America no longer has a monopoly on English.


It is the law in China: all students are required to learn English starting in the third grade. In thousands of classrooms, Chinese schoolchildren are mastering difficult verb tenses, prepositional phrases, and spelling rules that comprise English. On the Gaokao college entrance exam for Chinese high schoolers, 25% of the score is based on English proficiency. The Chinese are pushing the next generation to hurry up and learn English, and they have been successful--China now is the world's largest English-speaking nation, and it is not alone, points out Brad Hoover, CEO of Grammarly, San Francisco, Calif., an automated proofreading tool with a global user base.

Around the world, more than 1,000,000,000 people are learning English. In Latin America, Thailand, and Mexico, students are learning English early on in school. Why is everyone clamoring to learn "i before e except after c"? English is the language of international business, major news outlets, global affairs, tourism, and a host of professions. English is the "language of opportunity," to quote Jay Walker of Walker Digital (creator of Priceline). Walker calls this international rush to teach English a mania. English Mania, Walker contends, is not "a tsunami washing away other languages." Rather, English is becoming "the world's second language."

English is the pathway to something better for students in Malaysia, Ecuador, Mall, and many other nations across the globe. However, it also is a pathway to something better for all of us. "English," states Walker, "represents hope for a better future--a future where the world has a common language to solve its common problems."

Ironically, English Mania presents a conundrum for Americans. In recent history, Americans' command of English has provided a distinct advantage on the world stage. However, non-native English speakers now are writing as well--in some cases even better than native English speakers. According to scores tabulated by Grammarly, Chinese students make fewer writing errors than U.S. students. High school students in Beijing are surpassing those in Kansas City when it comes to comma usage and other points of punctuation, grammar, and spelling. The same holds true for Thai and Mexican students...

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