September 19, 2021

The Importance of English in the “Age of Asia”

English language learning around the world is evolving in surprising and sometimes alarming ways. A few decades ago, the language learning process was either moderated by native speakers (NS) of English or proactively initiated by second language learners who travel to English-speaking countries to study and become proficient in the language. In many language encounters, English translators were also in high demand to facilitate a clearer communication between peoples of diverse linguistic traditions. This is not to say that formal English language teachers and translators have become relics belonging to a bygone era. On the contrary, their function is still very much relevant, but their roles are changing dramatically.

For one thing, the number of language students leaving their home nations to study English abroad is in a rather steep decline according to the most recent reports. That is because English language learning has already become a critical strategic policy among non-English speaking nations that have wisely institutionalized the learning of English in the home front. Given the undeniable role of English as the language of choice in global business, the Internet, and international relations, not doing so will prevent these nations from having any meaningful participation in global discourses.

In much of Asia, including China and India–two of its demographic and economic giants–the learning of English has become an integral component of early education. Meanwhile, given their heritage of British governance, Singapore and Malaysia have also consistently promoted the learning of English such that their English-speaking populations are perhaps the most proficient in the region, based on online tests conducted by some language-oriented organizations.
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Nearby, the Philippines still holds the title of having the 3rd largest English-speaking population in the world after the US and India.

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