With its two-thirds of the world’s population, two nations officially recognized as being part of the three largest economic realities in the planet (China and Japan)1, a host of countries among the most industrialized and technologically advanced in the likes of South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, which are constantly in competition for the role of world leader in the field of modern technologies2 and an endless amount of still untapped natural resouces and raw materials3, Asia seems to be unquestionably destinate to dictate the fait of the future global economy4.
For most Asian countries, other than being considered an indispensable tool of communication and internationalization, English language is often seen as an extremely valuable catalyst for what concerns both their westernization and modernization process. It is not a coincidence that, for over a centuty, English Language has played a major role in the course of the education and professional training processes of the current Asian ruling class, even in those countries where this language is listed neither among their official languages nor among their institutional additional languages5.
English in China
According to the british scholar of australian origins Michael Backman, one of the most reputed experts about the culture, policies and mechanisms of contemporary Asian economies; with its 20 millions of English speakers churned out year by year and over 100.000 of foreign English Language Teachers annually hired, People’s Republic of China strongly influences trends as well as education policies of many asian nations as: Thailand, Philippines, Taiwan and Malaysia. Not unreasonably, the illustrious writer arrives to the hypothesis that, within a few decades, persevering toward this direction, China could come to host a significantly high number of English speakers, even higher than that of India and United states of America6.
English in India
Even in India, the homeland of spirituality, English language doesn’t seem to be easily willing to lose its preeminence role and give up to the other linguistic realities contextually active on that territory.
Although after the attainment of Indian indipendence the attempts aimed to the abolition of English have been other than sporadic, because it was commonly considered as the Language of colonial subjugation, English Language irrefutably continues playing a role of absolute preeminence in the various contexts of Indian social life. In fact, recent researches allocate India in the third place among those nations with the largest number of English Language books and magazines published per year. No less important seems to be the incidence of English Language in the sphere of radio and television broadcasting, not to talk about what concerns secondary education, especially in those field of study belonging to the branch of science and technology.
Even the recent and amazing increase of those activities related to the field of Business Process Outsorcing turns out being strictly related to the actual efficiency as well as the demographic incidence of English speakers in their respective geographic areas. Thi high concentration of reputed western trading companies in several Indian cities like Guragaon constitutes a tangible demonstration9.
English in South and North Korea
On the other hand, for what concerns the situation in South Korea, we can observe that Korean Language still firmly mantains its preeminence position within the field of public education. This, however, doesn’t seem to weaken the interest of the principal organs of govenrment towards the promotion and dissemination of English, especially after the recent opening of markets and the advent of the modern global economy. Precisely because of this phenomenon, English Language has impressively increased its impact on South-Korean education policies, becoming (sice 1997) a mandatory teaching in all elementary schools tarting from the third year10.
Even in North Korea, where till1964 the only scheduled foreign Language teaching was Russian, the situation of English is today radically changed.
A clear sign of this opening came right with the unespected demand of American-English mother tongue teachers by the North-korean general secretary Kim Jong-il to the U.S. secretary of state Madeleine Korbel Albright, during its special visit in Pyongyang occurred in October 200011.
English in Japan
Even in the charming Land of the Rising Sun the unrestrainable advancement of English language appears with great force.
For better understanding the incidence of this phenomenon on Japanese daily communication, it would be sufficient to make reference to some recent statistical surveys performed by Kokuritsu Kokugo Kenkyuujo12, which clearly show that around 8% of the daily Japanese vocabulary consists of loan words deriving from English Language13.
The Situation of English in the distant Southeast Asia
A quite strange situation occurs instead in Vietnam where, unlike other countries in the Asian sphere, the teaching of English language, rather than being given to native English Teachers is usually entrusted to local Teachers14.
If in Malaysia and Indonesia the concern toward the promotion of English Language teaching still remains anchored to the sphere of secondary and academic education, in Singapore English, other than being confirmed as an indispensable tool of interethnic communication, it is also seen as an unquestionable factor of economic growth and local development at each stage15.
Further readings and most recommended books
1Khan Ayaz Jamshed in Sisodia S. N., Naidu C. V. G., Changing security dynamic in Eastern Asia: focus on Japan, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Promila & Co., New Delhi, 2005, India.
4Tonkiss Fran, Contemporary economic sociology: globalisation, production, inequality, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, Abingdon, Oxon, 2006, United Kingdom.
5Tam Kwok-Kan, Weiss Timothy, English and Globalization: Perspectives from Hong Kong and Mainland China, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2004, (PRC).
6Backman Michael, Asia future shock: business crisis and opportunity in the coming years, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke · New York, 2008, United Kingdom, United States of America.
7Sedlatscheck Andreas, Contemporary Indian English: variation and Change, John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam · New York, 2009, The Netherlands, United States of America.
8Fumagalli Lucio, Di Ciocco Pierluigi, L’Outsourcing e i Nuovi Scenari della Terziarizzazione. La Centralità delle Persone nelle Aziende di Servizi, Collana Assoconsult, Franco Angeli s.r.l., 2002, Milano, cit. p. 36, tr. « Within the umnrella “Business Process Outsourcing”, falls a very large number of externalization forms; in fact, over time this definition has assumed the characteristics of the residual cathegory suitable to accomodate all those outsourcing services which do not concern the field of information systems, therefore including whatever kind of business process outsourced to third parts by the company. Typically the most common business functions involved in those transactions are: management, finance and control, logistics and customer care.».
9Gupta K. R., Economics of development and planning: history, principles, problems and policies, fourth revised and enlarged edition, Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, New Delhi, 2009, India.
12 Kokuritsu Kokugo Kenkyuujo is the National Research Institute for Japanese and it is an indipendent institution aimed to the promotion and the correct use of Japanese Language.
14Ha Le Phan, Teaching English as an International Language: Identity, Resistance and Negotiation, New Perspectives on language and Education, Multilingual Matters Ltd., Clevedon, 2008, U. K..
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