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English: A Growing International Currency

In today’s post, NNETESOL blog reader Alexa Thompson writes about the relationship between language and English education with an emphasis on ways that you can use an English education to advance your career, even if it is your second language.

One way to do so is to earn your Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) certificate, as was mentioned in a recent post from October. You can find more of Alexa’s work on a website that she contributes to regularly, including information about other kinds of English certificates.

According to Seth Mydans of the International Herald Tribune, the English language currently “dominates the world as no language has.”

Roughly 2 billion people currently speak English or are in the process of learning how to speak it, and English leads the world in number of countries that list it as an official language.

While there are technically more Chinese and Spanish speakers worldwide, English has become the language of international communication in airports, medical centers, currency exchanges and other establishments where cross-cultural interaction is commonplace.

And these days, English also dominates the Internet; approximately 80 percent of the world’s electronically recorded information is written in English. This linguistic prevalence benefits not only native English speakers, but also ESL students and other non-native speakers who can find an abundance of online employment opportunities.

US-based employers tend to hire non-native English speakers for two chief reasons.

  • First, they are typically less expensive American employees, owing to the relatively low cost of living in many countries. Since a lot of web-based work can be done remotely, some American companies have targeted qualified individuals from Africa, Asia and Latin America – a practice known as ‘impact sourcing’.
  • Secondly, unlike many native English speakers, ESL speakers are bilingual. This boosts a factor known as ‘cultural intelligence (CQ)’ – and companies that emphasize a high collective CQ among employees tend to fare well with cross-border business endeavors.

In addition, many media companies have noted the benefits of employing individuals who live in different areas of the world, and are more familiar with particular cultures and vernaculars than their American counterparts.

Non-native English speakers can find web-based work through a variety of avenues. A good starting point is an international job search site, such as oDesk, Monster and Elance, which can act as an intermediary between paying employers and foreign job applicants. These sites not only offer a wealth of job opportunities, but also protect the interests of job seekers by demanding payment for services.

Other companies use web-based payment systems; one example is Payoneer, which facilitates payment using a pre-paid Mastercard that the employee can use as an ATM, debit and/or credit card.

There are many web-based projects suitable for non-native English speakers. Many earn a living by accepting freelance writing assignments from digital publications, such as e-newspapers and blogs. Others assist website administrators by optimizing each page for search engine users or reaching out to potential page visitors via social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.)
Some types of work, such as web layout/design and HTML/code programming, do not require English skills for the actual assignments – but employers are likelier to hire individuals with whom they can directly communicate in a shared language.As online accessibility continues to increase on a worldwide scale, the demand for English-speaking employees stands to rise considerably.
For many ESL speakers today, the Internet is not merely a form of communication – it is a means of earning a decent living.
Alexa Russell is a freelance writer and researcher. When she isn’t writing about language and technology, she is riding her bike or reading a Vonnegut.

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