I was reading a book about how people use the internet and it said that the average search length has gone from 1.1 to 2.8 words in the last few years. The numbers may not seem to represent such a huge change at first look, but the more I think about them, the more astonishing the change seems. I have also just finished teaching on a pre-sessional course in a university in the UK where I have taught for many years and there have been similar changes that display a very profound change as I see it.
When I started, the top levels were dominated by the Europeans, but over the past few years things have changed completely and now the top levels are divided roughly equally between the Europeans and the Asians. The rise of the economies in Asia has undoubtedly meant that the pool of Asian students has widened considerably, but the massive improvements in standards of English, both written and spoken, has disappeared, which must have something to do with the ways it is learned. In the past, many Asian speakers had a great knowledge of grammar but limited fluency, but that is no longer the case.
Having lived in Asia for the last couple of years, I have learned a lot about the differences in these cultures in the widest sense, but the playing fields have been levelled in ESL somehow. Improved teaching techiniques will have played a part, but I can't help wondering what part the internet has had in this, permitting the complete disintegration of distance and drawing people from across the world into contact each other. Before the internet, my knowledge of American English was largely confined to word lists of the differences in vocabulary, but the internet put me in daily contact with American speakers with an interest in English and I found out so much more about the thousands of small differences between the varieties of English. I hope that the internet has played a role in effecting this change in the standards of English learned around the world.
Categories: Asian Blog