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Our identity is constantly forming and when you are only 5 years old it’s raw, real and ready for action. The problem is that it is still going through a development stage. So when it comes to learning English as a child, whatever goes into the mind of the child at that time in terms of ESL, it will be easily assimilated into the forming of the identity.
However, when you are older and you are learning English for the first time, the acquisition of the language takes a whole different route in terms of your identity. Firstly, older people have (let’s say over 25 years old), a certain amount of character already clearly formed. Passions and interests are clear and borders are loosely set on how far they are prepared to go. (This can also change the older you get too!). But this doesn’t mean that English will necessarily be harder to learn because your character is set in stone – it just means that you will seek a different approach to it depending on what you are into.
Obviously, some students who are going to study a subject have already found their passion in that area, so their English will need to be seen as a means to an end. To find out more about what they love. This can be also for anyone who have a love of travelling, a love of business or simply have found a new romantic love. All these will firstly come from your identity and the process in which you will learn your English will come from this.
However, the idea of ‘learning English that embraces your identity’ is looking at it from the opposite perspective. It is not just that English needs to be a vehicle for you to use, but it also needs to be a good fit with you too. If you are working in the music industry, there will be a certain kind of English that will be used that will suit not only your craft but the kind of people that you will be mixing with – this comes down to your identity. If you are going to travel to a country where English is not widely spoken but is an important cross-cultural means of communication – there will be aspects of that other culture that will fit with your passion to meet new and different people. If you are going to be working in business and need English that will help you with the international legal side, you will be forced to develop that side of your identity – as a well-healed person in international law!.
The most important thing about any kind of marriage is that both are compatible. If you are going to be married to your English – you’d better find a kind of English that suits you, will work for you and also reflect who you are.
There are many kinds of acceptable Englishes out there these days. If the one you are learning right now is not sitting well with you – it could be because you haven’t found the right one that embraces you yet. Keep searching and it will happen.