In conversations amongst teachers, parents and students it’s common to hear Mandarin being tipped as the language ‘you should be learning’. So common, in fact, that it’s easy to not stop and question why that is. Here’s Haena Kim, Head of Education at The Dragon Trip with some hard and fast facts on why learning Mandarin Chinese is so useful at this point in time.
There are currently 950,000,000 native speakers
Mandarin Chinese has the largest number of native speakers in the world. It leaves Western languages trailing far behind, with Spanish having about 400,000,000 native speakers and English which has 365,000,000 native speakers. Keep in mind that the population of China is around 1,400,000,000 and that not all Chinese citizens are “native speakers of Mandarin” because they speak dialects (such as Cantonese) or are from a region with a high ethnic minority population. So, the fact that students are learning the world’s most spoken language will give allow them to communicate with Chinese people both in China and overseas.
See our Mandarin Learning Trips
Infographic of the most commonly spoken languages in the world
Mandarin speakers are spread all over the world, not just in China
In addition to approximately 1.4 billion Chinese living in China, there are also more than 50,000,000 overseas Chinese (regardless of citizenship) mostly living in Southeast Asia but also notable amounts in the US, UK, Peru, South Korea and Australia. Totalling this together, nearly 20% of the world’s population is Chinese. Even some large US cities like San Francisco are about 21% of Chinese descent. Overseas Chinese does not just refer to those living in “Chinatowns” but also to those who are more upwardly mobile, moving to satellite communities and establishing roots. No matter where you are in this world you will certainly come into contact with the Chinese diaspora and the Mandarin language!
China currently has the world’s 2nd largest Gross Domestic Product
By some economists’ estimates, in 2040 or 2050 China will overtake the US (and the EU) as the world’s strongest economy. So, knowing Mandarin will help businesses to unlock the Chinese market economy. If you are thinking of taking a business school trip or organizing networking sessions with Chinese professionals, we can arrange for company visits, language and school exchanges as well as cultural activities suited to your itinerary.
See our China Business Trips
Chinese students graduating
Chinese students make up a third of the international student community at US universities
University students on their home campus will increasingly come into contact with Chinese students studying abroad. Chinese students are by far the largest international student group, roughly equivalent to the international student population of India, Saudia Arabia, South Korea, Canada and Mexico combined. For example, the large public University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (total student population of 45,000+) is composed of 12% Chinese international students. This growth is even more remarkable considering in 2000, UIUC only enrolled 37 undergraduates from China. So even if you are in your home country’s higher education institution it is certain you will come into contact with Chinese international students on campus as classmates, friends and fellow students.
With all this said, Mandarin Chinese is considered one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn. According to the State Department’s calculations, it takes nearly 2,200 class hours of instruction or about 88 weeks of instruction to become bilingually proficient in the most difficult languages like Mandarin, Cantonese, Arabic, Japanese and Korean. This is twice as many class hours as Hindi or Russian and almost four times as many hours as French or Spanish. If one is living in China through studying abroad, working or travelling, then the world becomes your classroom as you buy, eat, shop and transit through China. It’s this informal instruction “outside the classroom” that is a great way to help you make significant gains toward chipping away at Mandarin proficiency. Many combine travel with language learning and we can provide a customised itinerary, curriculum and teachers who will help organize your independent or group travels throughout China. In-country immersion is a great exposure to the language and culture so we make sure to run our Japanese itineraries with the same goals in mind too.
See our Japanese Culture Trips