Easing up on English

Updated: 2013-10-24 07:33

By Peng Yining, He Na and Wang Shanshan in Beijing (China Daily)

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Learning English in Japan

In Japan, the college entrance exam is just as competitive as China's gaokao, and the English language examination is of crucial importance. "It's required for all college entrance exams, even the ones that don't require math or Japanese. If you want to get into a prestigious university, it's absolutely necessary that you score high on the English exam," said Ayaka Na, a 29-year-old from Nara in the Kansai region of Japan.

She said the format of the English exam differs from school to school, but usually great emphasis is placed on vocabulary, grammar and reading fluently rather than on writing or understanding the spoken word. Many high school students attend cram schools to maximize their ability to earn higher scores on those tests.

"I went to English-language classes so I could learn more conversational English in middle school, and I took private lessons in high school. I also spent a month in Vancouver, Canada, when I was 17 to learn the language," she said.

"In terms of getting a good job or a higher income, I think being able to speak English is a big plus, but it's not as essential as in some other countries. However, some big-name companies such as UNIQLO and Rakuten started an "English only" policy recently, and now require all their employees to speak English, so I guess it's becoming more important nowadays."

Hu Hongyang, vice-president of Nanjing Foreign Language School, said: "China is not the only country where people place a strong emphasis on learning English. Many other countries, including some of the most powerful, have valued English for centuries. It has long been the world's most commonly used language, so studying it represents much more than simply learning a language."

- By Peng Yining


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