Guest Post by Helen Wallis
England admits more international students than any other country, except the United States. Foreign students inject up to £10 billion per year into the economy, a figure which has steadily risen over the past three decades. Chinese students represent 26% of postgraduates, the second largest cohort after British students. While the United Kingdom’s diversity is something to be celebrated, it’s alarming that foreign graduates leave university with a far better understanding of the English language than natives.
In the past universities have been criticized for granting entry to foreign students with a poor level of English proficiency onto undergraduate programs. In many cases students would write papers in their native language and use online services to translate them into English. However, over the past few years many universities have been cracking down on standards, which has forced students to improve their written English in order to achieve higher grades.
English Language Schools
One of the main reasons why foreign graduates are achieving positive results is because of the increasing popularity of specialized English language schools such as the TTI School of English. Students will often supplement their learning with specific English language courses. Unlike native residents, these students are enhancing their skills at a late age, giving them an edge over students that haven’t covered basic grammar, spelling and punctuation since their primary school years – skills which are often forgotten.
Because foreign students are a huge source of revenue – especially on postgraduate and doctorial programs – many universities have began offering free basic English language courses to students who are simply looking to improve their knowledge.
There’s a much bigger difference between International English (also known as Basic Global English ‘BGE’) and British English. There are currently 58 sovereign states and 21 non-sovereign states where English is an official language. In many of these states it’s the first language, while in others it’s used for cross communication to bridge the gap between regional languages.
International English is the ‘worldwide’ standard – not British English. International English has been adapted over the years to include words, phrases and spellings that would otherwise be incorrect in British English. Fundamentally, it was designed to be learned more easily than British or American English, and therefore, isn’t as strict.
Many foreign students already have a firm grasp of International English and use their basic foundation to build off when they begin further education. The reason why this yields such positive results is because their learning is, therefore, more of a recap and improvement of what they already know. Native speakers on the other hand don’t feel the need to develop their skills.
The United Kingdom is known for having an alarming shortage of foreign language speakers. Out of every country in Europe the UK is the least bi-lingual. Other countries often start teaching children from a very young age and by the time they reach adulthood they are fluent in a second, and sometimes even a third language. Generally speaking, it’s this attitude and experience that’s gives foreign students an edge over British students. Whether they enter the UK with good English skills or not, their previous language learning experiences certainly help them catch up, and sometimes even surpass their English counterparts.