Shanghai has overtaken Hong Kong for the first time as the city in China where adults have the best English.
The finding was made in a survey by EF Education First and EF Englishtown of 63 countries and regions where English is not the mother tongue.
English is no longer a major teaching language in Hong Kong’s schools after Britain returned the colony to China in 1997, so the English ability of its residents has been falling, according to the survey.
Shanghai is challenging Hong Kong’s position as a global financial center, and the English level of the workforce will be a key factor in the rivalry, it said.
Meanwhile, the level of English among adults in Beijing and Tianjin has also overtaken that of Hongkongers.
The EF survey evaluated the adults’ grammar, vocabulary, reading, listening and speaking skills.
Hong Kong ranked 31st among the 63 countries, with an English Proficiency Index (EPI) of 52.5.
It was the seventh consecutive year Hong Kong had slipped in the ranking, although it remained in the “medium level” category.
The group includes South Korea (53.62), India (53.54), Japan (52.88), Indonesia (52.74) and Taiwan (52.56).
China ranked 37th with an EPI of 50.15.
However, Shanghai (53.75), Beijing (52.86) and Tianjin (52.73) surpassed Hong Kong for the first time in English proficiency.
EF Education First, founded in 1965, provides English training services to 20 million people in more than 500 institutions. Its EF Education Englishtown unit is the world’s largest online English school.
It said Hong Kong should improve its English language proficiency in order to maintain its competitiveness and status as a bilingual commercial and financial center.
Denmark (69.3) ranked No. 1 in English proficiency, followed by the Netherlands and Sweden.
They are in the “excellent level” bracket.
Other European countries such as Estonia, Belgium and Germany are in the “high level” category.
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