How The Internet Is Helping Literacy, or The Story Of How My Brother Learned English From Funny Youtube Videos
Author: Endru Sinaga
In the recent past, the internet has undoubtedly become an inherent part of our daily lives. It is something we often use for entertainment or for our jobs, even more so now with everything that’s been going on, and with 60% of the languages spoken on the internet being English1, it should be no surprise that in the rise of our current digital era, the amount of people who speak English has been rising quite a bit.
Even many content creators such as YouTubers or livestreamers who aren’t even from an English speaking country, will end up mostly speaking English either to gain a larger audience, or because they just genuinely speak it more than their native language such as Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, also known as Pewdiepie who is actually Swedish, and in turn their fans will pick up the language as well.
English is such a universal language that many people who aren’t that good at English will end up using English words to describe certain things, such “download” instead of “unggah”. Even many words in other languages are just slightly changed version of already existing English words, such as “Produser” and “Producer”, and “bolpen” being a slightly changed and shortened version of “Ballpoint pen”.
Not to mention the fact that a large amount of songs2, books3, and movies4 that are critically loved all around the world are for the most part, in English, and thus, when someone from a non-English speaking country hops on the internet to listen to songs, learn about what movies they should watch, or what books they should read, it’s going to be mostly English titles, which would then push on that person the need to learn English. That’s even how I learned English, I used to watch a lot of English movies as a young child, and well, here I am now.
Furthermore, the internet doesn’t only increase the need to learn English, but also the ease of which to do so. Back in the ancient times before the internet, learning languages was something only the rich and mighty could have the privileges to do, but now, any guy with good internet and some sort of device could go to Google, look up “cara belajar inggris cepat” and get hundreds upon hundreds of courses, language learning websites, YouTube videos, and tips on how to learn English, most of which are completely free! You could even go into any social media site, like Discord or Reddit and talk to English people halfway around the world just by pressing a few buttons, you could discuss things and talk to them about all sorts of things, or even ask them to help you with learning English all with your computer/laptop or mobile device.
Even small children could go to YouTube simply to watch simple children’s videos, and end up picking up on some simple words and phrases, and eventually become rather proficient in English. For a real life example, let’s take my sweet but rather loud younger brother. He’s a relatively smart kid, knows his alphabet and can count to 30, but I feel most impressively of all, is that at the tender age of 5, he’s already bilingual. And you might be wondering How? Did he get lots of intensive training from masters? Was he in a school with entirely English speaking students? Well, the truth is, he watched a lot of English videos on YouTube.
The things he watched were simple things like those family finger song videos, that then went to nursery rhymes, and now whenever I peek at what he’s watching, it is almost entirely animations and let’s play videos which are mostly, you guessed it, In English.
But it doesn’t end there, he also began playing free online games that are also in English, he played on sites like Crazygames.com, which has a wide array of games, most of which use English, and it results in him putting English words in sentences or sometimes saying things entirely in English, he’s still not that great at reading in either languages but regardless, being able to speak and understand two languages at his age is nothing to scoff at, and it was somewhat thanks to the internet.
And much of the same happened to me too, so it’s not unlikely to think that there’s hundreds, maybe even thousands of kids out there who are going through much of the same thing, that is learning and experiencing English through the lens of the internet and the world wide web.
These children are becoming what is known as an “Anglophone”, or someone who speaks English, and the amount of people whose native language isn’t English but still ended up becoming an Anglophone has been steadily rising in recent years5, and with the help of the internet, it’s very likely to keep rising even more than it already has.
Not to mention, literacy rates around the world has also been rising6, the most notable rises being in 1996 and 1987, these dates were important dates in tech, as 1996 was when the first demo of google, originally named “Backrub” was released7, and in 1987, Microsoft released the much more popular successor to the Windows 1.0 OS, Windows 2.08.
So we can tell that the internet and technology does in fact play quite a big role in the increase of not only ourselves as a society, but also in the increase of literacy, and the usage of the English language all around the world. It spreads English content to the masses, which creates the need to understand English. Mixed with the plethora of ways it helps you learn English, It creates a rather great system.
` In conclusion, The internet is indeed a player in this mission to increase literacy in the people and the amount of English speakers. So appreciate it, because without it, not only would it be slower to communicate with people around the world, but a ton of the pieces of media we consume everyday, may be not only unavailable, but also incomprehensible, due to the language barrier that I feel has truly been destroyed by technology, and the Internet.
Saya generasi muda yang peduli literasi! Artikel ini ditulis sebagai bentuk serta EF Literacy Day Competition 2021: https://www.ef.co.id/writing-competition
9 Data taken from https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SE.ADT.LITR.ZS
All art used in this article was created by Endru Sinaga