COLUMN: English is more than a language I already speak


Killeen Reidy, Columnist

“… a four-year degree in a language I already spoke.” This is a part of a John Mulaney quote from his Netflix special, “Kid Gorgeous in Radio City,” and this is one of many quotes used regularly in my friend group. Regardless of your opinion of him currently, whether you’re team John or team Anna, you have to admit it’s a funny bit. Well, unless you’re an English major like myself, then it can lose its charm pretty quickly. If you’re an English major reading this, you’ve probably dealt with similar comments. I know my English Forum professor Dr. Melissa Caldwell has, and I’ve resigned myself to a life of these comments.  

Here’s the thing though, while it is a funny little joke and similarly there’s business majors that “don’t do any work” or philosophy majors that “just think deep thoughts,” some people actually internalize these comments.  

English majors are, of course, not the only major who is disregarded and judged. I would know considering I was originally a music major. These kinds of comments can be well intended but actually have consequences. For both of the majors I have declared, the most common question asked is, “Oh so you’re going to teach?”

Now I have nothing against teachers and education majors, you guys are wonderful and I’m in awe of you. The thing is this sort of thing can lead to young students thinking that they can only teach if they’re passionate about English and some will go into the education track because of it. Luckily, and despite it being known as a teachers’ university, EIU’s English department makes sure to emphasize that there are many stable career options for a non-education major.  

All in all these expectations, stereotypes, and admittedly sometimes humorous jokes can lead to the idea that going into English as a non education major is easier or less than being a STEM major. This is of course a general attitude towards most humanities and it’s true for absolutely none of them, except maybe Philosophy… I’m kidding.  

English, no matter what track with it you take, helps students develop skills that are able to be applied to most jobs, even ones that you wouldn’t associate with English. It’s more than being told to read Jane Austen or learning when to put a comma in a sentence, something I still struggle with, just ask my professors. It’s learning how to analyze how Jane Austen works were shaped by and shaped the world around them. It’s learning how to communicate professionally, effectively and become a creative problem solver. And yes, it is learning a language you already speak, but you can dive deeper into how it works and how it evolves.  

So while being teased about majoring in a language I already speak isn’t the end of the world, it’s a shrinking of what an English major actually is. It’s someone who is able to have, hopefully, kept you reading this silly column with the skills they’ve learned and who is now off to work on their comma usage. 

Killeen Reidy is a junior English major. They can be reached at [email protected] or at 581-2812.