English Today

Original Articles

‘I learn English since ten years’: The global English debate and the German university classroom

Elizabeth J. Erling a1
a1 Department of Theoretical and applied Linguistics, University of Edinburgh, Scotland


A report on German university students learning and working in English.

WHEN A student produces a sentences like “I learn English since ten years” it can be assumed that they haven't had a very good English teacher, that they may not, in fact, be very good in English despite the amount of time they've spent learning the language. However, some of my students may indeed produce a sentence like this. In the English Department of the Freie Universität in Berlin, I teach students who have already studied English for at least ten years by the time they enter university. And in order to study in our department, the students must pass a proficiency-level entrance exam. These students then have English as one of their major subjects, so their knowledge of the language is fairly sophisticated and their contact with the language regular.