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Why Not Chinese?
English has the third largest number of native speakers and the second highest number of total speakers (including those for whom English is a second language). Why not start learning Mandarin Chinese characters or Spanish verb conjugation, then, since there are more native speakers out there?
There is no need to put away your English dictionary just yet (though learning Mandarin could prove to be very fun and useful). English is still THE language for business, education, and travel.
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Higher Education in English
Are you interested in a degree from one of the top universities in the world? You'll need to speak pretty good English if you want to get in and keep up! All of the top fifteen best universities in world are in the United States or England - both English-speaking countries. If we expand the list a bit further and look at the top thirty, Australia and Canada join the list.
These universities require proof of your ability to speak English in the form of a test. The exams gauge how well you can read, write, speak, and understand English, so it's not possible to fake your English abilities. Taking the TOEFL, IELTS or other exam can cost up to $225, so it is important to be well-prepared so you don't need to pay to take it more than once.
Without a high enough score on a qualifying exam, it isn't possible to get into a top English-language university. A degree from a top university can greatly improve your job options, make you a more competitive candidate, and even increase your pay.
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English in the Workplace
Although there are many more Mandarin Chinese speakers than English speakers in the world, the language isn't widely spoken outside of China. English has long been the international language of business, and it continues to hold this position. This means that at a meeting with a group of international businessmen, there may be a few Mandarin speakers, but chances are good just about everyone in the room speaks English.
Employers value good English skills, and they will look for this in prospective employees. A good grasp of English will allow the employee to communicate with business partners in countries all over the world. In an international company, speaking English well can help when it comes to promotions, as the company needs to be able to send competent employees to other countries without always relying on a translator. Excellent English skills can help you get in and get ahead in the business world.
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It goes without saying that some basic English skills will be very helpful on a trip to England or Australia. But what happens when you travel to a place where English is not the main language? When a Japanese tourist is on vacation in Brazil, it is unlikely they will run into many Japanese-speaking Brazilians. It is also unlikely that many Japanese tourists speak Portuguese. How do the tourists communicate with those around them in a foreign country when the native languages don't overlap? They most likely will need to rely on English. Many people in the hospitality industry, such as hotel employees, restaurant workers, and tour guides, speak English. By having more than one language that you can rely on, your trip can be just a bit easier and maybe even stress-free.