Sunday, 15 May 2016

From ABC to OMG: The mainstream way of learning English

By Nadya Milena Camacho Contreras (9th semester undergraduate FIGRI student, the World in English elective)

In the last few decades, technology has developed in an accelerated way which has culminated in the invention of several devices that nowadays ease communication between different cultures and, most importantly, different languages. As it is today, the way we learn English or any other language has a close relationship to what we watch on TV, what kind of music we like and what our favorite movie may be.

It is not weird to hear someone say that by watching movies or listening to music in another language they have improved their abilities in another language. What is even more interesting, and constantly passes over our heads, is that by doing this we are learning much more than just a language. The way that content is presented to new generations is not only fun and interesting, but richly engrained in the culture present in things such as video games, TV shows, movies, music and internet videos. These are frequently part of a bigger scheme: mainstream culture.

This mainstream culture is defined by different products with an extremely broad target audience. In other words, mainstream culture is composed, among other things, of the media outlets that are created with the idea of reaching people all over the world who have different cultures and, yes, different languages. The rapid evolution of technology has facilitated this content exportation, as now we are able to subscribe to Netflix and watch the same shows as anyone in the United States, without having to wait for those shows to be dubbed and transmitted on television or in movie theaters.

The thing with this massive spread of mainstream culture, usually created and promoted by the United States, is that by watching those shows or listening to certain music we are able to learn some traits of the environment in which they were created. Nowadays we have a more accurate vision of how society in the US works without ever having to be there; today, English students all over the world may know the same about conjugations as they know about acronyms like OMG, LOL or YOLO.

This is not, by itself, a bad thing, as it has made learning English as a second language easier, more interesting and interactive. Nonetheless, it is important to be careful while consuming this media, as much of it is not the most linguistically correct or even remotely informative, so it is necessary to have a critical eye regarding what we see and learn from. Other than that though, technology and popular media are great tools to learn a second language and the culture behind it.

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