The Critical Need to Learn Mandarin Chinese
Any person who has conversed with someone from another culture knows that language barriers often occur. Many fields such as business and science have adopted a lingua franca, or common language, to overcome these obstacles. Today the most widely accepted lingua franca is English. Today approximately 375 million speak English as their first language and 750 million people use English as their foreign language. While the spread of the English language is beneficial for the acceptance of the Western world’s culture, people living in the United States or Great Britain do not have the same level of exposure to the languages and cultures of other societies. In particular, the language with the largest amount of speakers, Mandarin Chinese, is not studied to a great extent in Western nations. By examining the importance of relations between the China and the rest of the world, it would highly beneficial if Mandarin Chinese became a required course for students in high school.
There are a plethora of reasons why Mandarin Chinese should become mandatory in the high school curriculum. Mandarin is the official language of China, and vastly outnumbers other dialects such as Cantonese or Wu. A study conducted in 2004 found that 110 million Chinese students are learning English, while only 50,000 American students are learning Mandarin. Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and soon to be Prime Minister of Great Britain, noted that by 2025 the number of English speaking Chinese will exceed the number of native English speakers. In the realm of financial dealings, the Chinese economy is by far the fast growing, and by the year 2020 it is projected to be one of the largest in the world. Finally, China has become the mecca for Multinational Corporations, as 52 percent of foreign investment found its way to the Mainland in 2004.
With the great impact that China has on the rest of the world, learners of Mandarin have a vast amount of opportunities. In the field of business, those who know Mandarin are in the unique position to be some of the few who are able to further the economic ties between China and the Western world. Mandarin speakers in the United States have a better chance to be selected for competitive jobs within federal agencies, as President Bush made this language one of the “critical languages” to learn under the National Security Language Initiative.
Through the amount of opportunities that wait those who speak and understand Mandarin, high schools should definitely consider making this language required. While these facts help propel the case for learning Mandarin at the high school level, they do not make the language any easier. Therefore, upon graduation fluency should not need to be required. In the end, learning this language is not solely about gaining an edge for life after college, but to introduce students to a rich and memorizing culture they barely know.
1) Writing Global English < http://www.audiencedialogue.org/english.html> February 28, 2007
Spoken Chinese February 28, 2007
2) Andy Mukherjee Commentary: US students need more math, not Mandarin February 28, 2007
3) UK looks for profits from English February 28, 2007
4) Sufia Tippu India and China Economic Powerhouses by 2020 March 1, 2007
5) Ernest and Young “Emerging Economics Stake Their Claim”(2005)
6) National Security Language Initiative http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2006/58733.htm
March 1, 2007