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English Use in Chinese Society

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English use in Chinese Society

Abstract: This paper is an investigation about English use in some specific Chinese setting. It centres on the study and analysis of the examples which show that the spring of English use in china has arrived. The huge demand of English speaker in Chinese setting is apparent. Based on the questionnaire and some cases, while china has implemented teaching English for many years, only a few people use it frequently and correctly. Therefore, it’s more necessary to do further study about the current situation of English learning and using in china. That will help people a lot to improve the existing circumstance of English education in china.

Key words: English; Chinese; setting; use


In order for people to start inter-cultural communication, UN has established several official languages. Among all these languages, English is the first one. As years past, English is now widely accepted as an international language or known as a global language (Ji, 2002). Now millions of students around the world are learning English as the most important foreign language for international communication. As language has always been the most efficient and important tool to learn about an ethnic culture, it is an obvious fact that English has become the most important tool and has opened up a window for every country, not only China, to see and know better about the world. “The English language is the key and a bridge for us to access to the Western scientific and technological advances” pointed Ji (2002). Thus, from a Chinese university student point of view, rather than a language to communicate with Americans, the British or any other native speakers, English is medium language for us to communicate with people all over the world. Ji (2002) also mentioned that the global spread of English over the last 40 years is remarkable in the history of the language of English. And as a result, now English has spread into every corner of our daily lives—education, government, daily uses and business, especially in tourism.

A Brief History of English Learning in China

English has no legacy in the land of China. In fact, China has a long history of deliberately avoiding contact with the Western countries because of the fear of cultural contamination. According to James Eames, English had been developed in China since the 17th century. (Eames, 1974) In the 1950s, Russian replaced English and became the only foreign language in China after the establishment of new China in 1949. During that time, learning English was condemned as unpatriotic because of the national campaign against American imperialism, capitalism and British colonialism. However, this phase did not last long for the coming up deteriorated relationship between Russian and China in the middle of 50s of the 20th century. The substantial change toward English language learning in China did not happen until late 1978 when the late chairman of China Deng Xiaoping came to power after the crackdown of the founder of the new Republic Mao's wife's clique. English was again prominent as a main foreign language taught in many Chinese schools. It was not long until the early 1980s that English had been restored as a compulsory subject in the college entrance examinations. With the following open-door policy, a rising number of Chinese scholars got the chance to go abroad to receive higher education in Western countries, and more and more foreigners came to china to study and work.

In addition, the economic progress China has made over the past decades makes it possible for us to enter into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the successful bid for Olympic Games in the year of 2008. English has become the most popular foreign language in modern China. And the fact is that it is estimated that the number of people studying English in China is actually much larger than that of all native speakers around the world. The spring of English has arrived in China.

According to the situation above, it is necessary for us to do further research on the situation of English use in Chinese setting now. Thus, people can entirely know the present-day English using condition in Chinese society. Besides, people can find the suitable way to improve the quality of English education and the level of English use in china.

English involved in business

With the global economic becoming integrated, English has become the accepted medium for international business transactions (John, 1996). As has mentioned above, after the open-door policy was established in China, more and more Western companies and joint-ventures were rushing into this huge and rural market. In this case, the ability to use, speak and write English of those involved in the industry become vital. Just take a domestic employer, especially those in the field of foreign trade businesses for example. They consider communicative competence in English to be a decisive factor in hiring a potential employee. Therefore, applicants must demonstrate their oral English capability besides the various English qualification certificates they own. Not only the ability to speak fluent English they must show, if they intend to be a senior manager in the industry, a certain level of English writing skill is required, as they will have to write English emails between their foreign customers and boss. In 2000, in one of Gimenez’s paper, he mentioned about an investment on whether the spoken nature of e-mail messages has already started to affect business written communication. The paper looks at the register and context of the language and at the style used in commercial electronic mail. Sixty three business e-mail messages were analyzed and later compared with forty business letters from the same company. From the analysis, there emerges some evidence to suggest that electronically mediated communication is already affecting business written communication, showing a tendency towards a more flexible register. The paper also considers some of the implications that this emerging tendency in interpersonal business communication may have for materials writers, business English course designers and teachers of written



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