Why 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.
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
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.
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.
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