of different cultures, such as music, food and customs. These are all very significant experiences, but the key that opens the door is speaking the same language.

“The limits of your language are the limits of your world.”-Ludwig Wittgenstein

In this sense, English has become the language of peace and diplomacy. Being able to communicate and relate to people from a large variety of places is the first big step to global citizenship. It puts you in a position to transform your perspective not only about other cultures, but also of your own, and you start to see that we are all in the same boat.

You Recognize the Multiplicity AND the Unity

From fluent communication and human connection flows a direct experience and understanding of all the different cultures you encounter on your path. This allows you to break out of a restricted, one-dimensional worldview and start to include perspectives that may not seem so apparent to you.

Your first impression may be that people from other cultures and perspectives are different, or even weird, but soon you realize that we actually have a lot in common. This may happen early or later on depending on your age and maturity, but if you are willing to keep going, meeting people, learning, and opening your heart and mind up to the world, it will gradually transform you.

The impact is huge!  First of all, you start to appreciate the uniqueness of not only other cultures, but also of your own.

Although you see that your nation is just one of many and not the absolute reality you previously thought, you discover the uniqueness of your culture and reflect back upon it with much more awareness. This results in a more balanced perspective that permits you to recognize both the positive and the negative inherent in all cultures.

“To have another language is to possess a second soul.”-Charlemagne

Beyond this, you start to realize that even though the multiplicity is amazing and you value the uniqueness between cultures more than ever, your identity as a world citizen is much stronger than your nationality.

The more that you connect outside of the political, geographic, and conceptual borders of your nation, culture, and religion, the more you realize that your humanity is the strongest common denominator that exists.

Here’s a really fascinating video about how the world looks from outer space, and how astronauts return seeing humanity as one. This video was a big inspiration for writing this article and I highly recommend it.

“Once a photograph of the earth, taken from the outside, is available… a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.” -Fred Hoyle, 1948

Watch with Spanish Subtitles  |  Watch with Portuguese Subtitles

Good Information Catalyzes New Perspectives

A very important weapon on your path to global citizenship that only English can offer is access to exponentially better information sources.  There is nothing more powerful and compelling than a large variety of good information, and no other language contains even close to the quantity and quality of information that the English language does.

The more you read, listen, watch and learn about the world and your country through a variety of alternative media sources, the more you realize that you’ve been misguided your entire life by erroneous, incomplete, and biased information.

The simplified explanation for this is that in any given country the people who control the information control the masses. In fact, around 98% of the corporate mass media in almost any country is controlled by a small group of rich, powerful, and politically connected families that have a vested interest in manipulating the information and misguiding the masses.

Entire wars are even being fought over this.

This is what I discovered in a year and a half of journalism school at the University of Colorado, and it has permanently impacted my beliefs about the world. You must question the information you consume, all information, and open your mind to the multiplicity of perspectives, which is the only way to give birth to a multi-faceted global truth.

“Problems cannot be solved on the same level of thinking that created them.-Albert Einstein

With fluent English and access to an internet connection, you can open yourself up to a whole new world of information that will catalyze your worldview and offer you the tools to enrich your perspective with many sources of information, to verify what you hear in your local news, and to constantly be educating and re-educating yourself.

When you first start discovering the truth, you’ll probably get angry, and you may start to hate the American government and even others (I passed through this phase and I’m American), but it’s important remember that our problems are much bigger than any one government, and so must our solutions be.

Watch This 5 minute Video

Be The Change You Wish To See in the World

Everything we’ve talked about up until this point is important. Nothing can replace a really well-developed and informed global perspective.

Learning English will greatly facilitate your path up to this point by permitting you to relate to people from all around the world, by helping you see your true place in the world family, and by giving you access to exponentially better sources of alternative information.

The final step, however, has nothing to do with English, but is more of a a personal choice and an ongoing process that demands that we apply what we’ve learned and truly live in integrity with our worldview. 

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”-Gandhi

This is to embody your message, to let your life and your actions serve as a vehicle for what you know to be true, and to be a force of change – not only for your family, your culture and your religion, but for the global family.

To be a global citizen is to let your life be a reflection of your global awareness.

This is different for everybody, and it’s more of a journey than a destination, but to be a global citizen is to apply what you’ve learned to make the world a better place. It means that you see the world, humanity, and nature as holistic and interconnected, and you accept your responsibility for making the world a better place.

Listen to a podcast about How Learning English Can Make You a World Citizen

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30 Comments

  1. Rodrigo on October 30, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Fantastic job, Justin! I really had a GREAT time reading it! Thanks for writing it! 🙂

  2. Max Ahumada on October 30, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    Great write-up with very enlightened ideas, Justin. Just as you have us accustomed to. I can especially relate to the "good information/new perspectives" part. It's so true that the more you have access to a variety of sources, the easier it is for you to come to the realization of how misguided you'd been your entire life.

  3. Dr. English on October 31, 2013 at 1:44 am

    I liked, this is very cool, recommend:

  4. khalidmfy on November 2, 2013 at 7:52 am

    It is an interesting topic.

  5. João Leite on November 5, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Hi guys,
    What a nice way to start my day reading such a fantastic text, which made me feel more conscious about my responsibility in making a better place to live in. “Nothing can replace communication” and the concept of to undesrtand to be understood is the start point to make all changes. It’s not hard to understand how Real Life English comes to us every week.
    Cheers.

    • Justin on November 13, 2013 at 8:14 am

      Hey João, Thank you for reading and commenting. I’m really glad you found the article useful. Thank you for inspiring us!

  6. Rawda Essam Hejazy on November 10, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    I call this ” a masterpiece writing ” way to go Justin, way to go!.

    • Justin on November 11, 2013 at 8:50 am

      Thank you Rawda! I really appreciate your kind words.

  7. Peterson on December 2, 2013 at 7:58 am

    I’ve envisioned myself as a citizen of the world and embraced, as much as I could, a cosmopolitan stance on life since I was a teenager in the suburbs of São Paulo, Brazil. Learning English has undoubtedly afforded me with so many advantages and broadened so much my perspectives beyond the dictates of my physical boundaries that I can’t start to enumerate its benefits. It’s really been a life changing experience, and one that has enabled me to bring down many of the psychological walls that we usually build to isolate ourselves from a perceived cruel world. With the newfound perspective, came the epiphany. A quasi mystical feeling of oneness and identity with a world that for many years had remained a forbidden one to me.
    It’s really refreshing to read stuff like this. And to know that there are others out there who feel the same way as I do is really motivating. Thank you.

  8. Dex on December 2, 2013 at 11:23 am

    It is great! I’m impressed by the part of ‘information’ !

    • Justin on December 3, 2013 at 11:05 am

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Dex!

  9. […] issues are better solved when people from every single part of the planet open their minds to Global Citizenship, and get together to find wise solutions, so that everyone can benefit from […]

  10. Danilo on December 9, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Wow! It’s really a Great text! Thank you for share it with us, that is the type of article that I’m was needding read. Sorry for my English and one more time, thank you.

    • Justin on December 9, 2013 at 8:53 pm

      Thank you, Danilo! I’m glad it made an impact. If you get a chance I would highly recommend watching the video. It’s really powerful.

  11. […] Read this article in English  |  Join the RealLife World Community […]

  12. Thi Thanh Thao Ly on February 23, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    Fully agree! Heartfelt thanks to Chad and Justin.

  13. Mohamed Mosad on March 13, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    very good and useful

  14. Mohamed Mosad on March 13, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    very good and useful

  15. Zulmira Andrade Rabelo on March 14, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Great article I really could realise my huge perspective in the world, becaming me in a better world citizen. It openned my mind and my heart. Pay attention in this fhrase; " To have another language is to possess a second soul"- Charlemagne. Fantastic.Justin you're a one and only. Thank you.

    • Justin on March 17, 2014 at 5:33 pm

      Thanks, Zulmira, I’m glad it made an impact on you, and I’m glad you’re going to help us carry the torch of world citizenship! Thank you reading, for sharing, and for your nice words!

  16. Angel Romero on June 18, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Good job Justin! Congrats, you are really helping people to get better at English!

  17. Ludmila Strelnikova on June 20, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Thanks a lot, Justin! Today, the new-communication medium is quick and easy via the Internet where English plays a major role. I have a natural curiosity about the world around me. As more people learn English, we have the opportunity to become more of a global community!

    • Justin on June 29, 2014 at 10:29 am

      Thanks for reading and commenting Ludmila!

  18. Roya on August 7, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    hi Justin , it was a great Job especially the movie. but when I was watching the astronauts I recognized that they could not find a proper word to describe their emotions. In some situation like this ,language cant support you. In my opinion the only thing that can help you is the same attitude not the same language.

    • Justin on August 7, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      Hey Roya, Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. You’re right, some things are fundamentally unspeakable, but in my opinion (and this is what I was trying to say with the article), is that language supports this attitude by providing the vehicle to communicate, understand others, and consume an entirely new level of information. So while the attitude of global citizenship is totally beyond language, speaking English is a very helpful tool to develop this perspective.

  19. jesus on December 26, 2014 at 7:46 pm

    Fantastico! obrigado para toda a equipe, me explica so como baixar em mp3 ou o pdf ,para ouvir ou ler enquanto conduzo ou quando estou naquelas filas terríveis . abraços

  20. jesus on December 26, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Fantastic! Thanks for all staff, please explaines how to dawnload mp3 or pdf, to read or hear when i, m in traffic or doing nathing. I start naw.

  21. Agus Satoto on December 28, 2014 at 10:19 am

    My hometown Semarang is close to the temple of Borobudur and Yogyakarta. Back in 1980s, there was hardly any English native speaker around. Then in 1990s, the number of foreign tourists started to increase and more and more tourists came to visit the Borobudur through Semarang by sea. Then, I started working as a tour-guide and I started seeing and communicating with foreigners, in this case tourists, from all over the word. I was really glad to become a global citizen because I was able to communicate in English.

    Thanks Justin for writing and sharing a great article that should also be read by teenagers around the world.
    All the best.

  22. AbdulSalam TP on March 21, 2015 at 6:15 am

    Hi Mr. Justin, Your article about the importance of English , is very interesting and highly motivating. Now, I decided to devote my life for the development for the English language.

    • Justin on March 23, 2015 at 10:53 am

      That’s great to hear, Abdul! I’m glad it was impactful. Thanks for leaving a comment and supporting RLE!

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