At IEI, it’s not hard to find a student with a Starbucks cup in his or her hand. With 10 locations in Nashville, Starbucks is a familiar part of the local culture. Students don’t go to Starbucks just to experience local culture, though — the American coffee shop chain is as ubiquitous around the world as the English language itself. So how is English like Starbucks?

1. It’s increasingly international. Starbucks started in Seattle, a city in the northwestern United States. Today you can find Starbucks in 55 countries and on every continent except Antarctica. Most of the stores’ global customers have never visited Seattle, but that doesn’t change their enjoyment of Starbucks.

Similarly, the English language is international. Linguists (people who study language) say that at any given moment, more non-native speakers are using English to communicate with each other than native English speakers. In other words, think about a Japanese businessperson and a Brazilian businessperson using English in a meeting, or think about a German and a Saudi communicating over the Internet with English. Their situation is more common than two Americans, Brits, or Australians talking to each other in English.
Starbucks may seem to be taking over the world, but it is no where close to as global as English.

2. It’s consistent. Starbucks in various countries may offer a couple of specialty drinks that are unique to that country, but overall, the menu is that same everywhere. American-style drip coffee and sugary drinks like Frappuccinos have been embraced by fans around the world.

English also has some small variations in different countries, mostly in vocabulary. However, it is essentially the same language everywhere. If you can use English in one country, you can use it anywhere.

3. It brings people together. You can find all kinds of people in a neighborhood Starbucks: moms with small children, students, businesspeople, and elderly individuals. The shops have a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere that makes it easy to chat with friends or strike up a conversation with the person next to you (in countries where talking to strangers is a cultural norm).

Knowledge of English, an international language, also brings people together. Many children around the world study English in school today; other people might learn it as an adult. English gives you the ability to connect with many other people of all ages and nationalities. Who knows — maybe a Frappuccino would help as well.


[photo credit: pierofix]