Asia as the world’s largest continent is also known for its heterogeneous population that has a wide variety of cultures, economic conditions, and languages. In just several decades after western influence, a lot of changes have refaced the Asian way of living.
Industrialization and urbanization are two things that are prominent in some regions like China, India, South Korea, and Japan displacing the agricultural sector which was considered less profitable to support financial and economic development. Meanwhile, the western education system which is assumed to be more effective in bringing civilization advancements has been adopted in almost every region of this continent.
Just in the recent decades after the political polarization era was ended, more countries in Asia are moving forward and racing against each other in developing their economic situation from many sectors. This situation increases regional interaction that was less intensive before and brings up the common need for an official language to carry out multilateral communication.
English, which is not a native language of Asia, is chosen with consideration that this language is an international standard language used for business affairs.
This situation is not without cultural and political reasons. As some countries in Asia have already adopted English as their official language, using English in political communication seems to be very rational and could be the best practice instead of insisting on their own indigenous languages which may lead to a mutual misunderstanding.
In the business and commerce area, English has been the main language that is used widely in Asian countries. Corporate websites, regional business newspapers, and e-commerce sites are using English to attract more people as they also try to prove their credibility in the international market.
Moreover, some Asian countries are considering English as a prestigious language. Taken as an example, China, India, and Indonesia are the most populated countries that provide English lessons in their education curriculum. In line with their national language, English comprehension is seen as an important skill that can help the younger generation to reach more opportunities in the future. This perception has created a cliche believed by most parents that they are willingly providing an extra English course for their children.
While English has become a part of the culture in Asia, this language undeniably lives as not only an official or academic language in some countries but also as a colloquial language used together with their indigenous languages in non-formal interactions.
An example that illustrates this condition happens in Singapore. Located outside the tip of the Indochina Peninsula, the people of this country are able to use varied languages namely Mandarin, Malay, and English together in their daily socialization. Due to a multitude of languages interacting with each other, Singapore English is acknowledged as one of the English varieties spoken by non-native speakers. However, Singaporeans ranked high among other Asian countries in English proficiency.
Asian Countries with Highest English proficiency
After decades of racing in growing economic conditions in each country, English has acquired a prestige position in Asian culture. This is marked by the increasing number of users with high proficiency in using this language. The process of English as a second and third language also gets support from official elements in each country in Asia resulting in a powerful position as a lingua franca in certain regions for multiple types of communication contexts.
Regarding the English proficiency level, Asian countries have scored varied levels from very high to very low. Some of the highest are Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, South Korea, and Hong Kong. After that, some countries scored high in proficiency including China, India, Japan, Nepal, and Pakistan.
With the high population, the result might not be able to generate a general condition in each country. The proficiency scores were based on data given by test scores taken by some people from each country. Therefore, this data should not be solely used to make a consideration in using English when communicating with people when visiting Asian countries. On some occasions like traveling, using English would still be reliable since most people have mastered the basic expressions of English. Yet, the role of interpreters is still very important in some formal contexts like business or meetings.