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Why is English in Such High Demand in China?

You don’t have to be in China for very long to realize that there is almost an obsession here with learning English. This article will explore the reasons why it’s so important in China…

Firstly, English is the international language of science, business, academia etc. Several factors have contributed to English being designated as the language to learn. Firstly, the former British Empire comprised territories and colonies that amounted to 23% world’s population. That’s a lot of people that the English language was imposed on and meant that English was spoken from Australia to India to South Africa. Secondly, following WW2, the USA emerged as the world’s richest nation and became a leader in manufacturing meaning that in order to trade with America and buy its products, countries needed to learn English. Lastly, in recent decades, the dominance of English has been further consolidated by Hollywood and US tech companies, who have established English as the language of entertainment, the internet, and new technology.

As China has become increasingly open and sought to trade with other countries, it is pushing the importance of its citizens learning English. English is now seen as more than just a language, it is a tool to access the wider, western world. The Chinese government believes that having proficiency in English will enable them to learn from western nations which will benefit their country.

On an individual level, if you have proficiency in English you will have more job opportunities and the potential to have a better corporate position in the professional world. In a country with a population of over a billion, competition for jobs is fierce, so anything to boost a resume is important.

Another reason is that US and UK universities have a prestigious international reputation of providing academic excellence, and so many Chinese parents want to develop the English of their children as much as possible in order to send their children to receive a western education.

Equally, being able to speak English equates to status in China. It is a sign of being well-educated and having a mindset that is more open to the world, especially with China having been so closed off for so long. Having proficiency in English is seen as cool, fashionable and sophisticated, which is why you will see lots of Chinese wearing clothing with English phrases and words on. Many pursue proficiency in English for personal reasons as well, to enable them to travel and to enjoy western music or films etc.

In the Chinese education system, often based on rote-learning and memorization, students will memorize grammar rules and vocabulary but seldom receive spoken practice. This is why many parents find it so valuable to have a native or proficient English speaker to live with them and help teach their child.

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