10 Jan 2014

Learning English for a better future

'Learn English to aim for a better job.’ The advertisement appears on the front page of a Spanish newspaper website this morning. It links to a list of English courses you can do. Courses online, in person, technical, general, advanced, basic and so the list goes on.

A few paragraphs above, another headline (English? Yes, I can!) advertises an English course launched by the same newspaper. I’ve been listening to the same mantra since I was a child. Learning English will make that extra difference, will save you, will ensure that you are never unemployed. Going to college is not enough, training in a useful trade is not enough, working hard is not enough but knowing how to speak English is!

It’s good to have a bit of hope. If you can’t find a job at least you can do a course, something that means you aren’t stuck but moving forward.

Only the courses tend to be bad, or limited because you learn English from home, with no teacher and no trip to an English-speaking country to check if what you’ve been paying for is of any use. So you find a way of getting to England or Ireland and find a job doing whatever, in order to learn that precious language that is going to be the key to your success (i.e. making a living.)

The problem is you end up working long shifts, at a café, alongside other Spaniards who have had the same idea, so after a few months all you’ve learnt is how to say café latte, cappuccino and macchiato…The hours you do don’t leave you much time to socialise with people outside work or do any English courses and you return home, hopefully with some fun anecdotes (or at least some anecdotes, which is somewhat a measure of success when your life feels like you’re trapped in mud). So you go back home and still can’t find work, despite your nursing, law, engineering or plumbing qualifications. You know what the problem is: you still can’t speak English.

Thankfully you open the newspaper and next to the news on how Her Royal Highness the Princess of Spain is being taken to court for money laundering and tax fraud, you see the solution to your problem: you just need to pay the money and do that English course, you fool!