China’s enrollment figures in private English as a Second Language (ESL) courses and related test preparation programs continue their longstanding high growth rates.
As I wrote recently, enrollment by mainland Chinese students in US universities and secondary schools is also reaching new heights.
Despite some prominent observers in the U.S. and U.K. lamenting the decline of these great countries and offering pessimistic views about the future, younger Chinese still correlate good English language ability with career success. This is sensible, practical, and smart.
An article in the Winter 2012 edition of the quarterly “City Journal” offers comparative profiles of the economic clout of the countries they describe as the “Anglosphere” (U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland) and those which comprise the “Sinosphere” (Greater China, including Taiwan and the Hong Kong and Macau S.A.R.s).
The authors, Joel Kotkin and Shashi Parulekar, take the view that despite many challenges, the Anglosphere is alive and well:
It’s indisputable that the Anglosphere no longer enjoys the overwhelming global dominance that it once had. What was once a globe-spanning empire is now best understood as a union of language, culture, and shared values. Yet what declinists overlook is that despite its current economic problems, the Anglosphere’s fundamental assets — economic, political, demographic, and cultural — are likely to drive its continued global leadership. The Anglosphere future is brighter than commonly believed.
该文作者Joel Kotkin和Shashi Parulekar认为，虽然英语圈面临着重重困难，但状态依然安好：
In economic terms, using purchasing power parity data, the Anglosphere remains by far the world’s largest economic bloc, representing more than 25% of world GDP.
The Sinosphere is a strong second, accounting for just more than 15%. India, by comparison, accounts for some 5.4% of world GDP.
The Anglosphere’s per capita GDP is more than 5 times that of the Sinosphere, and 13 times that of India.
Although the Sinosphere has experienced explosive growth in the number of companies large enough in revenue terms to make the FORTUNE Global 500 list, it still has a long way to go in terms of having big global companies which are also widely admired for their innovation, their values, governance and management style.
Due in part to educational and legal infrastructure (e.g. intellectual property protection), the Anglosphere is home to the vast majority of the world’s software, biotech, and aerospace companies – industries where R & D and innovation are crucial elements of success.
In countries lacking an adequate intellectual property rights protection regime, for example, companies will not invest the huge sums required to develop big new high-tech products. The current estimated average investment in R & D to develop a major new pharmaceutical product is in the range of US$1 billion.
The article also states that some 40% of Europeans speak English versus 19% who speak French; while pointing out that English has been formally or informally embraced as an important language of business and science in many developing countries, including India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. Obviously this phenomenon is rooted in large part to a legacy of the colonial era, but English has survived the test of time for practical reasons. That is unlikely to change any time soon.
One other factor which the authors cite as a positive force for relative Anglosphere economic growth is demographics. Between 2000 and 2050, the US workforce is projected to grow by 37%. During the same time frame, due to aging, China’s workforce is projected to shrink by 10%, and Japan’s by 40%.
Immigration trends are also a contributing factor, During the past ten years, 14 million people immigrated legally to the Anglosphere. In 2005 alone, among the top ten countries around the world in terms of immigrant arrivals, the US accepted more new immigrants than the next nine countries combined.
The moral of the story is that for young people in China considering their career plans, good abilities in both English and Chinese language will be extremely valuable assets no matter which direction they want to go.
When I began studying Chinese in high school in the U.S. nearly 50 years ago, most of my peers, their parents and many teachers reckoned it was a curious and exotic pursuit with little relevance to my career unless I chose an academic or diplomatic career path.
During the next 50 years, regardless of which career track a young person pursues, there is no doubt about the fact that competence in English and Chinese will be relevant, and beneficial. This is of course not only true of career success in financial terms, but also in terms of personal development and enjoyment through enhanced access to two very different cultural worlds.
One more word of advice to my younger friends: first and second language studies do not end with graduation. That’s really where they begin. So, study hard, and be prepared to keep it up for your whole lifetime. The time and effort invested will produce some of the best dividends you can imagine.