What is a global city?

I happened to see in TIME magazine some statistics on which of the global cities is the most expensive to live in. Tokyo, ranked first for long, has been slid down to the sixth. Singapore was ranked 1st. Mumbai was ranked 131st, the bottom of the 131 global cities mentioned there.

Just out of curiosity, I asked my Speaking class what they meant by “global cities”. As it turned out, my students had a variety of requirements for a city to be called global: population, industry, fame, race, language,…

I do not know exactly what makes a city global. Peace? Well, of those 131, Damascus was ranked somewhere in the bottom. Damascus is the capital of Syria. By the standards of Tokyoites, it is far from peaceful. Then what is the real textbook definition of a global city?

To tell the truth, I do not mind what it means, because it would depend on each individual. What I wanted to point out is that if you do not provide a definition, your reader or listener will try to understand a notion or an idea on their own, based on their own assumption. Most of the time, however, they end up having trouble understanding it (like we did above).

Test-takers write a response to the question with a bunch of assumptions in mind, which, they think, are to be shared by the raters. However, when they say, “There are many sick people” the raters¬†will find it hard to get the idea. They are not as kind as many of you hope them to be. Under time pressure, they are supposed to grade quite a few papers. They may say to themselves, “Sick? There are many sick people? What kind of society does this test-taker live in? Well, there is no time available to give it a serious thought, because I have to get all the job done in an hour. OK, I don’t understand this, so I will give it 2 (out of 5). Now, what’s next?”

Providing a definition means a lot. It is of paramount importance when it comes to trying to get yourself across to someone who doesn’t have anything in common, which is exactly the case of taking the TOEFL test. There are many ways to do this. Learning how is another important aspect of preparing for the TOEFL.


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