When I reach a new destination with little idea what I’m doing next, I feel pretty fortunate that I come from an English-speaking country.

Sure, it’s more helpful to know the native language. But, nine times out of ten, there’s someone with at least a passing knowledge of their ABC’s.

So how did they learn English? Was it school? Talking to tourists? No, the answer I get most is “TV, movies and music.”


how-to-learn-english-infographicaKaplan Agrees!

See that nice infographic above? The folks at Kaplan Test Prep surveyed a LOT of people and found the same results as I encounter on the road. TV, movies and music are the most common ways that people in non-English speaking countries learn the language.


The Proof is in Laos

I’ll never forget my visit to Vang Viang, Laos. The entire town – or at least the touristic side of it – is dedicated to restaurants with comfortable floor seating, low tables and TVs showing endless episodes of Friends, Seinfeld, Simpsons and Family Guy loops. After traveling for many months, it was a great respite from the heat, hustle and bustle of the road.

However, it’s interesting to think that for many people, these sitcoms and cartoons are their only window into American or English-speaking culture. I’m not sure that Jerry, Monica, Homer and Peter are our nation’s best Ambassadors. Still, it’s better than the 80s and 90s, when the world though that the USA was just like the soap opera Dallas.


No English No Cry

Music-wise, the results of the Kaplan survey come as no surprise. While traveling, rarely a day goes by that I don’t hear Bob Marley singing a melody soft and sweet. Meanwhile, Thriller, Bad and Smooth Criminal are as common as the local music and everyone loves a good round of Madonna’s Isla Bonita.


Let the Muggles Teach You English

Especially in India, so much of the English I encounter is the Queen’s, not the President’s. It’s always interesting to hear antiquated expressions such as “what is your good name, sir” and “as you like.” Accents are often a mix of British and Indian, though the origin is a quite a few decades before Hogwarts hit the world scene. Still, it’s easy to see how the most popular series in movie history can influence 24% of those surveyed.


Video Games, Comics, Books, Homestays and More

I really can’t get enough of the infographic below. While traveling to another country for language immersion didn’t surprise me, the fact that World of Warcraft taught people English blew me away!