Li Yang (left), founder of the Crazy English learning course, taught students and their parents English-learning methods in Dongguan, Guangdong province, on Jan 3 last year. Chen Fan / for China Daily
Many Chinese students are eager to learn English, but schools and institutes are part of an unregulated market.
"Extravagant" is the adjective that most people used after learning that Yao Wanchen, 27, spent 42,000 yuan ($6,200) on a one-and-a-half year English training program just to improve her English.
But Yao does not think so, and neither do countless trainees in many English-training schools and institutes around China.
"I think greatly improving my English is well worth the investment. I am in charge of foreign trade for our company and most of my customers are foreigners. Excellent English is very necessary for me," said Yao, an employee from the international trade branch of the China Animal Husbandry Group.
Like Yao, many people in China, from 4-year-olds to senior citizens, are enthusiastic to study English.
That enthusiasm also promotes the development of English-related industries, such as English bookstores, books, videos and magazines. Many English-training schools and institutes have sprung up as well.
China Education Daily recently reported that as of July, more than 400 million Chinese are studying English, accounting for about one-third of China's population. Experts predict that in just a few years, the number of English-speaking Chinese will outnumber the populations of all English-speaking countries in the world, combined.
Many Chinese people speak a few English words while talking with others. Some young people do that deliberately to show they are fashionable and modern.
Experts say the reason Chinese people are attracted to English isn't because of the language itself, but for its huge communication role worldwide.
English is the official language of 63 countries in the world. Every day more than one-third of the world's population is communicating in English. In addition, more than 80 percent of the technological information is written in English, and almost 100 percent of the software source codes are written in English. The majority of the world's publications and world-class scientific papers are published and written in English.
"More and more importance has been given to English after China carried out the policy of reform and opening up to the outside world in the late 1970s. And accompanying China's rise on the world stage in recent years are growing connections of commerce and culture with other countries, especially those developed English-speaking countries, all of which provides many opportunities for the people who have grasped English well," said Xiao Yan, national public relations director of Wall Street English, a well-known English training institute in China that has taught more than 150,000 people and established 43 training schools in China during the past 10 years.
"The entire Chinese society attaches high importance to the English study as sometimes it even plays a vital role for a person who plans to pursue further education and seek a better career. There is no doubt that people who have a good command of English are more competitive than their peers and can win more developing opportunities," she added.
A foreign volunteer gives an English training course in Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Li Tong / for China Daily