Teacher Len used to right up on the board English = $ as he was convinced that learning to speak English was beneficial to our future and would often say "Méiyǒu qián, méiyǒu ài " 'No money, no love" and ask the boys if they wanted a beautiful wife or one that looked like him?
I had been convinced by my mother years before of this truth but my Grandmother wasn't so sure and had worries about me getting to friendly with foreigners. She was born in 1932 so by the time Mao came to power, foreigner was already a dirty word. 'Bǐ yīshí' Times have changed I would try to explain.
Today I noticed in the Chinese media a story about Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun being made fun of for the English he used in India. some research was done into how important English was in business. Funnily enough neitzens questioned didn't fit the generational theory I had always thought true as whilst Li Jing, 13, a student from Henan said It’s important, because it’ll be easier for business leaders to communicate with foreigners, Wu Wan, 21, a college student from Inner Mongolia said" I’m studying architecture, so I don’t think it matters to me. Who speaks English with you at construction sites?'
Wang Yingdi, 28 a state-owned enterprise worker thought it was definitely important. "That makes communication more direct and may make it easier to build one-on-one relations she said, however, she went on to say "on formal occasions, I don’t think it matters whether they speak English or not."
Huang Meiqing, 24, a web service worker from Guangxi was asked the question. "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was praised for using Chinese when he visited, despite not being fluent. Do you think Americans speaking Chinese are judged more lightly than Chinese speaking English?" he replied I think Chinese people are accustomed to following the crowd and making fun of public figures like Lei Jun, it’s quite normal.
I know teacher Len hated that as he go red in the face and his voice would get loud when we laughed at someones mistakes in talking class. He'd explode "What have I said about people laughing at mistakes At least she is trying!" he would also say "English what is English!"
We have English English, Australian, New Zealand, South African, Indian, Sri Lankan, Kenyan, European, Fijian, Canadian and even the Americans have a language that sounds something like English so whey can't we have a Chinese English. You don't have to sound like me. Put in some Chinese twang. He had a friend Bob who would say 'Méiguānxì Baby meiguanxi"
Li Bing, 36, a medical worker from Beijing Thought It’s pretty important now, because on diplomatic occasions English is the most commonly used language and yet Lin Shiyu, 35, a communications worker from Beijing expressed they should use Chinese on formal occasions, showing respect to our mother language.
So it seems the jury is out i will leave you with this final rational of Silver Liu, 32, a software engineer from Beijing "One should never stop learning." What do you think is English important in todays China?
I would have agreed with Len a few years ago that English = $ but I think as China starts to move from export orientated to business to domestic consumption the relationship between the language and additional earnings becomes less. I would think it would be possible to earn a good wage and live a good life in China without English. This is fine as long as those concerned do not wish to broaden their horizons through travel and business. One could point out that Chinese is the most spoken language in the world but is use is restricted to China, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and the China towns dotted around the world. I can only speak English (and a few Chinese words) but have had the good fortune to have visited a large number of countries around the world. In every case English has allowed me to do this. Knowing the English alphabet also allows a reasonable interpretation of menu's in most alphabet based languages. I would suggest that ultimately it all comes down to the individuals aspirations in life. If you have an insular approach it probably does not matter, if you want to be worldly it is almost impossible without English.