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Say It Right Series

The Language of the Future

Posted by Kyle October 30, 2007 in the Group General Discussion.

For awhile now I've been thinking whether or not English will be "dethroned" by Mandarin as the international business language.  Recently, many people have been keen on pushing the idea that Mandarin will be the new "must learn" language of the future.  However, is this really the case?

Compare, for example, the number of westerners learning Mandarin versus Chinese learning English.  English is mandatory in most (all?) schools in China.  Also, that learning English allows one to communicate with just about everyone, since English is the most widely taught foreign language in the world, whereas learning Mandarin limits one to a specific geographical region.

Then, consider, what economic advantage there is to learning Mandarin.  Regarding this point, I can really only claim sheer ignorance.  However, I don't think it's irrational to assume that both Chinese and western companies would rather hire a local Chinese to translate/interpret over a westerner, simply because of the large difference in salary.  In most cases, a local Chinese will work for about 1/4th of what a westerner will. 

 So, if any of what I've said actually holds any truth, what advantages are their (economically, job security, etc) in learning Mandarin?  How will being fluent in Mandarin help us compete with others in the job market?  If knowledge of Mandarin isn't enough, what other characteristics might make us attractable candidates for higher paying jobs?

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