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Chinese women best men with English language proficiency

By Liang Yiwen (Shanghai Daily)

09:09, November 02, 2012

THE English proficiency of Chinese women is much better than that of men, according to a study released in Shanghai yesterday.

Chinese women scored three points higher than men in the English Proficiency Index released by EF Education, a language training company. Worldwide, women scored one point higher than men on average.

"This shows that Chinese women are more accustomed to the Chinese education mode," the report said. "Chinese women use their gift of language to gain success."

However, Chinese mainlanders' English proficiency ranked second to last in Asia, despite the great time and effort that many people invest in learning the language, the report said.

China's mainland is ranked the 36th in the index of 54 countries and regions where English is not the native language. That's down from 29th last year. The Chinese mainland belongs to the low-proficiency tier and is ranked just above Thailand in Asia.

This year's index has increased the weight of listening tests, while decreasing the importance of grammar and vocabulary exams, which partly caused the ranking change, researchers said.

Moreover, test-oriented and rote-based learning methods often used in China hurt the language skills of Chinese students, education experts said.

The study compared test scores of more than 1.7 million adults in the 54 countries and regions.

Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands have the best command of English, while Libya has the lowest English proficiency level.

European countries generally performed well. But Italy, Spain and Portugal, some of the countries at the heart of the euro zone crisis, are being dragged down by poor English, according to the report.

Singapore is 12th, the best in Asia, followed by Malaysia and India. South Korea, at 21st, and Japan, at 22nd, performed disappointingly low despite their focus on education, the report said.

Young workers aged between 25 to 35 years old are best at English on average around the world. But in Asia, high school graduates have the best command of English, the report said.

Europeans' English skills are still improving after they start work, while the English skills of many Chinese deteriorate in the workplace because they have fewer opportunities to practice the language, the study said.

One in every four people frequently uses English at work on China's mainland while nearly 15 percent said they never use English, lower than the world average level, according to the study.

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