Mandarin Chinese is the world’s most widely spoken language. China’s rise as a global superpower means there is an urgent need for more opportunities for American students to learn Chinese and about China. Today’s students are the future leaders in all career paths and fields. Learning Mandarin Chinese and being knowledgeable about China as a world power will allow our students to more fully understand some of our world’s biggest challenges and how we can work together with other countries to make our world a better place.
China currently has the second largest economy in the world. China has become one of the largest trading partners with the U.S., and over 16,000 U.S. companies sell products in China. Learning to speak Chinese will benefit our students in this increasingly competitive, globalized business world.
Here are just a few U.S. leaders who help bridge the cultural gap between China and the West:
- Austrian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.
- U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner studied Chinese and attended Beijing University.
- Former Utah Governor, now ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman is fluent in Chinese.
3. Intellectual Development
Mastering another language allows for a deeper understanding of the multicultural world in which we live. Learning Chinese is particularly important for Americans to understand Chinese culture. Unlike Europe and the U.S., which share linguistic and cultural heritages, there is no linguistic heritage shared between China and the United States. So, it is almost impossible to get a deep and nuanced understanding of China without learning the language.
Furthermore, while learning Chinese is often considered “hard,” the returns for the effort are many. Studies using brain scans have found that Mandarin speakers use more areas of their brain than people who speak English. While English speakers tend to use just one side of their brain, Mandarin speakers generally use both sides. So, mastering Chinese provides a rigorous mental workout for our students as well!