Speaking English boosts wage

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People who speak English earn higher salaries than those who do not, says a new survey.

It pays to speak English well, literally.

So says a new survey. The eight-country survey shows speakers of English can earn as much as three times the salary of non-English speakers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The language is also vital for the flow of direct foreign investment (FDI) into a country.

English can be a funny language at times, where a "fat chance" is the same as "slim chance". But difficulties in grasping the language for foreign tongues has not dimmed its popularity. It is the third-most popular language in the world and is spoken in 112 countries.

But when it comes to wages and the economy, knowledge of the language can make a difference, according to the survey, which was conducted by Euromonitor International and commissioned by the British Council.

The salary gap between those who speak English, and those who do not, vary from 5 per cent in Tunisia to 75 per cent in Egypt - and even 200 per cent for some workers in Baghdad.

People from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen participated in the survey.

Due to the colonial histories of these countries, French remains the key business language in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, and is spoken by around 30 per cent of the population in Lebanon. In Iraqi Kurdistan, Kurdish is the main language, while Arabic dominates in many parts of Jordan and Yemen.

Fluency in English also translates to more FDI from English-speaking countries.

Among the surveyed countries, Egypt had the highest percentage of investment from English-speaking countries such as the US and the UK. In 2011, Egypt attracted 57.4 per cent of its total FDI from these countries. Egypt was followed by Jordan and Lebanon.

Still, investment from English-speaking countries lags behind funding from France and other European countries in French-speaking Maghreb countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.