When I was growing up as a kid in Western Massachusetts, going to Chinese school on the weekends was no fun — I was missing Saturday morning cartoons or my Sunday mornings. Besides, why should I study Chinese when I will never live or work in China? As one of a literal handful of Asian Americans in my high school, the cost-benefit ratio of studying Chinese never really occurred to me. And back in college, Japanese was the hot language since Japan was going to take over the world.
The number of Americans studying in China increased by 25 percent [from last year] … People used to go to China to study the history and language, and many still do, but with China looming so large in all our futures, there’s been a real shift, and more students go for an understanding of what’s happening economically and politically.
Ethnically, culturally and linguistically, a majority of Americans relate to Western Europe, but Americans are also becoming more diverse and are looking beyond the traditional study abroad countries. Embracing your language to interact with others makes sense after all; if only for the simple fact to order from the Chinese-only menu in restaurants.