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In China, English lessons on speed dial

Scott Tong May 28, 2007


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Learning English could become a lot easier for those living in China. Now lessons can come over a cell phone. Here’s Marketplace’s Scott Tong in Shanghai.

SCOTT TONG: Nokia today announced what it calls “English on the go” to the world’s biggest cell-phone market. Every day, half a billion people tote around handsets, and they’re not all holding them up to their ears.

SHAUN REIN: People use a mobile phone more for other applications than actually talking.

Shaun Rein of the China Market Research Group says Joe Public in China often uses his mobile phone to send text messages, play games and download music. It makes sense to Rein to add portable, interactive English lessons. Here, an estimated one-fifth of the population is learning the language.

REIN: It’s mandated by the government in primary schools. So it’s a huge market. I know the former president of China Jiang Zemin used to joke there are more English speakers in China than there are in the United States.

Nokia charges 26 cents per download. The company says the curriculum includes “trendy, cultural content.”

In Shanghai, dude, I’m Scott Tong for Marketplace.

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