Why English Proficiency Matters
Key findings of the Education First – English Proficiency Index (EF EPI) have strengthened further the position of the English language as the world’s lingua franca. The world becoming increasingly globalized made it necessary that people from different parts of the world speak a common language. English emerged as that common language. There may be more native speakers of Mandarin and Spanish than English but people living in most countries from the world’s different continents have English as their second language. What contributed to this were the facts that the United Kingdom, where the original Anglo-Saxon language evolved into the modern English language that it is now, used to be a colonial power that ruled many parts of Asia, Africa, and South America and the rise of English speaking countries, particularly the United States, to political and economic prominence when the colonial period ended. But as Borzykowski1 asserted, “English is for everyone. The shift [to English] is not a throwback to colonialism or a play for cultural superiority.”
The EF EPI ranks countries (annually since 2011) by the average level of English language skills among those adults who volunteered to take the EF tests. Critics have dismissed the results of the EF EPI saying that they are not credible and reliable. They (the critics) cited methodical flaws and sampling bias as the primary reasons why they are questioning the results. But this initiative of the Education First, an international education company that specializes in language training, educational travel, academic degree programs, and cultural exchange, is more than just ranking the English proficiency of participating countries. What could be considered as a more important objective of the endeavor is finding out the correlation between English proficiency and several economic, political, and social factors.
The annual ranking can be ignored (by those who disagree with it) but the key findings Education First would present after conducting the surveys are difficult to disregard. The said findings explain why becoming proficient in the English language is a must.
As reported in EF EPI’s 2011 edition, recruiters and HR managers around the world disclosed in a survey that preference is accorded to candidates with English skills above the local average and receive salaries 30-50% higher than similarly-qualified candidates without English skills2. This means that employees prefer to hire applicants who are more proficient in English and that they receive better salaries. These findings are supported by several studies that have established the correlation between English proficiency and employability and income3,4,5 & 6.
Highlights of the findings of the 2012 edition of EF EPI include the following: “English is a key component of economic wellbeing, both nationally and individually. Better English proficiency goes hand in hand with higher incomes, more exports, an easier environment for doing business, and more innovation7.” The following year (2103), results pointed out that while those with proficient English earn more, people who are poor at English may be passed over for promotion8. This is how important and necessary English proficiency has become.
Key findings of the succeeding editions of the EF EPI (from 2013 to 2017) have consistently shown the same – “that there exist strong correlations between English proficiency and income, quality of life, ease of doing business, Internet usage, and years of schooling. The 2017 edition specifically cited that “countries with higher levels of English proficiency tend to have more service exports, better Internet access, and more investment in research and development than countries with lower English proficiency9.” The report added that such strong correlations have been consistent across the 2011 to 2017 editions of the EF EPI.
The last two editions of EF EPI (2018 and 2019) have presented more reasons why English proficiency should be taken seriously.
The 2018 edition of EF EPI revealed that more scientific journals are published in English and cited a report that close to sixty percent of all multinational organizations already operate in English10. This serves as a confirmation that English is indeed the leading language not only in business but also in education. Proficiency in the language then is required not only to catch up to the competition but also to gain access to information, particularly important research findings. Therefore, in order to become (and remain competitive) in the business world and in the academe, it is important to gain proficiency in what has become the academic and corporate language – English.
In addition, the latest (2019) EF EPI stated that “English is the principal language of international collaboration11.” It is by speaking a lingua franca that would allow a manager or an employee from a particular country to work with other managers and employees from other countries. This edition of the EF EPI asserted that “English-speaking teams are able to attract more diverse talent and access ideas from around the world12.” It also cited recent studies showing that “companies with managers from many countries earn more of their revenues from innovation than their less diverse competitors13.” The more diverse are the nationalities of managers and employees of a company the more innovations are possible. But collaboration among those who speak different native languages would only be possible if they speak a common second language. This is the reason that, as reported by Borzykowski, “a growing number of global firms are using English as their main language – even if they are based in Japan or France14.”
What has been consistently mentioned across all the editions of the EF EPI is not only how English proficiency correlates to certain economic factors and education but also to various measures of investment in research and development (R&D). The significance of R&D to any areas of human existence is something that does not require further elaboration.
All of the foregoing discussions about why English proficiency is important and how necessary it is are things that professionals in any field of endeavors and university students preparing for any career in the future should take into serious consideration. But it should be noted that there is no shortcut to gaining proficiency in English. The 2019 edition of EF EPI debunked the “quick and easy way of becoming proficient in English” which blog and vlog posts in the Internet are trying to impress upon people. “The reality is that an adult who does not speak English will need at least 600 hours of high-quality instruction and 600 hours of speaking practice to master English well enough for the average workplace15.” The required number of hours could be more, the report added, for people whose native language is very different from English.
A study on the relationship between time spent on learning English and proficiency in the language verified that the number of years studying English significantly predict English ability16. On the other hand, the lack of time to study the language is considered a barrier in attaining proficiency in the language17.
- EF EPI 2011 – ef.com
- L. Blake, S. Mcleod, S. Verdon, F. Fuller, “The relationship between English proficiency and participation in higher education, employment and income” Int J Speech Lang Pathol., 20(3), 202-215, 2018.https://doi:10.1080/1754907.2016.1229031
- H. Ting, E. Marzuki, K.M. Chuah, J. Misieng, C.Jerome, “Employers’ views on the importance of English proficiency and communication skill for employability in Malaysia Indonesian Journal of Applied Linguis- tic, 7(2), 315-327, 2017. https://doi:dx.doi.org/10.17509/ijal.v7i2.8132.
- Zhen, “The effects of English proficiency on earnings of U.S. foreign-born Migrants: Does Gender matter?” Journal of Finance and Economics, 1(1), 2013. https://doi:10.12735/jfe.vlilp27
- Tam, K.W., Page, , “Effects of language proficiency on labor, social and health outcomes of immigrants in Australia” Economic, Analysis & Policy 2015, https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eap.2016. 08.003
- EF EPI 2012 – ef.com
- EF EPI 2013 – ef.com
- EF EPI 2017 – ef.com
- EF EPI 2018 – ef.com
- EF EPI 2019 – ef.com
- EF EPI 2019 – ef.com
- EF EPI 2019 – ef.com
- EF EPI 2019 – ef.com
- Magno, “Korean Students’ Language Learning Strategies and Years of Studying English as Predictors of Proficiency in English” Teaching English to Speakers of Languages Journal, 2 (1): 39-61, 2008.https://doi. org/10.1111/j.1944-9720.1997.tb02343.x
- S. Ibrahim, M.A. Hassali, F. Saleem, H. Aljadhey, “Perceptions and barriers towards English language proficiency among pharmacy under- graduates at Universiti Sains, Malaysia” Pharmacy Education 13 (1), 151-156, 2013.https://doi:10.1016/j.sapharm.2014.07.098
Posted on February 4, 2020, in EF EPI, English as a second language, English Proficiency, ESL Philippines, ESL South Korea and tagged EF EPI, English as a second language, English Proficiency, ESL Philippines, ESL South Korea. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.