Why studying English is NOT a soft option

I’ve always been a fan of English, me.  It’s my kind of subject.  It requires me to use my brain in a particular way, a way with which I am familiar and comfortable.  I love books. I love writing.  I love words.

Numbers – personally?  Not a fan.  I’ve never had a scientific brain nor do I believe I ever will have.  My Maths skills are and always have been appalling, despite receiving extra tuition when I was at school.  And it was only with the help of my best friend that I even scraped through GCSE Science.

THANK GOD for English, the subject I always knew I could fall back on when the going got tough.  I took it up at sixth form, and again at University, satisfied that I had made sensible decisions about my education and the career path ahead of me.

I had no regrets, but throughout University I was constantly left questioning whether or not my choice of degree had a strong enough reputation to push me to journalistic success.  With English latches an ugly stigma – a silly, common belief that it’s only a doss subject for layabouts and daydreamers.  One that will not find you a job, or offer you any substantial career prospects.  I was doomed, basically.

I began to stumble across Buzzfeed-like articles continually mocking the futility of studying English.  Before long I was seeing them all the time.  My angst grew, and ended with me having a full-fledged “heated discussion”, shall we say, with a Biosciences student outside a nightclub who criticised and ridiculed my degree of choice.

“Want to be a teacher, do you?”

“What the fuck are you ever going to gain with that degree?”

Here was naive old me thinking I had chosen a respected subject.  Where had all this come from?  What had changed?

But in spite of this common belief, I actually gained loads from my English degree.  I learned how to…

  • …think creatively.  The great thing about studying English is that your essays are primarily built upon your ideas and what you think about a piece of literature.  It’s an opportunity to show flair and originality, to be bold and think outside the box.  It’s an opportunity to develop your independent thinking.
  • …think analytically.  Dissecting the words of a book or poem encourages you to read between the lines.  It shows skills in being meticulous, as well as open-minded.
  • …write, and write well.  There is simply no excuse for grammatical errors in an English essay.  Reading the work of others will further improve your skills in writing coherently, which in turn will make your own work far more engrossing to read.
  • …argue, and argue well.  Literature is subjective which means there can be a multiplicity of contrasting opinions debating over one tiny thing, like the choice of an exclamation mark.  What one critic may think about a character, you may think the opposite.  This offers you the perfect opportunity to draw upon what another person has said and argue your own ideas in a sophisticated, eloquent manner.
  • …work, read and think quickly.  There is obviously a lot of reading involved with an English degree.  Keeping on top of your required reading is so important, but you get better with practice.

So the next time you consider slating an English degree, think twice.  Us bookworms are great with words and even better at arguing.  If I were you, I wouldn’t pick a fight.

Image source: thefelinevoice.wordpress.com


5 thoughts on “Why studying English is NOT a soft option

  1. My experience is that it’s as difficult as you want to make it. For those serious in learning, it’s tough and worth the struggle. For those who want to breeze through, they have that option.

    I argue with my girlfriend on this all the time. She was a math major and I was English.

    Either way, thanks for sharing! Love this conversation.


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