If you learn Chinese, it can open up untold opportunities with the world’s most populous nation. Just 10 years ago, English was still the world’s lingua franca. According to English as a Global Language, published by Cambridge Press in 2003, the world status of English is mainly due to the integrated result of British colonization since the end of the 19th century, and the rise of America as a superpower in the 20th century.
As time has passed, however, the British Empire has fallen and the U.S. is in a deep economic slump, along with the European Union. But up-and-coming economies such as China and India are catching up quickly. The lingua franca status of English is no longer as strong as before. On the other hand, Chinese, the ancient oriental language with 5,000 years of culture behind it, is on the rise.
The world goes crazy over Chinese
Chinese has replaced Japanese as the most widely learned Asian language since the mid-1990s. Tourist signs at scenic views in Europe and America were only in Japanese before, but now Chinese signs are common.
America’s Major League Baseball has even updated its homepage with a Chinese version. The potential market of 1.4 billion Chinese people is the fuel behind this frenzy.
Chinese teaching has become hot
An official from the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission of Taiwan pointed out that currently, the non-Chinese population worldwide learning Chinese is over 30 million. There are over 2,500 universities in about 100 countries offering Chinese language programs.
Chinese is the second-most widely taught foreign language in Japan. Chinese language programs in local high schools tripled from 1993 to 2005.
The world frenzy over Chinese has made teaching Chinese a hot profession. According to an estimate by the Institute for Information Industry in Taiwan, the world still lacks 900,000 Chinese teachers, and the related teaching-aid market for the coming five years will gross up to US$60 billion.
Learning Chinese can be more than an economic opportunity
During an interview with Time, British linguist David Gaddol stressed:
“Chinese has become a must-learn language in many Asian countries, and even in Europe and America.”
The meaning of this comment is twofold – first, the Chinese population of 1.4 billion is a lucrative potential market in the 21st century; second, as many countries, especially in the West, are experiencing thorny problems, such as the global warming effect, the energy crisis, etc., they may find solutions through China’s ancient culture and its accumulated experience and wisdom.
“The West is in a dead end. Their hands are full of problems brought on by the industrial revolution, and they do not know how to deal with them,” Francis Chen, founder and president of the world-famous porcelain maker Franz Collection Inc. pertinently remarked.
“That’s why they try to find solutions from ancient cultures. It must be from a people who have lived long enough and strong enough for wisdom to grow and thrive for their much needed answers.”
“The traditional Chinese culture seeks unity between nature and man, and sees the importance of respecting Heaven and man. It shows or inspires ways to solve existing problems, such as global warming,” added Professor Zhang Jin-hua of National Taiwan University.
Historians and archaeologists find that the Chinese script is the oldest written language on Earth, with profound meanings to its characters. Ancient scriptures on Buddhism and Taoism, and others such as Lao Zi, The Analects of Confucius, and The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon all contain many meanings behind the Chinese words that are beyond translation.
Riding on the Chinese wave of popularity allows foreign companies to enter into the Chinese market. The wave, on the other hand, raises the status of Chinese and brings the Chinese culture to focus on the international stage. Can it further lead all people to a new era in which man stays in complete harmony with nature? It is something worth waiting for.
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