How Important is English to Global IT?

The Philippines is the world’s most highly rated user of business English, surpassing even the UK, North America, and ANZAC, according to a report from a company called Global English. The firm’s Business English Index (BEI), recently updated for 2012, rates the competence of business English within more than 70 countries worldwide. Norway finished in second place.

How important is the English language in international business? How much stuff is really lost in translation? To what degree is highly competent English a bonus to a country that is touting its skills in computer languages such as Java, the C’s, The Three P’s, etc.?

My experience has been that good English communication keeps things moving. Less good communication – and I freely admit that my Mandarin, Hindi, and everything else but English is terrible – slows things down. It’s not a matter of getting things wrong when communications are difficult, it’s a matter of wasting time.

Armed with this new database, I integrated some of the BEI’s numbers into my ongoing research about ICT dynamism on a nation-by-nation basis.

I’ve integrated a number of factors – broadband quality and access, cost of labor, income disparity, corruption, overall economic development – to create an amalgamation that highlights countries the most dynamic countries, ie, the ones doing with the most that they have.

For now, I’m focusing on a custom report for Asia, and have integrated the BEI into the amalgam. In doing so, the Philippines’ capability vaults it over all other countries in the region, including China, India, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore.

This occurs over a broad range of weighting algorithms, but even weighting the BEI lightly pushes the Philippines to the top of the heap. China’s strong performance in other categories, combined with its middling English skills, puts it in second place in this research. Australia finished third.

The BEI must be stirring some dust up in native-English countries; how can the Philippines do better than Australia, for example? I attribute it to a sensibility in the Philippines, in which English is not taken for granted but studied seriously by those who wish to get and maintain good jobs.

In the Philippines, if you’re without good English, your potential pathways to success are very, very limited. Perhaps this is less true in Australia, the US, and other presumed English-first countries these days.

Tweet me if you want to know more about what I’m doing. It’s fascinating stuff.

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