Worldwide ranking in the use of English shows Asia lagging far behind

Worldwide ranking in the use of English shows Asia lagging far behind

Worldwide ranking in the use of English shows Asia lagging far behind

For retirees heading overseas to a non-English speaking country, it can be tricky to learn the local lingo, but is it really necessary?

Retiring in a warm, inexpensive country is the dream of many older Brits, with Spain, France and Portugal especial favourites. However, not every retiree wants to spend several years becoming fluent in the local language, especially if there’s a ready-made British expat community in the chosen location. Also, learning a new language is best undertaken at an earlier age! In Western destinations, legal and medical professionals usually have enough English to be able to communicate effectively with Brits, but further afield, especially in some Asian countries, this may well not be the case.

In a recent survey of worldwide English language skills, Singapore’s score positioned the city-state at number three, just behind Sweden and the Netherlands, giving it a ‘very high’ ranking. The Philippines came in at 14th, putting it in the ‘high’ category, with Malaysia at 22, also rating as ‘high’. For the rest of Asia, it was downhill all the way, with Cambodia the worst at number 85 in the listings and Myanmar at 82. Low rankings included China at 47, Japan at 49, Indonesia at 51 and popular retirement destination Thailand at 64th place out of 85. South Korea and Hong Kong took 48 the 47th places respectively, and Vietnam came in at 41.

The overall failure of the majority of Asian countries to get to grips with effective teaching of the English language isn’t, it seems, a result of lack of investment in learning as the opposite is true. High levels of investment in the ‘universal language’ of English are common in Asia, but something is obviously very far from right. For example, Thai students take English lessons for 12 full years, but almost all are unable to converse in the language, leaving the country poorly placed as regards global competition. Most schools focus, not on essential communications skills, but on memorisation and language accuracy and many Thai teachers of English simply don’t have the skills to share with their pupils.

For retirees, Asian languages are hard to master due to totally unfamiliar alphabets as well as aspects such as tonal pronunciation and confusing or non-definitive grammar. Reading is even more difficult due to lack of punctuation, and the majority of local language classes focus on words and phrases useful to tourists but useless to long-term residents. Most of the time it doesn’t matter and isn’t essential, but in cases of medical or legal emergencies, it’s a serious problem.

Related Stories:

Latest News: