In order to understand this issue, we would need to look into the root of the problem, which relies on people’s needs nowadays. These needs have a trigger, which is defined as the growth of English as the ‘lingua franca’, that is, English as the language commonly used by any person, whatever his nationality is, for him to be able to communicate with people from other countries. Therefore, English nowadays plays the role of the tool that people make use of in order to be able to communicate with people from any place in the world. Imagine that you find yourself in this situation: you want to go to Bangladesh for holidays. What would be easier for you: learning Bengali or learning English? It is highly likely that people living in Bangladesh know at least the basics of English, so... may English be your choice! Not only is English the lingua franca because people widely speak it all over the world, it is also the most common language given that it is the easiest existing language! After having read these facts: what is your excuse for you not to master this language?
Having said that, we can state that English has taken a very important position in education, being positioned at a very important level nowadays, especially in European countries. This has been obviously reflected in Spain as well, where many schools and high-schools have been implementing immersion and content-based subjects in English over the past years in an attempt to progressively improve the Spanish students’ proficiency in English. This was the beginning of an English-based era in Spain. Afterwards, by the time Spanish companies and businesses began to expand and spread all over the world, employees and workers needed to become proficient users in such language for them to be able to communicate with customers and co-workers in other countries. Another reason, which is the most important and noticeable one (at least from my viewpoint), is the measure that was implemented by the Spanish government in 2013 regarding university degrees: a certificate validating the student’s proficiency in English (at least a B1 level) is required for him to be graduated in any degree. This measure prompted students to make an effort and take English seriously. The question is: is it actually benefiting students? Do students know how to prepare for such exams? Do they have enough motivation to learn English as they study to pass a proficiency exam? Here is where the root of the problem rests upon.
Given the fact that people are in need of a certification on English proficiency nowadays, they are forced to take English classes. However, their mindset when they come to taking these classes is not the appropriate one: their only goal is to practice as much as possible sticking to the exam’s format, mainly for them to pass it when the time comes. Most people disregard the possibility of learning as they practice for their exam, since they approach it from a ‘practical’ perspective. Some people think: I don’t like English, what do I need it for? I only need my certificate, which is required for me to graduate in my university degree. We can address this issue from a motivational point of view, that is, the chances are that people are going to study English in order to achieve an educational or professional goal, nor for personal motivation, and that is what really hinders their development in the target language.
It is crucial to understand the difference between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation if one wants to find out why this problem persists in Spain. Intrinsic motivation occurs when the student is willing to learn a new language by pure motivation, they like the language or feel attracted by it. On the contrary, extrinsic motivation is what people have when they need to learn English for a specific purpose, such as passing an exam to get a certificate, improving communicative skills for work, improving writing skills for work, being socially recognized, etc. Therefore, these people mentioned above, whose only purpose is to pass their English proficiency exam, would have extrinsic motivation rather than intrinsic. I am an English teacher, and the first time I meet a new student, the first question that comes out of my mouth is: what is your intention for learning English? Why do you want to learn English? Sadly, 90% of the times, the answer I am given is that they need it for their work or their university degree. Nevertheless, I have come across people, mostly older people I must say, whose motivation was pure interest in English since they found it a wonderful language as well as useful when they come to interact with people and consume content online.
In a nutshell, what group of people do you belong to? Are you going to merely study English because you are going to use it as a tool for your needs, or are you rather going to learn it because you genuinely love? If you want to become a proficient user of English, make sure that, first of all, you answer this question and ensure that you are actually on the right path. Even if you need English to pass an exam, do not hesitate to be passionate about it, be interested in the language, be willing to learn about it, about its culture and its origins, get yourself immersed in the English language, watch your films in English, listen to music with English lyrics! Summarizing: include English in your lifestyle. You don’t want to waste your time and forget everything you learnt after you take your proficiency exam, do you?