English - A language of global business

Topics: English language, European Union, Second language Pages: 2 (531 words) Published: October 11, 2013
English - A language of global business

With China’s growing economic might, is Mandarin becoming the preferred language of business? Not anytime soon, says a newly released study. Instead, English will maintain and grow its dominance, moving from “a marker of the elite” in years past to “a basic skill needed for the entire workforce, in the same way that literacy has been transformed in the last two centuries from an elite privilege into a basic requirement for informed citizenship.” (Indeed, the British Council reports that by 2020, two billion people will be studying English.) The new study of 1.6 million online test-takers in more than 50 countries was conducted by EF Education First, a company that – it should be noted – specializes in English language training.

The study is somewhat comforting for English speakers like me, who have struggled to master a foreign language. Indeed, the National Journal reports that only 10% of native-born Americans can speak a second language, compared to 56% of European Union citizens. (In the “credit for trying department,” I spent an hour composing two emails in French yesterday, an effort my Parisian colleague declared “adorable.”)

The ability to speak a second (or third) language is clearly important for becoming a global leader, as I’ve previously written. But – for better or worse – it seems that English may be the most essential language for global business success at the moment. Indeed, even in powerhouse China, more people are currently studying English than in any other country. An incredible 100,000 native English speakers are currently teaching there.

Here are the most intriguing takeaways from EF’s study, which have potential implications for future global development.

Women speak better English than men – in almost every country worldwide. Increasing numbers of women are attending college, and they’re often over-represented in humanities classes compared to men. The net result? Women are speaking...
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