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Thursday, November 13, 2014, 09:48

Shanghai beats HK in English proficiency

By Zhao Xinying
Shanghai beats HK in English proficiency

For the first time ever adults in Shanghai are displaying better English proficiency than their counterparts in Hong Kong, according to the English Proficiency Index released by EF Education First on Wednesday.

The index results were described by EF as the "most striking finding".

It was the fourth edition of the EPI, which calculates a country's average adult English skill level using data from EF English tests containing grammar, vocabulary, reading, and listening sections.

Sixty-three countries and territories were ranked in the fourth edition, encompassing 750,000 adults aged 18 and above.

Shanghai adults scored 53.75 on the EPI, higher than those in Hong Kong with a score of 52.5. Adults in Beijing and Tianjin also scored as well as their Hong Kong counterparts.

"Hong Kong's score has slipped steadily since 2007. Meanwhile, as China's average English level improves and its bilingual workforce expands, major Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai are developing as premier international Asian business hubs, a role Hong Kong has shared with Singapore for decades," EF noted.

China has realized the importance of English in promoting the country's economic development and has paid more attention to teaching the language, EF said in the third edition of the EPI last year.

It also said that the middle class in China would also like to pay for private English tuition and studying abroad, with large numbers of them choosing to study in English-speaking countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and so on.

However, Cai Jigang, a professor teaching English at Fudan University in Shanghai, was not entirely convinced by EF's conclusion.

"It's hard to say whether the adults in Shanghai can really exceed their Hong Kong peers in English proficiency or not, but we can see that Shanghai people have made great progress during recent years," Cai said.

Shanghai pays great attention to the teaching of English from elementary schools to universities, he said.

"University students nationwide are required to master a vocabulary of 4,500 to 4,700 English words after they pass College English Test Band 4, a national English test for Chinese university students. In fact, most students in Shanghai have reached this level in high school," he said.

As the financial hub of the Chinese mainland, Shanghai has gathered a great number of multinational corporations and enterprises, which not only raise the bar but also help improve people's English ability, he added.

Cui Di, a doctorate student at the Chinese University of HongKong, who studied as an undergraduate in Shanghai, doubted the conclusion of the report.

"From my own experience, at least the practical English ability of Hong Kong native university students is better than those in Shanghai," said Cui, who has been in Hong Kong for two years. "They speak English quite naturally."

Cui also noticed that in Hong Kong, many people who are engaged in the service sector can also speak English, "which is rarely seen in Shanghai".


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