October 25, 2006

English in China

A letter from Victor Mair:

This past weekend I went to Kenosha, Wisconsin to participate in a China Studies Institute at Carthage College.  It just so happened that while I was there I met 10 English teachers from the school system of Huairou District in China:


The teachers were all female and they were in America on a three-week visit to Huairou's sister city of Kenosha.  They were primary and secondary school teachers.  One morning over breakfast, the women matter-of-factly informed me that all students in their district begin studying English in the first grade, and many start even in kindergarten.  They went on to say that beginning English in the first grade is typical all over China, except in the most remote and backward places, where it might be delayed by a few years.

I will have more to say on this subject in the coming weeks and months.    Judging from all that I have seen and heard during the last couple of years, however, it is apparent that the role of English in China will continue to grow at an exponential rate.  The implications of this massive expansion of English in China will inevitably have a corresponding impact upon local language usage.  In fact, the profound effects of the current surge in English usage upon Mandarin and other Chinese languages is already obvious in many respects.

Posted by Mark Liberman at October 25, 2006 09:27 PM