I was scrolling down my Facebook feed when I came across a post from a person I met when I went on placements in Vietnam. She was able to receive a prize which would allow her to further her education overseas. What made me think as I was reading this post and others’ was how they emphasised the importance of achieving a perfect or near-perfect score in the IELTS to attain more opportunities overseas.
As my major for Arts, I undertook units which focused on how English is held on this high pedestal. A part of me understands that English is indeed essential in today’s society as globalisation is occurring. English is a lingua franca, a language needed to be able to communicate with different L1/L2 speakers. What was debated upon in the units that I took was achieving grammatical perfection when using English.
I know most Asian countries would focus on grammar and spelling when learning English, which I experienced when I was younger and when I was teaching in Vietnam. One incident that is still very vivid to this day was when the real teacher of the class (since they were monitoring our lessons) told me to pinpoint grammatical errors the students make right away. To me, this has its pros and cons. Immediate feedback would definitely be engrained in a child’s mind faster but if the child already has his/her reservations from learning English because of constant “That’s wrong” or “You’re wrong” feedback, then this will further distance them from learning the language in itself.
The main difference I realised growing up in two different countries is the emphasis that is placed when using English. In the Philippines, grammar and spelling is definitely the priority, hence you become a laughingstock when you make grammatical errors (which I believe is still seen in today, especially when I come across Facebook comments. It’s really quite toxic). While in Australia, there is a greater emphasis on your confidence to use English continuously, through writing or speaking. Of course, when writing essays, especially in primary and secondary school, grammatical mistakes will be corrected, but people don’t really correct you as much when you’re speaking. They’d rather continue the conversation than laugh or mock you. As this country is also not perfect, you will get some occasional rude person who would mock you for it but their grammar isn’t perfect as well. They just have the upper hand because of the colour of their skin or because they think they’re more superior than others.
Going back to the Facebook post I read earlier, I just wonder why English is still held in such a high pedestal to the point where others see it as open more opportunities for them to study overseas or abroad. Because even graduates from these “First World Countries” as also struggling when looking for jobs after all that ordeal in getting their bachelor or masters completed. Please enlighten me because I may be speaking from a perspective of a person who is ignorant of all these.