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  Well, this might not be what you’ve expected from this talk, in that your attendance today already shows your interest in spoken English. However, as a university lecturer, it is my HABIT to talk about the theories or background knowledge before shifting to the more practical side of the issue. So, bear with me please, and you’ll find such introduction helpful.

  In what follows, I will first explain why English is the only global language and why it is so powerful. Then, I shall convince you that mastering English speaking skills is a must, even if your job focuses more on reading and translation skills. Lastly, I’d like to draw your attention to the practical value of spoken English in terms of the speakers’ social status and career prospects.

  1.1 English as a global/powerful language

  English becomes a global language because of the power of the people who speak it. It’s nothing to do with the English grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation or spelling that makes English an appealing language at a global level. In fact, English spelling would put most people off, if you think about it. So it’s nothing to do with the structure of the language, it’s all to do with power.

  But power means different things at different times. English first became international because of political power and military power -- the power of the British Empire, really. But it isn’t just political power that takes a language around. There are other factors too.

  A century later, around 16th to 17th century, the power of industrial revolution also established English as the language of science. Starting from then, about two thirds of people who invented all the things that make modern life what it is today did so through the medium of the English language.

  And then in 19th century, the economic power. Money talks; and the language used to do businesses was English. Because America and Britain back then had the lion’s share of international market.

  Again in 20th century till today, we have the cultural power, with English being the language of communication between different nations.

  So, in retrospect, English happens to be at the right place at the right time during the last

  400 years or so, which has produced the enormous global status that it currently has.

  1.2 Reading and Translation vs. Speaking skills

  Alright, you might think that, ‘OK, I understand that English is powerful now, but I don’t really need to speak good English. If I want to communicate with foreigners, I can do so through reading and translation.’

  Well, I’m going to convince you that spoken English is equally important as, if not more important than, reading and translation skills.

  From the point of view of English learning itself, being able to speak is a sign of truly mastering the language. It is easy to understand, isn’t it? If you only read something without saying it, chances are that you will soon forget what you’ve read. Take myself for example, I learned Japanese for one term a few years back, and I can still say ‘Hello’ in Japanese. But besides ‘Hello’, which I learned to speak, I can’t use anything else that I had only read about but couldn’t speak out. Likewise, I can say a few French sentences which I learned to speak, not to read or translate.

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