China Outperformed Hong Kong In Global Proficiency Language Ranking

(Photo: Wikimedia)

For the past five years, Shanghai outperformed Hong Kong in the global ranking of English proficiency. However, experts said that doesn't mean people in the mainland can communicate much better using the language than Hongkongers.

In the annual index compiled by EF Education First, the score of the mainland city is 57.91 out of 100, while 56.38 for Hong Kong. This finding was revealed on Wednesday by Melissa Lam, the general manager and chief representative of the company in China's office. The EF Education First based the results on its free online English test, wherein adults voluntarily take this to assess their reading and listening abilities.

According to the South China Morning Post, about 1.3 million people whose average age was 26 and whose mother tongue is not English took the test this year, which is 30 percent more compared last year. The countries that topped the rankings are Sweden (70.72), the Netherlands (70.31), and Singapore (68.63). Out of 88 countries and regions, the mainland China ranked 47th for English-language proficiency (51.94) - considered to be in the category of overall low proficiency.

But, Shanghai outperformed Hong Kong in the ranking since the year 2014. Lam believed the reason behind this is because the majority of middle-class families in the mainland city are sending their kids to study abroad if they can afford it. Shanghai students also focused on English and Mandarin, while Hong Kong is focusing on three languages, Mandarin, Cantonese, and English. 

However, Cai Jigang, a language specialist, said the English proficiency index does not define the true picture. He said the test assessed the listening, reading, vocabulary, and grammar skills, which were the focused areas of China's education system. Cai added the test does not include writing and speaking - Chinese schools fall in these two areas.

But for Lu Jianfei, who is an English-language professor and cross-cultural researcher from Shanghai Normal University, the result of the latest ranking indicates the steady progress of the mainland city and gradually catching up with Hong Kong, which is a former British colony. Still, he believes the two cities have a huge gap when it comes to language proficiency.

Lam said some people in Shanghai are very poor in speaking English and could not communicate with foreigners very well. The mainland city can't compete with Hong Kong in this area, so there's no reason to be complacent about this.

Meanwhile, the test also revealed that English-language proficiency levels vary on where people lived in China. For instance, the levels of the Yangtze River Delta region and Beijing fall on "moderate," while proficiency levels were "low" in the southern and central parts of the mainland. On the other note, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Nanjing all have big improvements in score compared from last year.

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