Chinese English speakers soon to overtake US

I’ve been reading a new book today by Michael Backman called ‘Asia Future Shock’. I’ve been a fan of Michael Backman since his first book, the international bestseller ‘Asian Eclipse: Exposing the Dark Side of Business in Asia’ was published in 1999 (and which I extensively used as a reference work when doing the international business unit of my MBA) so I snapped up his latest offering when I saw it in a bookstore last night.

It has some fascinating facts and forecasts about where Asia is heading in the next 20 years.

One fact that surprised me was in relation to which country in Asia had the highest number of English speakers. Like most people, I would say that was India, but Backman points out that India only has 38 million adult English speakers – about 5 per cent of its population. The honour of the highest number of English speakers in Asia goes to the Philippines, where about 95 per cent of its 90 million people can speak English.

But what was even more surprising, I learned, was that China is turning out about 20 million English speakers a year, and according to a British Council report quoted by Backman, there are currently 176.7 million schoolchildren and adults studying English in China. This extraordinary situation means that it won’t be long before there are more English speakers in China than in the United States!

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