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View Poll Results: Where does English seem more prevalent?
Sweden 17 68.00%
Malaysia 8 32.00%
Voters: 25. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 09-09-2012, 09:14 AM
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
24,544 posts, read 56,047,835 times
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I thought this would be an interesting comparison.

Of course the situations in the two countries are interesting, but I've often thought it would be interesting if the country where English is mostly widely understood on the mainland of the Old World was in Malaysia, a world away from Britain!

Swedish is, of course, the official language of Sweden and still by far the dominant language. Yet, for various reasons, proficiency in English in Sweden is astonishingly high: 89% according to wiki and school students learn it in primary and secondary school. I don't know to what level most Swedes speak English, but it says 37% use it at least every day. I imagine most Swedes still converse in Swedish among each other, with the percentage using it as a first language being very low.

In Malaysia Malay is technically the official language, but English is widely used, and indeed 80% of businesses use it. Couldn't find exactly figures of those with some knowledge of English, but my guess is almost all Malaysians know the very basics. The percentage who could hold a conversation in English is probably about 70-80%. It's mostly the older generation from all the ethnic groups who may not speak much or any English. The figure who use it as a first language is 25%, which is substantially, and much higher than that in Sweden. About 80% of businesses conduct their business in English, and it's the language of much of the mass media, on signs.etc everywhere. After Singapore it's the most English-speaking nation in Asia. Of course during British rule all subjects of the British Empire (as Malaysians were) were educated in English, so in many cases the older generation has a better command of English than the younger.

Swedish shares more in common with Malaysian, while Malay is of course a pretty unrelated language. It has, however, adopted the Latin alphabet and taken many English terms. While most Malaysians can speak basic English, many aren't quite as fluent as say the average Briton, Australia or (yes, even) America .

Anyway, having been to neither country, I'd be curious to hear from anyone who has. In which country did English seem more widespread among the population? Where did you run into more problems as an English speaker? In urban areas I generally had no problems at all, but in some rural areas and in say Chinatown there were issues. Also among the many new immigrants. My guess is that English is still more entrenched/widespread in Malaysia than Sweden, making it interesting how the most English speaking nation in the Old World mainland is about as far away from Britain as you can get.
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Old 09-09-2012, 09:26 AM
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List of countries by English-speaking population

Sweden: 86%

Malaysia: 20.54%

I think the Malaysians are more skilled, though.
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Old 09-09-2012, 09:31 AM
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
24,544 posts, read 56,047,835 times
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^ There's no way that only 25% of Malaysians can speak English. The lists puts Thailand as higher than Malaysia but anyone who's been to both will know that's nowhere near accurate. Nor is the 25% figure... And only 380,000 speak it as a first language? I'm pretty sure at least 1 million in KL alone do speak it as their MAIN language.
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Old 09-09-2012, 11:23 PM
Location: The heart of Cascadia
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It's probably pretty similar. I'd say Malaysia is more truly anglophone in a way though.
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Old 09-10-2012, 02:55 PM
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Swedish are more familiar and conversible in English than the Malaysians. There's a chance a rural Swede can speak English than a Malaysian living in Penang. English is being taught in Malaysia widely but only a few of them are actually applying it outside the school. Sure they can understand internet English, but have an English conversation with them and most of them will be tongue tied.
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Old 09-10-2012, 09:08 PM
637 posts, read 1,026,588 times
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I'm amazed just how good most Swedes speak english....better than I do
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Old 09-10-2012, 09:55 PM
Location: Leeds, UK
22,112 posts, read 29,578,708 times
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When Swedes learn English, they seem to want to learn it almost 100% perfect. Someone should tell them they needn't bother, most people in the UK, the US, Canada, Aus and New Zealand do not speak English perfect. As for Ireland.. well..
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Old 09-11-2012, 01:51 AM
Location: Sweden
23,857 posts, read 71,325,120 times
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Younger swedes have even begun using english curse words.
It sounds incredibly stupid,specially natives who speaks with a "ghetto" accent.
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Old 09-12-2012, 09:31 AM
Location: Minsk, Belarus
667 posts, read 940,290 times
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I think that english swear words nowadays are known and used all over the world
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Old 09-13-2012, 03:25 AM
Location: La Isla Encanta, Puerto Rico
1,192 posts, read 3,482,755 times
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Been to both for several months each. Sweden without a doubt better English and greater % of country. Not to say Malaysia isn't pretty darned proficient. In Sweden nearly all professionals speak nearly perfectly fluid English ... some with very polished English (from England) accents to my American ears. You have to get deep into the rural north and usually with people in their 70's and older to get people that are totally lacking in English.

In Malaysia it's the reverse. Nearly all the late Middle Aged and elderly have pretty good (maybe not totally fluid) English that were kids in school during the 50's and before (Brit colonial). However, in more recent years a government policy favoring Malay pride/nationalism has been focussing on Bohassa Malay harder in the schools to the detriment of English capability. As a result you are more apt to find young people with rudimentary and older people with good or very good. Also, you'll see a difference in ethnicity. Even longterm Malaysians of Chinese and Indian ancestry tend to have made a greater effort to learn English. My theory is that they are descriminated in the job market for not being Malay so they try to gain an advantage with their language capability. Also, they are more likely to be plugged into a worldwide diaspora business network and need English for communicating to their longtime Canadian, American, or British cousins for "wheeling and dealing".
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