China Struggles With English
APRIL 14, 2011
Mandarin lessons may be the trend in the West, but the push in China is to study English.
Now, two language-teaching companies have given China poor marks for its English abilities. China, according to two separate studies published recently, is distinguishing itself for the number of people studying, not for their skill levels.
“China still has a way to go before it can consider itself adequately proficient in English,” according to English First BV.
Separately, California-based GlobalEnglish Corp. says many of the 11,000 people it recently surveyed in China wouldn’t be able to keep up with a business meeting conducted in English.
The findings show that money’s at stake, of course.
The English grades–and recommendations to teach more English–reflect how companies peddling everything in China from dandruff shampoo to mine-safety equipment and bond ratings are solving problems faster than they are recognized.
(Admittedly, newspaper reporters are sometimes also accused of viewing China’s tea cup as half empty.)
Educating Chinese is a business that has attracted a range of entrants, including Walt Disney Co., New York University and others.
Diplomats like U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have taken up the issue of improving English skills in China, as well. It appears to be one issue of agreement between Beijing and Washington.
The EF grading, based on 2.3 million test results, puts China at No. 29 among 44 nations that speak English as a second language, with a “low proficiency” rating.
Yet, EF credits China for pumping up the numbers and “To the extent that China is increasingly driving much of the regional economy, its ability to communicate in English will pressure all of its neighbors to keep pace.”
Indeed, the index is the latest to grade China above the former British colony of India. Likewise, the British Council, in various reports, has shown how China is overtaking India as an English-speaking nation–at least in numerical terms–while predicting the language’s future will be dictated by trends in the two most populous Asian nations.
Premier Wen Jiabao once estimated 300 million study English in China. But according to GlobalEnglish, “most English education focuses on general conversational English skills rather than the necessary communication tools for global business.”
– James T. Areddy