Do Chinese People Generally Speak English?

How to Get Around Language Barriers/Proficiency Levels

As China increasingly flexes its global muscle, so the question of English ability among its citizens becomes more important. For most individuals, English is the medium for international business, education and cultural exchange. Well, do Chinese speak English? The response is widely different between demographics and regions.

The Importance of English Education in China

In most Chinese schools, English language education is required from the third grade onwards. A result of this is that later generations are often more fluent in English. More than 200 million Chinese students are learning English in primary and secondary schools, the Ministry of Education says. This policy is reflective of the education system in the country which places a high premium on competency in the English language.

Urban vs. Rural Disparities

For internationalists such as those in international trade, hospitality and tertiary sector will also have key manpower in English speaking capacity as another 5~10% of potential workforce in major cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou will have the command of English and use it often. Hotels, large restaurants, and tourist destinations are all common for English speakers to be located. In rural settings, the lower exposure combined with fewer formal educational resources means that English proficiency is substantially lower.

Capabilities & World Ranking

In China, despite education efforts, the total level in English is merely moderate overseas. Based on the latest EF English Proficiency Index, China (being categorised as low proficiency) is ranked 36 out of 100 countries. Code-switching is the practice of moving between languages and reflects a more nuanced reality: although many Chinese learn English, truly fluent speakers are harder to come by outside urban and educational centers that teach it.

The Function of Mass Media and Technology

The use of social and technology has an important function in communicating with English. Thanks to the internet, more and more Chinese turn to online platforms, namely mobile apps, to upskill their English. Movies, TV shows, and social media in English are likewise informal language learning tools for learners from one end of the country to the other.

Effects On Business And Travel

The levels of English proficiency create communication barriers for international businesses and travelers. English is widely used as a lingua franca in business (especially for technology and trade) between different nations or multinational corporations. English is more common in tourist areas, however this does not mean it is well spoken, and you should expect almost zero fluency, specially outside the cities.


Considered on a more general basis, the Chinese-English situation is a bit more nuanced, but it is nevertheless clear that two significant factors have been at play in China concerning English education. But the proficiency level can greatly differ depending on some factors like age, level of education, or what part of the country they were from. Someone interested in this topic a little more will be able to find some additional information on that do chinese people speak english.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top