English has conquered the world like a virus and is the fastest growing language in human history, British High Commissioner to Malaysia Charles Hay said.
In today's world, there are close to 385 million native English speakers in countries like the United States and Australia with about a billion fluent speakers in formerly colonised countries like India and Nigeria.
Around the world, millions of people have studied English as a second language and it is spoken at a useful level by some 1.75 billion people worldwide or one in every four of the global population, Hay (above) said at the annual general meeting of the English Speaking Union of Malaysia (ESUM) at his official residence in Kuala Lumpur last night.
In its status as the global language of business and the internet, more and more multinational companies are choosing English as the common corporate language in an attempt to facilitate communication and performance across geographically diverse functions and business endeavour, he said.
"Board meetings will very often be in English even though the company might not be from an English speaking country or none of the participants is a native speaker," Hay added.
Stressing the importance of English in getting a good job, the high commissioner, who regaled the audience by starting his speech with a few sentences in Bahasa Malaysia, said it was needed to get a good job while the low level of English proficiency instantly put a job seeker in a disadvantaged position.
"Statistics show that up to a quarter of graduates end up unemployed with poor command of English being the main reason.
"And 70 percent of chief executive officers in a study state that their workforce will need to master English and a quarter of them said that more than 50 percent of their workforce will need English ability," Hay said.
'The easiest language in the world to learn...'
The diplomat said although English is easy to pick up, it is also the easiest language in the world to learn to speak badly while the most commonly spoken language is broken English.
"English is a rich and beautiful language, not least because Britain has been conquered by Vikings and Normans and has happily been open to foreign influence through its history. We know more of its wonderful rare words because English has been written for over a thousand years and its many dialects are well described," he said.
ESUM chairperson Tunku Dara Naquiah Tuanku Ja'afar said various activites were held throughout this year to promote English among Malaysians, including through public speaking and essay writing competitions.
A fun English programme was also held for Orang Asli students in Cameron Highlands.
ESUM's contestant to this year's Belt and Road Youth English Speaking Competition that was held in March in Hangzhou, China, Nicol Yong Jia Jia, emerged as the winner, beating representatives from ESUs around the world.
At the AGM, Tunku Dara Naquiah and Raja Arshad Raja Uda were re-elected chairperson and vice-chairperson, respectively.