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【699net必赢商务英语】不识英语误终身|Why better English skills would boost Chinese innovation








Why better English skills would boost Chinese innovation 


Written / Edited by Jake Foo


Lenovo Group was originally founded in a dusty, two-room Beijing guardhouse in 1984. Today, it’s the largest PC maker in the world. One of the key reasons behind the firm’s global success – and its journey to become a multinational corporation – is language.

When the company acquired IBM’s famed Personal Computer Division a decade ago, it found itself at a crossroads that became the starting point for a radical transformation.“The language was a big challenge. At the time, not all of our Chinese directors could speak fluent English. But the company made a decision to use English as the medium of communication in board meetings,” said Eric Mo, Lenovo’s Company Secretary and Assistant General Counsel in Hong Kong.


“We had a very strong determination to become a global company and to compete with global players. Using English as a medium of communication would help to attract well-qualified people to the board and would naturally make communication with the world better.”


The push has paid off. The company is today a Fortune 500 frontrunner in smart connected devices and has employees in more than 60 countries.


Lenovo offers just one example of how companies, and by extension countries, with high English proficiency tend to be more innovative.


Lina Zhu, founder of IMPACT Corporate English Training – one of China’s leading business English training provider, believes innovation is about more than just smart, technically-savvy people coming up with game-changing ideas. It’s also about how we connect with each other and tap in to global information networks and skills.


As China strives to lead the world in innovation through greater investment in science and technology, the role of English will become even more important, she added, “We see a clear correlation between English proficiency and the number of researchers, technicians, high-tech exports and research and development expenditure in a country. Taking Russia for example, it does not have one single university in the global top 200, partly because most universities there don’t teach or research in English. It’s very difficult to do research in a vacuum”.


IMPACT English offers 4 levels of Professional English Training Programs in a Multinational Working Environment, and each tackles a very commonly found English language communication problem, particularly for the Chinese.


“China has a large domestic market. But they are more ambitious than that. They want to break into the international market. To do that, they need English and that’s for sure,” Lina said. 


Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which aims to promote economic integration across Asia, Africa and Europe, will have English as the connecting language in all of these places. The Beijing-controlled Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) also has English as its official language.


However, China still scores behind other Asian countries in the index. This year it ranked in the ‘low proficiency’ band – at 39th place –compared with Singapore at number 6, Malaysia at 12 and Hong Kong, which could only manage at 30th place despite having placed English as its two official language.


That said, progress is being made in mainland China. Last year, more than 520,000 Chinese students left the country to study abroad, and one fifth of scientific papers published in China involved an international collaborator.


As China positions itself as a global economic power, English proficiency will be key to its international development.


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