Here’s some more good news for Vietnam and colleagues from English-speaking countries who recruit here at the secondary and postsecondary levels. According to the results of the EF (Education First) Proficiency Index, which profiles 70 countries, including 15 in Asia, Vietnam ranks 29th with “moderate proficiency” in English. Last year, it ranked 33rd out of 63 non-native English-speaking countries. Among Asian countries, Vietnam ranked higher than Cambodia, China, Japan and Thailand. This will come as no surprise to those who have visited those countries or worked with their students. For example, when you walk into a department store in Bangkok in what has been a middle-income country for quite some time – with many more socio-economic advantages than Vietnam – the staff will usually scramble to find the one person who can communicate in passable to good English with foreign customers.
Here are a couple of interesting findings from the Vietnam survey:
- As in most countries, women speak better English than men.
- Adults in Hanoi are somewhat more proficient in English than those in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).
As the survey points out, research shows that better English correlates with higher income and better quality of life. Since English is an international language, it also allows its speakers to tap into an international network of information and knowledge, as well as develop relationships with an estimated half a billion people whose native language is English or who speak it as a foreign language.
Why is Vietnam making so much progress so quickly? The sheer number of number of young people, including children, who are studying English, the growing ability to pay for instruction at proprietary centers, combined with opportunities to practice English, the result of Vietnam’s integration into the global economy.
These impressive increases in the English proficiency of growing numbers of Vietnamese bode well for the country’s development, as well as the career prospects of those who are able to communicate in this important language.