Linguist criticizes 'blind worship' of English
By Zhang Yu (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-09-23 10:26

A linguistics expert has claimed Shanghainese are overusing the English language.

"It's a blind worship of the English language,"said Pan Wenguo, dean of Chinese as a Foreign Language School at East China Normal University, at a conference held Monday to commemorate the 20th anniversary of promoting Putonghua, or Mandarin.

He added the business sector was particularly responsible for the trend, claiming many people used English "more for following others blindly than for practical needs."

Pan said up to one-third of Chinese are studying or have studied English, while the number of English learners in Shanghai is even higher.

"English is not bad in itself, but the present mania of learning English is really too much,"said Pan.

Last Sunday, more than 50,000 Shanghai locals sat the English Interpreter Test of middle to high levels, an increase of 20 per cent on last year.

The t ime set a side for English learning has been on the rise for students at various levels. Even first graders in Shanghai primary schools are widely required to spend time studying the English alphabet.

"To be frank, I hate to learn English, but I have to study it well, or else I will not have the chance to find a good job in the market after I graduate next year," said Deng Liang, who studies international relations at Tongji University. "I spent most of my time in college studying various types of English textbooks, though English is not my major."

In the increasingly competitive job market, the English Certificate has become one of the most important qualifications employees look for, ranking only behind diplomas.

Many employers, especially in the business sector, tend to hire only people with good English communication abilities.

"Now, nearly every good company, including domestic ones, requires candidates to have good English, not to mention multinationals," sighed Deng, who told China Daily that she will soon attend an English training course to improve her oral English.

"It's common practice for us to communicate with each other in English when we are at work since my boss is an Australian; we write in English in e-mails and speak English in meetings," said Zhou Lili, a 30-year-old woman working for a foreign company in Shanghai.

Zhou is just one among thousands of people who use English in their daily office work in Shanghai. Yu Yi, a renowned educator in Shanghai,said the Chinese language was becoming endangered due to the growing importance attached by schools to English lessons. "Foreign languages are important, but should not be more important than Chinese, our mother tongue,"she said.