Countries with citizens with good English proficiency has a great edge in both business and academia and everything. While there are countries excellent in English, like Netherlands and Nordic countries, in other countries, it is more often that most citizens cannot understand oral English on TV, for example Italy, Ukraine, Japan and Taiwan. (The two Asia countries have English class starting from elementary school.)

Proposed policy: citizens that passed a English proficiency exam are granted a flat tax deduction.

Does it work or is it naive? What are other alternatives?

closed as too broad by user 1, Sam I am Oct 6 '16 at 14:52

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    Good English skills greatly improve one's employability in many industries. So the financial incentive to learn English is already there. The problem seems to be to give people the opportunity to actually acquire English skills through good and affordable language education for children and adults. – Philipp Oct 4 '16 at 16:21
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    The fact is that we are talking about a couple of small European countries where the local language is linguistically related to English to begin with. That's it. Popular explanations include education or exposure through non-dubbed movies and TV broadcast but there are counter-examples and no miracles. Also, how great is the edge enjoyed by these countries? Compared to what? It's not so obvious to me. – Relaxed Oct 4 '16 at 17:24
  • Do you want to know: what policies work? Or: would your proposed policy work? – Brythan Oct 4 '16 at 23:35
  • A simple way it you have public service television is to use subtitles instead of dubbing. Most TV series and movies are in English so that way you get automatic language training. You hear the English spoken and read the translation. – liftarn Oct 5 '16 at 10:06

Proposed policy: citizens that passed a English proficiency exam are granted a flat tax deduction.

Does it work or is it naive? What are other alternatives?


  1. This puts the burden on the person to achieve English proficiency at her or his own expense.

  2. The person may not have the money to get assistance, e.g. tutoring, classes, books, etc.

  3. The tax deduction isn't guaranteed, so they can't borrow against it unless the reward is large in comparison to the chances of getting it.

  4. English proficiency already has economic advantages. Apparently they aren't enough. Adding more economic advantages is unlikely to overcome the existing problems.

  5. Tax deductions only work for people who pay taxes and help people in higher brackets more than those in lower brackets. This increases expense without increasing effectiveness.

  6. Languages are most easily learned by children. But children don't pay taxes.

Example alternatives:

  1. Free English classes and/or educational materials.

  2. Tutor-it-forward: in exchange for tutoring, people promise to tutor others in turn after passing the proficiency test.

  3. When you take the proficiency test, you can specify one person who gets a tax credit or a simple payment if you pass. This flips the incentive, encouraging tutors with income rather than potential students.

  4. Subsidize English-speaking television and movies so that people can use their increasing proficiency.

  5. Ensure that people can get official materials in English translations and fill out forms in English.

  6. Allow easy immigration by English speakers.

  7. Give the bonus to parents of children who pass the test. Parents who speak English at home are more effective than other means of teaching language.

I'll leave it to someone else to post information on how effective these and similar policies have been elsewhere.

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