Mandarin – The Next Global Language?

12 Feb

It is a language of an ancient civilisation dating more than 5,000 years ago – a long and rich history. More realistically, it is also about learning a language which is spoken by approximately one-fifth of the world’s population. It this short essay, we strive to explore the possible benefits and advantages of learning mandarin.

Before proceeding any further, we should look at China’s recent rapid growth. It is predicted by an US intelligence that by 2030, China will the be largest economic power. Another source claims that in another four years, China will overtake the US as the next largest economy in the world. Further, a Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development stated that China’s economy will be larger than the combined economies of the eurozone countries by the end of this year, and will overtake the US by the end of 2016.

It is not surprising considering the recent rapid growth of a country with a population of over 1.3 billion and covering approximately 9.6 million square kilometres, making it the second largest country by land area. Given the current gloomy economic outlook of the Europe and especially in light of the Eurozone crisis and the recession, the hard truth is there might be more opportunities present in the Asian market. Chinese Language is the open door to the huge and lucrative market not only in China, but countries like Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong which uses the language as well. Many large enterprises, companies and multinational corporation (MNCs) have expanded to China and naturally employees and entrepreneurs looking at expanding into this huge market would have an edge other those who does not speak the language. 

Crucially, China is not only the factory of the world, producing many of our goods, but also growing market with over 1.3 billion consumers. With the rising global China influence, foreigners are flocking to China and the other chinese speaking countries to pick up the language and to be ‘immersed’ in it.

“Families are enrolling their children in Mandarin-immersion programs that are springing up from California to Maine. They are hiring tutors, Skyping with teachers in Beijing and recruiting Chinese-speaking nannies. Some are stocking their playrooms with Disney videos in Mandarin—not to mention the iPhone apps aimed at making kids into Mandarin speakers.”

On a more mundane level, learning a new language allows one to communicate with a more diverse and wide variety of people, appreciating the rich culture and the delicious authentic Chinese cuisine (not mere Chinese takeaways) and even understanding the many movies and TV dramas. It is not hard to fathom that is why so many people

Difficult? You will observe that the language has no subject verb agreement, no plurals, no tenses and has a simple numbering system which is applied to dates and time expressions. It is indeed easy to grasp the grammar although the tone might pose some difficulties. However, practice makes perfect and better late than never. As the Chinese proverb goes, 

‘the journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step.’

It’s never too late to start.

For an interesting video on kids learning the Chinese language:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303640804577490671473322992.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

Sources:

http://english.gov.cn/2005-08/06/content_20912.htm

http://www.economist.com/blogs/johnson/2012/06/chinese-0

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303640804577490671473322992.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2013/jan/23/unemployment-rate-fell?intcmp=239

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4 Responses to “Mandarin – The Next Global Language?”

  1. btdb1g10 February 13, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    Adding on to this brief article, I would like to include another interesting read and features people who have taken advantage of the rising economy in Asia. Although this article is primarily focused on the lawyer’s perspective, it will still offer readers an informative and interesting perspective that might proved to be practical and useful!

    ‘Asia : Following the Money’

    http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/features/asia-following-money

    Perhaps, in light of the current economic downturn in the UK and the entire Eurozone, you might want to shift to Asia, especially China, following the money.

  2. ljp11g11 February 15, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    While there are many studies which suggest that the number of foreigners who are choosing to learn Mandarin is increasing, there are also signs that there is a long way to go before Mandarin could become the next global language.

    Firstly, learning any foreign language is a challenge; even if there are similarities to your mother tongue, therefore the task of learning Mandarin Chinese, regardless of some easy grammatical structures, is no easy feat. A study by the US State Department’s Foreign Service Institute has shown that in order to reach a competent level of Mandarin you need to have attended around 2,000 hours of classes as well as having spent some time immersed in the language. The difficulty of the language for people from non-Asian countries is highlighted when compared to a language such as Spanish, which can be mastered in around 700 hours. What’s more such countries tend to lack the resources to teach large numbers of people Mandarin; there are a small number of teachers and even less people to practice the language with. This makes it harder for students to persevere with their language learning and will inevitably lead to huge numbers of people giving up, which according to some, such as Professor Li from Renmin university in Beijing, is down to the fact that “the passion that Chinese have for learning English is much greater”.
    What’s more in China English is taught from a young age and students are put through many exams in the language, in contrast to countries such as the UK, where since the study of a modern language at GCSE level was made non-compulsory, there has been a significant decrease in the number of students choosing to continue a modern language to GCSE level; the number of students choosing French dropped by 28.8% in 5 years. This is due to a common belief that achieving a good grade in a modern language GCSE is a lot more difficult than in other subjects. This suggests that if students are under the impression that a European language such as French or Spanish is hard to master, what hope do we have of encouraging the next generation to learn a vastly different language such as Mandarin Chinese? Therefore unless the language is made compulsory from primary school age in other countries and the perceptions of modern languages change, it seems unlikely that Mandarin Chinese will become the next global language.
    Sources:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/8776515/The-rise-and-rise-of-Mandarin-but-how-many-will-end-up-speaking-it.html
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-15189033
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/may/18/speak-mandarin-in-two-days
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17105569

  3. samhemming February 18, 2013 at 3:13 pm #

    I agree that it Mandarin is not obviously the next ‘global language.’ There are other obstacle in addition to what ljp11g11 says about the difficulty of learning Mandarin and the reluctance of English speakers to learn Mandarin compared to Mandarin speakers willingness to learn English. The large numbers of Mandarin speakers are concentrated in the East. But if Mandarin is to replace English as the lingua franca of business, or any other number of international interactions, then it needs to increase how widely it is spoken. English is an official language from America in the west to India and Australia in the east and is the most widely spoken foreign language in the world. Given the other obstacles facing learning Mandarin how will it become a global language? The extent to which Spanish and English are spoken has its origins in their home nations’ imperial pasts. This is much the same the extent that Arabic is used across North Africa and the use of Latin in Europe up to the Renaissance. In these cases language represented more than just a method of communication but a sign of status, being able to interact with the portion of society perceived as civilized or exclusive. Mandarin may be able to achieve this cultural aspiration if China achieves the superpower status position that many academics predict it will achieve but not necessarily given the unprecedentedly entrenched position of English.
    There is also the issue of whether there can be such a thing as an international language. Even within countries, as can be seen in British dialects or the differing varieties of Spanish in the united Spanish kingdoms, there is massive diversity in a language. As a language spreads further it pronunciation and regionally used words can turn it into almost a different language, French Canadian not being the most comprehensible thing to French French Speakers. There are also cultural biases that prevent people from wanting to speak a language even if it would be sensible, demonstrated by the French Prix de la Carpette Anglaise.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/from_our_own_correspondent/7844192.stm

  4. uvacustomervalue April 12, 2013 at 2:35 am #

    Reblogged this on Market Insights in China.

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