Chinese – the new Japanese?

01_20__20Chinese_20class.jpgThe Associate Press just ran this article, “Schools Offer More Chinese Programs.

“As China’s economic power grows, Chinese is becoming the new language of the future.”

This made me think about the late 80s and early 90s when Japan was going to take over the world (and the total land value of Japan EXCEEDED the U.S.!), and everybody was rushing to learn Japanese (including me – I took a semester of Japanese my senior year in college). However, I think Chinese and China’s growth is here to stay.

At the very least, China still has a LOT of growth and development in it. Although China has seen double digit economic growth for over a decade or more, most of China is still very, very poor. Additionally, China’s population is still increasing, while Japan is experience *negative* population growth!

“At least 27 states offer Chinese language classes in either elementary, middle or high schools. And at least 12 public and private schools across the country teach most subjects in Mandarin Chinese, according to the Center for Applied Linguistics in Washington.”

Considering that a lot of schools teach Spanish & French (and maybe even Latin ?), it’s actually pretty amazing that more schools don’t teach Chinese. Then again, I’m not all that knowledgeable as to what has driven language instruction in American education. I took French in middle school and high school, but I am not sure how relevant French is in today’s economy. Not to say that economic concerns alone should drive language instruction! And it’s not like most people who learn Chinese will probably ever use their Chinese ? (Don’t use it, you lose it!). I don’t think I’ve ever really used the French that I learned! But it is still useful to learn a foreign language – at the very least to understand another country’s language and culture.

“Anyone who reads the newspaper realizes that you can’t ignore Asia anymore,” she said. “American education has always been Euro-centric, and now we’re realizing how inadequate our perspective on Asia has been.”

I think everyone is indeed starting to realize this. Given that our Founding Fathers were from Europe, this makes sense. But the world is changing and America needs to start accepting that! In America, we’re so geographically and culturally distant from the rest of the world, learning Chinese or any language can only help in the future.

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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