Is English Skill That Important

Recently, an exteremly hot discussion on whether English skills is that important on Sina.com.cn is brought to my attention. The original title is “Does English skills determine your fate?” The title sounds astonishing, doesn’t it?

It seems from the result of the vote, more people (50% vs 20%) agree with statement. While on the discussion board (Chinese site), most of participations complained about English’s aggression to Chinese’s territory.

I am also confused

I am also confused about this for a very long time. English has been successfully deployed to many countries as an international language. I write in English everyday and sometimes speak English. I see so many people struggling to learn and improve English – including me. Yes. I am very confused about what English really means to everyone.

Do we need mandarin, or Pu Tong Hua?

Let’s take a look of the mandarin in China. Lots of my friends and I grew up in Luoyang and can only speak mandarin. We has lost the ability to speak the Hennan dialect, which has existed and been inherited for more than 1000 years. Mandarin is a great threat to the local language. It is good on the other hand, that no matter where I travel in China, there is no language difficulties – it is the official and most popular language.

Surprisingly, I visited Tibetan area last month. The guide there can also speak fluent mandarin. This helped me a lot. However, I cannot communicate with the groom. This was quite bad. Many reports complain that the government is stealing the Tibet from the Tibet people by stealing their language. It can be true in some terms. It is not a matter of the government is stealing or not, it is just a matter of fact.

Not only my home or Tibet, every city, every town and every village is facing the same problem. Maybe only Beijing and some Northeast province can survive. So my question is, should I insist to speak the local dialect?

However, I also have friends who cannot speak mandarin. When they visit me in Shanghai, he cannot be understood by people there. This has brought him a lot of trouble. It is difficult for him to find a job or to find new friends – the reason is simple, nobody will learn his language just to understand him.

Key learning

From my experience and my friend’s, I learnt that a language is mainly for communication proposes. Sometimes there are major languages that are widely accepted, and the broad acceptance make it easier for people to communicate, it is beneficial to learn it.

How about English

When English is concerned, it is hard. Since the government enforces the adoption of mandarin and it is within the same country, people won’t push back that much. However, if this adoption span across the border of countries, it will hurt the feeling of the people. It is reported that the people and government of France is working every hard to push back the aggression of English to their language.

No English, then what?

Today, I spent my whole day meeting with the representatives from all over the world. We have people come from Europe (UK, France, Finland, Norway, German, etc… ), from Middle East (Israel…), from Africa, Latin America, from Asia (China, India, Korea, Japan….). Of cause, there is lot of people from U.S.

The days session is conducted in English. I am surprised to find the English skills of European countries are very good, so does India. People from Asia tend to perform poorly in presentations. It is sad. This reminded me of the story of my friends. Just like that he cannot communicate with other people in China, we cannot easily communicate with others in the world. Yes. This is sad.

Meanwhile, it is very interesting that when I have meeting with people from Korea and Japan. It is a tough meeting. It is 100% percent sure that we need to speak English. Although I can only understand 30% of what the Japanese says and 70% of what Korean says, it is good enough since I can understand about 0% if they speak their native language.

It turns out when people using different languages meets, they need to find a common language that everyone can speak. English has been in place already. There is no doubt about it.

Certainly, we are not that comfortable to learn, imitate and speak the language that people in other countries are using, we have too learn something. English is the most practical one. My brother once studied the Interlingua (or the International Language) but he abundant at last. Interlingua successfully solves the problem that it does not force anyone to speak the language of the other – it is very equal ?everyone need to learn something that is completely new. But not so many people want to learn. It is a joke now, let alone it is still not fair since it looks like something between English and Spanish.

Not everyone needs English

For my friends and for my groom, if they don’t need to travel, it is definitely unnecessary to learn mandarin. For anyone who don’t need to go outside the country or meet with others come into the country, they don’t need to learn English either. However, without English skills, one does limits the scope he can reach and will lose so many opportunities.

I am still confused, but it is clear that English is important for me

47 thoughts on “Is English Skill That Important”

  1. Language is the very thing God invent to prevent people all over the world from living in harmony.That is why there is war. That is why there is race discrimination.

  2. Anonamous, no matter what you believe in, please be assured that not 100% of people agrees with you. There are something you cannot accept. It is true. But it is not acceptable to through a comment out without any explaination. This is the typical irresponsible comments or post on Internet. You have contributed one more such post.

  3. Hi Jian Shuo Wang, do you remember me? I used to be a comspec there at AREC and I remember working with you to “go gold” Working with you and all the others in MS Shanghai is one of my fondest memories. I really enjoyed your website.

  4. Hi Shane, I certainly remember you. How are you there?

    Yes. AREC is a great place with a lot of talented people. I enjoy working their very much. Thank you for your help on my English at that time. I did improved a lot.

    You are welcome to check out this site from time to time and find some update about the city – I will not put update of AREC on this site though. :-)

    BTW, AREC has been named to GTEC now (Global Technical Engineering Center)

  5. Language itself is a tool or skill, which is neutral by nature. In that sense, the more language skills one possesses the better. However, there is a culture associated with each language. In that sense, language is very powerful. In Europe, the appearance of so many languages might have played an important role in dividing the land into almost as many countries. Diversity in language and culture makes the richness of our human society. During 20th century, half of the spoken languages have disappeared, from about 6,000 to about 3,000. Mandarin is still one of the first three languages (together with English and Spanish) in terms of being spoken by the number of people. So, it is not about to disappear. However, the protection of Chinese cultural identity is an important issue. For China to play an important role in the world community, there is a need for some Chinese to have a good knowledge of English as it has become the dominant language in commerce as well as in technology. So, the challenge is to learn English without losing Chinese cultural identity. To make the point clearer: China has one of the greatest civilizations of our world. Chinese are and should be proud of their culture and heritage. Not all things Western are necessary good. As China opens its door, pick the good from the West and leave the bad. Language skill is not a bad one, but individualism is one aspect of Western culture Chinese could do better without.

  6. I work for Pearson Education the largest English Language Publisher in the world. I have been to Shanghai to bring english teaching software to Mainland China. My opinions maybe biased however I feel strongly:

    You can learn other languages without losing your culture. China has been around a long time and the culture has remained in tact. I think people confuse american cultural invasion with the fact that people everywhere want prosperity they want cars, nice homes, good life. Having more prosperity is not an inport of america. We have a developed country and we have all these things. One hundred years or more Europe was the envy and Britain was the ideal before that it was France.

    English is not the world language because of america. Britain established english in many places of the world during the colonial period. Post WWII American economy and business dealings made English the language of business and commerce. Now English is taught pretty much as a second language. Why?

    English is simply an easy language to learn. I know many people in Shanghai who are self taught. Something that would be almost impossible with Mandarin. Because of the tonal qualities of Chinese, Japanese and other asian languages it makes it very hard for europeans and americans to speak these languages properly. The romance languages like english, spanish, french etc are very similiar so they can pick up english quickly and we share a common alphabet. The written languages of asia especially china are not aligned with the spoken language making it even more difficult.

    In asia in particular there are so many numerous dialects which are so different they are like a foreign language to each other. Take cantonese versus mandarin. As stated above english is a simple common format for everyone to be able to communicate with.

    Does knowing english give you a better life in China. The answer depends on the person. It definitely gives you better work opportunities but its up to the person to seek those opportunities out. This would be especially true in areas where people interface with people in other countries like the big costal cities etc.

    History has shown people borrow from each other’s cultures. I dont thing there is a need to worry the Chinese will all become Americans like some of the phobic comments made above. I do believe that there are many misperceptions about China in the states and in China about America. The bottom line is the more people can communicate with each other the better off we will all be and the safer the world will be.

  7. here is someone’s perspective:

    it is an unfair trade,huh?

    party A must buy party B’s language and party B can use their innate ability to earn money!

    “selling language!selling language!”

  8. It was a good article,well I require your help and suggestions.I’m an English teacherworking the the Sultanate of Oman.I am presenting an article on the topic”Importance of spoken skill in English language learning as a foreign language”. I would be thankful if u would send me any materials regarding this topic.

    Thank You and hope get a mail from you.

  9. Reading this post made me feel a little sad. I’m from the southwestern part of the US, and I’m really interested in foreign languages. I grew up with Spanish around (since more than 15% of the people in my state speak Spanish, not English at home). Later, I studied Japanese in college.

    Anyway, my experience with Chinese has been terrible. As I grew up I really loved Chinese culture, Chinese movies, Chinese food, etc… My school didn’t offer Chinese langauge classes, but after I graduated from college I moved to Taiwan, hoping to learn Chinese. After moving here, I’ve been taking Chinese classes at Shifandaxue for nearly a year. The classes are ok, and my reading is improving, but I’m learning almost NOTHING from daily life!

    Why? It’s because Taiwanese are so f#$@ing obsessed with English, that as soon as they see a foreign-looking (i.e. WHITE) guy, they use English. Even though I gave up my job, and travelled 10,000 miles from home, I still can’t have a Chinese language environment, and it’s all because of how crazy they are about English. I guess there’s a racial element too. I have an ABC friend who speaks much worse Chinese than me, but nobody pushes her to switch to English when they talk with her. People don’t even know where I’m from, they just see the color of my skin and then assume I MUST speak English. I’d give anything just to be able to find a place where people would just speak to me in Chinese (even if my Chinese is only so-so).

    One last thing I’ve thought of… English is actually only the world’s 3rd most spoken langague, according to ethnologue.com

    #3 English 470,000,000 speakers

    #2 Spanish 490,000,000 speakers

    #1 Mandarin 1,200,000,000 speakers

    Look at that. 60 years ago, French was considered the world langauge of diplomacy. Now, it’s become English. If China ever becomes a rich country, I think I know what langauge will be dominant 60 years from now…

  10. Mark, I can understand that. It is (sadly) true that people are more interested to learn English than teach you Chinese. That is the reason many foreigners enjoy talking with Ayi, drivers instead of university students – people who can not speak English will be more helpful to learn Chinese.

  11. Mark, I believe that you are still luckier because you do not need to learn English under pressure. Fortunately or unfortunately, English has been a common language in this small planet. However, remember American English is one of English.

  12. Hi,

    I found this thread on the blog to be very interesting. I have a question – is there any real advantage to a Caucasian American learning Mandarin Chinese? Since there is a push in China to learn English should I even bother trying to learn Mandarin? Thanks for your comments..

  13. I’m caucasian american. My 9 year old is already learning spanish and will be studying Mandarian next. With these two extra languages she will be able to communicate with a large portion of the world.

    She is very excited about this type of knowlege as she loves to communicate. She is also driven by my travels and stories of the people I’ve met.

    Frankly speaking I think spanish would be a better choice for a world language as it is simple. Not so many conflicting rules as english. Easier to type than chinese.

    Just my opinion. US can not even transfer to the metric system!

  14. I just read an article titled Togues tied by strangeness” which was published on The Australian. It says that English speakers don’t know very much about English from an analytical perspective. “It’s easy for English speakers to assume it must be superior, and also assume, wrongly, that we don’t need to learn other languages any more.”

  15. Interesting point Lu.. I was just curious which languages the article tells English speakers they should learn and why.

  16. Great website! I was looking for info about PUDONG and stumbled upon it. Wonderful information and thanks for being so kind and friendly! As for learning English, it does help open up doors of communication of others. I do think it is important to have your own dialect/language as well. I can’t speak my mom’s dialect but I understand it and Mandarin/Cantonese. I studied Japanese, Vietnamese and Spanish (but I am able to do small talk at best with the others). I believe communication with others is vital for international understanding but “when in rome, do what romans do” I do agree. Or at least have people aware of this. Just my small two cents worth.

  17. Dear Nick,

    No offense here, but I have to disagree with just about everything in your post. I’m a Korean-American who’s traveled thru much of the world, both as my parents moved around and on my own for business and vacation. If there’s one thing I’ve learned with certainty, it’s that this claim that people utter all the time– that “English is the international language of business, pop culture, diplomacy, and just about everything else”– is totally false. TOTALLY BOGUS. In fact, the more I hear this myth about English taking over the world, the more I become convinced that it’s a thinly veiled attempt at commercial imperialism by the USA and UK, a way to pry loose and ruin longstanding business relationships that many non-English speaking countries have with each other so as to draw them into the commercial sphere of the US, UK, and other English-speaking countries. Oh, and also to force the poorer countries of the world to bear the cost of language-learning and translation, so that the US in particular gets to boost its profit margin even higher. English is popular as an international language but not nearly to the extent that people play it up, yet USAers in particular repeat this lie so often that many people become duped into believing that it’s a truth, to the advantage of USA companies and at the expense of home-grown firms.

    I heard a story on the radio recently about an American businessman– Jeffrey Jones– who’s actually pushing hard to make English the official language of South Korea, claiming that he’s acting benevolently in Korea’s self-interest and increasing their national wealth. It made my blood boil to hear this carpetbagging jerk from the USA try to push something that would essentially ruin my country’s ancient culture and split us from our own history, and even more angry that there are apparently enough gullible idiots in the Korean government and school system to help this guy along. Look, I’m all for Koreans doing the English-immersion programs and improving their command of English (and other languages too), but I’m disgusted by this misguided infatuation with the language.

    I for one think that Koreans would benefit more by learning Japanese and Mandarin, since these are the two countries that Koreans will predominantly be doing business with. China particularly will be very powerful and in 20 years Mandarin may be even more important than English both on the Asian Pacific coast and worldwide, so it would be foolish to get obsessed with English as a foreign language at the expense of Mandarin. Nick, you yourself point out that French used to be the ideal language, which goes to show that “world languages” change over all the time, and we shouldn’t get caught up in the fad of the moment. I spent a good deal of time in various countries of Europe, and while there are a lot of people who can speak good English there, English isn’t nearly as much of a common standard as a lot of people pretend. In most of southern and southeastern Europe, places like Italy, Romania, and Greece, they tend to use French as the lingua franca, not English. In most of northern and eastern Europe, in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Finland, Estonia, and many of the other former Soviet Republics, German is the lingua franca much more than English. Some of the best German literature and movies these days come from Eastern Europe! German is also the main second language in Serbia, Croatia, Turkey, and some other places farther away from Germany because of all the immigrant and business contacts between Germany and those countries. In much of Central Asia and some other former Soviet republics, Russian is still a lingua franca. (And a lot of Russians speak perfect German and French and actively use them, again with a lot of Russian immigrants going to France and Germany recently.) In North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, French is more of a lingua franca than English, and in East Africa it’s Swahili. In India English is not widely spoken– I’ve been to India and while some elites do speak it, Tamil is a sort-of lingua franca for the south while Hindi is the lingua franca for the north and center. (I’ve actually seen statistics showing that Hindi is spoken by millions more people than English, and in a lot of different countries.) Spanish is the lingua franca for Latin America. The point being that in the EU French and German are both shaping up as important lingua francas, with Russian, Swahili, Hindi, and Spanish having that role elsewhere, and probably Mandarin soon in East Asia.

    Nick, you claimed that “English is not the world language because of america. Britain established english in many places of the world during the colonial period.” That’s totally wrong. In the vast majority of places that Britain ruled, they are not using English as their principal or official language. In Singapore English is co-official, it’s also co-official in African countries like South Africa and Zimbabwe (though not very widely spoken), and of course English is used in the white settler colonies like Australia, but in most former Brit colonies they’ve switched back to their indigenous languages. In Burma, Malaysia and Pakistan for example they may use English at times as a second-language but English is definitely not the main language used. As I pointed out in India, Hindi is official and Hindi and Tamil share lingua franca status in different regions of the country. Up to the fall of the British Empire after World War 2, English wasn’t very widely used, and so the popularity of English today is entirely a result of the US, American business, military and pop culture particularly. If US gets weak for whatever reason, English won’t be nearly as widespread.

    Nick, you also claim that “English is simply an easy language to learn.” This is simply outrageous and totally wrong. I’ve talked to a lot of Japanese and Koreans who say that English is extremely difficult to learn– in fact, most Japanese and Koreans say that German is a lot easier since they have similar grammar structure. English has a totally nonsensical spelling and difficult pronunciation, plus it has some very complicated grammar in many places, and vocabulary that’s all over the place. Asian languages by contrast (particularly Chinese) have very simple grammar, no tenses or weird changes of verbs, nouns, or pronouns, plus a rich but easy-to-learn vocabulary.

    You go on to say that “I know many people in Shanghai who are self taught (in English). Something that would be almost impossible with Mandarin. Because of the tonal qualities of Chinese, Japanese and other asian languages it makes it very hard for europeans and americans to speak these languages properly.” Again, totally false. I know a large number of Americans who can speak fluent Chinese, Japanese and Korean and who in some cases are self-taught (usually spent some time in East Asia too of course to get fluent). Some Americans and Europeans have studied many foreign languages, and they’ve told me that Chinese is actually the easiest of all to learn because of the very simple grammar and easy-to-learn vocabulary. They’re not bothered by the tones nearly as much as you think. It’s unfamiliar at first but you get used to it. Remember that tones aren’t in Korean either, but lots of Koreans and Korean-Americans learn Chinese dialects, and it’s not too hard to do it.

    You also say that “The romance languages like english, spanish, french etc are very similiar so they can pick up english quickly and we share a common alphabet. The written languages of asia especially china are not aligned with the spoken language making it even more difficult.” First of all Nick, English is not a Romance language, it’s a Germanic language. Second, Chinese written language is aligned with the spoken language (each character consists of a phonetic as well as a meaning radical), and if anything the Chinese written system actually makes it a lot easier for Asian countries to communicate with each other, since they can use the writing even if they don’t speak each other’s language. It does take some years to master the writing but again, it’s not as hard as you make it out to be. Most of the characters are pretty unique and it’s not too tough to learn them and tell them apart. In addition for many purposes both native and non-native Chinese speakers just use pinyin Romanization of Chinese which is also popular, so Chinese has the advantage that it can be written both with the characters and with the pinyin phonetic romanization, and people understand it.

    You say that “In asia in particular there are so many numerous dialects which are so different they are like a foreign language to each other. Take cantonese versus mandarin. As stated above english is a simple common format for everyone to be able to communicate with.” First of all, as someone who’s been to UK and Australia I can tell you that there are many places in those English-speaking countries where an American won’t know what in the world anyone is saying, since the dialect is so strong. Second, why do you assume that English would be a better common format than any of the Asian languages? As far as a common language goes, East Asian countries have a strong historical connection to Chinese culture and language and in fact over 40% of the words in Korean, Japanese, and some other languages come from Chinese originally. Plus the cultural features of Chinese language are a lot closer for us. So it’s much easier for us to use Mandarin as a common language than English there. On the other side of the coin, in many parts of USA we don’t even use English as the main language. In a lot of states, including in California where I grew up and other states that used to be part of Mexico, Spanish is used more than English, and you’d better know it. (In my middle school our teachers all told us that Spanish was the language that everybody had to learn and speak fluently to get ahead.)

    The one place where I agree with you is here-“The bottom line is the more people can communicate with each other the better off we will all be and the safer the world will be.” Yes, I agree. But this has to work going both ways. I’m sick of so many of my fellow Americans being so lazy that they expect everybody in foreign countries to speak English to them-they should at least make some effort to learn the main languages of the places they visit. I think it’s fine that people in Asia and Europe learn English-I think it’s also fine and helpful that many of them get fluent in French, German and Hindi too. But in return, we Americans have to stop being so lazy and spoiled about languages ourselves. If more Americans actually made the effort to learn French, German, Spanish, Hindi, Chinese, Swahili, and many other important languages, this would help communication just as much as other countries learning American English. (I’m obviously not saying that every American should learn 10 languages-I’m saying that learning foreign languages should be more valued in general for Americans, and each American should work hard to get fluent in at least one or two foreign languages, the way most Europeans and Asians do.) My parents taught me Korean but I also worked hard to learn Spanish and German at school, and I take a lot of pride in speaking them. In return, people from other countries appreciate it a lot when I speak their languages rather than demanding that they speak mine all the time. Communication goes in two directions, and we Americans need to do more on our side of the bargain. In addition to other advantages, it would also help Americans to stop being so narrow-minded. A lot of our stupid foreign policy mistakes and arrogant actions recently are probably the result of a self-centeredness, the fact that many Americans think the world revolves around them. We’ll help ourselves as well as the rest of the world by breaking out of this.

  18. Geno,

    you are so freaking right about “communication goes in two directions”. I have been working in US for over 10 years, and recently relocate back to Shanghai on a new assignment, it really pissed me off to see whole bunch of Chinese folk need to speak English in a meeting just because there is one dude from US who never makes real effort to learn the language, he has been in Shanghai for over 5 years and he knew he has to deal with Chinese people 24-7, like most of of American, they take it for granted.

  19. The language for international communications evolves around commercial activities. In trade dealings, usually there is a buyer (customer) and a seller (supplier) and over time the buyer’s language provails. This stems from the natural law of “customer is king.” In today’s world, the US is still the largest buyer in terms of dollar value of its market, so English is the leading-brand tool of communication. That could change over time after (if) other markets surpass the US in buying power.

    This CNN article talked about the English vs. Mandarin issue: http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/science/02/27/future.language.ap/index.html. The following paragraphs were taken the article.

    Nonetheless, English is strong as a second language, and teaching it has become a growth industry, said Montgomery, a Seattle-based geologist and energy consultant.

    Graddol noted, though that employers in parts of Asia are already looking beyond English. “In the next decade the new ‘must learn’ language is likely to be Mandarin.”

    ……

    “The expectation that someone should always aspire to native speaker competence when learning a foreign language is under challenge,” he comments.

  20. Geno,

    I think you needn’t worry. There’s no way in hell Korea would actually adopt English as the official national language. I can say that with the utmost confidence. Even if the government tried, nobody would actually do it.

    And as for self-learning, it’s possible to self-teach oneself a language as remote from one’s own as Chinese is from English; but it’s damnably hard, and most people frankly are just too lazy, and even the ones who try (as I do with Korean) take a long, long time. Like Mark, I find it’s hard to find people who’d rather speak with me in Korean than practice their English with me, even when their English is nowhere as good as my (not very good) Korean.

    There’s also the question of the sphere of use: when I worked in a French company in Canada, I got to the point where I could understand 99% of what was going on in meetings, respond (sometimes in nearly decent French), and so on. Socializing with the crew, though, was the time when I kept asking for clarification and explanation. It’s pitiful when someone who’s lived in a country for 5 years hasn’t even started on the language, but then again, unless one’s a lifer, many people can’t see the point in working as hard as it takes to get full competence. They’re sadly pragmatic in that way, and English will be more useful to a Chinese businessman than Chinese will be to an American businessman, if he plans on going home in a few years. Which most of them do. So according to the individuals’ self-perceived values, English is more useful to a Chinese guy than Chinese is to an American, so… well, what can we do?

    Koreans learning Chinese is way different from Anglophones learning Chinese. Koreans learning Chinese is like Anglophones learning French or German; so many common words and roots, it’s really an unfair comparison. You’re right to refute Nick on English being flat-out easy; there are things in English that are so damned puzzling to my students I fear some will never really “get” it, given their lack of willingness to practice and the alieness of the grammatical concepts from the perspective of Korean grammar. All these plural/singular things, all these irregular verbs; it’s a hell of a lot more work to conjugate verbs for various subjects and tenses in English than in Korean, let me tell you. (Half the time you don’t even need to say the subject aloud, or even the object!)

    That said, I agree that second/foreign language learning should be encouraged more in North America. If not French in the East, then an Asian language in Western North America ca be very useful (oops, I’m betraying my Canadian background, not mentioning Spanish). The people I meet who speak multiple languages tend to be more open-minded, more aware of things, more willing and able to think things through than the average monoglot I know. And sadly, there are a lot of monoglot Anglophones who are teaching English abroad, as I am.

  21. “Mark, I can understand that. It is (sadly) true that people are more interested to learn English than teach you Chinese. That is the reason many foreigners enjoy talking with Ayi, drivers instead of university students – people who can not speak English will be more helpful to learn Chinese.”

    Jian Shuo Wang, I’m afraid you missed my main point. By their unwillingness to speak the local language with white people, Taiwanese (and probably most other Chinese also) make us outsiders in society. Do you suggest that immigrants to your country speak only with “Ayi”? Those university students might be important contacts to make for the future.

    This isn’t about finding people to “teach me Chinese”. I really don’t see a way for racial integration if everyone of a different skin color is automatically spoken to in a foriegn language. Actually, I’ve met a few non Hua-ren who were born here. They are still treated like outsiders, and strangers still try to speak English to them even though they have lived in Taiwan their whole lives…

    As I said in my previous post, as I was growing up I loved Chinese culture. But here is my question: Why should I continue bothering to study a language when most of the people who can speak it are too racist to speak it to me? I see foreigners who stay here for years without learning Chinese, and Taiwanese locals treat them great. On the other hand, when they encounter people like me who have put forth the time to learn how to speak decent Chinese they are not so friendly. Why bother learning Chinese anymore? I will always be white, and no matter how good my Chinese is people will still want to use their bad English with me.

    Is this the kind of culture that will make China a strong country in the future?

  22. I am learning Mandarin from a woman from China. We are about the same age (30’s) and I would ‘refine’ her English skills (already pretty good) as she refined my Mandarin (unfortunate at best).

    In the states, there is not as much emphasis on learning other languages as there used to be. I think this is an unfortunate product of the recent (20 years or so) push against “illegal” aliens (perticulalrly Spanish-speaking). It’s very sad that we do not embrace the opportunities we get to learn more and instead push to have people “un-learn” their native languages in favour of English.

    English is, I am told, very hard for people to learn. There are all kinds of gramatical rules and exceptions to these rules. In learning Mandarin, I am impressed by the consistency and how things fit together to create meaning. It’s beautiful.

    I don’t think that the regional and traditional languages should be lost, though- there’s too much that goes when a language goes.

  23. Hello, new to this forum?

    After reading some comments, I think it would be best to synthesize a language according to the nearness of its speakers. And since we have linguists to analyze for us, it is crucial perhaps to understand how the ?family? of languages works. In my country where speaking 3 or more languages are common, one may find another guy?s language hard to learn, depending on the scope of what to learn. This is what I?ve to say about Mandarin and English, in my synthesis.

    I have to agree that Mandarin is simpler than English, against the laws of grammar. I?ve also been told that Mandarin is much faster to be spoken than English (because it trains the speaker to be fast-thinking.) But this simplicity of speech is balanced, albeit cunningly, with its 50,000 characters (although only 5000 to 6000 are used frequently. This makes one language hard to be written, and for me struggling to learn Japanese (an even harder language) the use of characters can be puzzling to an alphabet using person like me. Although this method has helped Asians top in various memorization contests (which is attributed to the Chinese way of writing.) Since about 1 billion people speak Chinese, it is important in many ways, although one friend of mine (please correct me) said that many Chinese could hardly write the language. Writing is important in a language to be able to understand each other, although Chinese is certainly in a so-so position of writing.

    English on the other hand, is simple to an Indo-European speaker, or near to the Indo-European languages, but hard to the Japanese or Koreans because of its diversity. The clear plus factor of English is its writing. With only the alphabets, anyone can read every word even if he or she doesn?t know its meaning. What Chinese lacked, English supported; you don?t need to learn 50,000 characters and better to learn than putting a huge typewriting machine for your computer. The only hard thing about English is its diction and intonation, and the grammar rules probably made it more of an artificial language. It may take (for someone with little zeal) to learn English about 4 years (I?m not sure) although there are some exceptions like Joseph Conrad or one Serbian writer in English who mastered the language in 1 year.

    About the position of English as a dominating language, it is not a right for a language to conquer or wipe another language. But since America is a superpower (and China is too) we may soon adopt a language against our will. Also, because of the alphabets, one who knows the alphabets clearly would understand a language affirming to his or her knowledge, rather than study Chinese again to read. To prove my point, if someone speaks pure Arabic or Hebrew for example with all the alphabets in mind, he or she could clearly assimilate with English than Chinese. Chinese, in position of dominating a language in absence of a native speaker or only through the Internet, could only dominate when using the alphabets, because it is hard for someone to adopt a language?s writing when a person doesn?t fully understand it. If someone would rebut a country not knowing the alphabets, it would somehow find English to be quite easy in reading than Chinese.

    Altogether, it still depends on what language is learned. As a major in English, I still find the language of what I?m majoring in a great plus for any beginning learner. Chinese on the other hand, opens you to an additional 1 billion speakers, and somehow, sharpen one?s memory in return.

    And, I?m sure that I would?ve not read the webmaster?s name if it?s not in the alphabets.

  24. I’m an American English teacher in Guangzhou, China. I think a lot of people haven’t recognized the shift of motivation in learning a language.

    I have found that most of my students want to learn English to enable them to communicate with foreigners for business. Although they are interested in culture I don’t think they are enticed to alter their own culture. It’s more out of curiosity.

    I’ve found that many teachers insist that when we teach English we must teach the culture of the west as well. Although I think this can be a help I don’t think it is necessary. The fact is that most of my students will use English to speak to people from Japan or from Singapore or from Malaysia. They are using English as a tool, a utility.

    Of course, if the world could speak one language this would have a big impact on cultures and some aspects of our lives would merge and unify. Westerners would gain a better understanding of Asia if they learned to enjoy Asian movies, literature and food. Perhaps greater understanding would contribute to greater peace in the world.

    If any teachers are interested in coming to China I can recommend: http://www.asiateacher.com

    Regards,

    Dave Kees

  25. To Mark,

    There are so many other countries with Chinese language environment,what make you choose Taiwan? Don’t blame everyone just because you have terrible experience in Taiwan. You just haven’t meet the right person. Perhaps you’d change to other country than just travel 10,000miles from your home (but still the same land) . I have knew many ‘non-hua ren’ that can speak Chinese. And everyone (hua-ren) are so glad that we can communicate with them without using ‘broken English’. After I read yours, I just knew that they may much more happy to suit us than we’re. Since you so urge to ‘find a place where people’d just speak to you in Chinese’, Malaysia welcome you.

  26. Thanks for your blog. I think you are doing a great job and hope to meet you some day if you come to Australia. About English, it is not a question of whether to or not, but better to! As an overseas born Chinese I know several languages. But English opened doors for me that any other language could not. It is still a white man’s world, and for me being proficient in English only adds to my wide range of skills, and enables me not to be disadvantaged in dealing with whites. Today English is important, yesterday it was Latin and Greek etc. But I am learning Mandarin. It is a lovely language and every Chinese ought to feel proud. More Chinese can speak better English than whites can speak Mandarin, so guess who is better off? But at the end of the day, we all belong to the same human family and whatever language we use, it is the language of love and understanding that is supreme.

  27. Yeah, I quite agree with what you said. But sometimes I will feel confused, I don’t know in China even though I study very good English, and also speeks very good English, but without a high cerfiticate, whether I can seek a good job later. Because I really hate to take English written exams.What should I do?

  28. generally speaking, english is a universal language, almost different people from different parts of the world use it as their communication. Some countries which are not colonized by the americans and english, they enhancing and practising it to have a effective communication. A person who speaks fluent in english, in their appearance, they look like an educated and well-respected people. Because during those old times in the Philippines, our ancestors were good enough; thats why they believe on their idea that if they were good they should not study anymore. Here in the Philippines we use english as our business language and Filipino as our national language. its hard for us because some english terms cant be translated into Filipino. Thats the disadvantage of our language. We are not saying, we are not proud of our language but we are proving that this is the best way to communicate to other people and can be easily adopt!!!!

  29. I am an American, I have been studying Mandarin for a short period of time (about 8 months), and I am getting better with speaking, however I remain “lost” when it comes to reading and writing. I will be graduating from my university in one year with a degree in International Economics, and I would love to get a job in Hong Kong, or the Mainland. My question is, If I am unable to read or write in Mandarin, will that set me back in working with a U.S. multinational?

    Or will an ability to speak Mandarin, be an advantage to me. Any feedback is appreciated. : )

  30. REPLY TO: 74 Fullerton

    If you work with a U.S. multinational, Just speaking is OK, multinational companies make hard copy in English, for the convenience of the boss reference or checking. The boss is of course know only English.

    I once work in a U.S. multinational, you can send e-mail to me at

    celina.china@vip.163.com

  31. I know you are confusing but this is the fact as we from different country and only common ground’s languange is english. Although not much people spoke english in daily but most of the trade transaction even news, entertainment and internet information in english as well. That why we can not denny any language (english) as well as other languages.

    Hopefully i can give you some ideas because we are learning new thing for everyday.

  32. am checking 4 english skills and i did not got.i need the four english skills,reading,writting,listening and reading with more explanation

  33. i wanna search on the impotance of english in Pakistan .But i find all over the world what i do

  34. Well I think the most important and useful thing is that English is one of the most spoken languages in the world. The first one is Mandarin. Some say English is the second one and others say it’s Hindi. Nevertheless, Mandarin and Hindi are concentrated in their respective countries, and English is more extended.

    can you tell me excatally why english is important for the students of computer sciences ???

  35. If I can speak fluent english, I am sure my fate will be changed. now I begin to study english again, and I will keep on till I succees.

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