Spotlight: Mandarin learning helps American children engage with world's major economy: expert

Source: Xinhua| 2017-07-16 01:33:45|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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By Xinhua Writers Guo Yina, Liu Shuai, Xia Lin

WASHINGTON, July 15 (Xinhua) -- More and more young generation in the United States adopt Mandarin as the must-learn foreign language, a practical choice which may facilitate building their China-related careers in the future, and on the other hand reflects the power augmentation of the eastern country.

Mandarin has become the fourth largest foreign language learnt by primary and middle school students in the U.S., coming after Spanish, French and German, said the American Councils for International Education (ACIE) in a census report released in June.


"What we see today is we're in a very large sort of expansion of this studying and teaching Chinese into mainstream American public education," said Dan E. Davidson, President of ACIE..

Explosive growth "has been seen in the number of American children choosing to learn Chinese. Over 10 million primary and middle school students are learning foreign languages in the U.S., with 227,100 of them studying Chinese," according to ACIE's report.

Dan noted that when he was young there was no Chinese language course in any school in his town in Kansas. However, today Chinese classes can be found at primary and middle schools in 49 states of America, except for South Dakota. It is common for children, especially teenagers, to take different levels of Chinese courses in almost every community in the states.

"And that is a result of the prominence and power of People's Republic of China, (and) the sense of partnership of economic potential," said Dan, adding that Americans see China as a partner for its culture and economy.


In addition, Dan explained, the reason that American parents encourage their children to learn Chinese is the same as Chinese parents letting their kids to study English to take part in the big world and have a successful future.

"In America, until recently, the idea that learning another language was an important step toward a big future was not well developed," said Dan, adding that "Americans thought the whole world speaks English. We don't even know another language. But now, it is changing. America is changing."

Today, 65 million Americans speak languages at home other than English, in contrast with over 60 million just five years ago. And it is still growing, Dan told Xinhua.


Unlike Spanish, French and German, all of which used to be a stable part of an American education, the number of Chinese language learners at U.S. primary and middle schools doubled from 2009 to 2015.

Students have shown much more interest in learning Chinese than any other foreign languages in recent years, said ACIE's report.

Dan links this trend to the rise of China's national power, especially economic growth, saying that "to be a part of the world means to engage with the major economies of the world. China is growing very rapidly and is probably the most important one for Americans."

Dan also believes that the stereotype about China derived from watching movies or television must be scrapped for better understanding and cooperation.

"So I look forward to the expansion of business ties, (and) the expansion of economic times, but also more work, much needed work in the area of culture," he said.

"We don't have too many cultural connections, and Chinese culture is unbelievably rich and deep, which is not well understood by most Americans. So more cultural connections would be good business connections but also joint projects in addressing the big issues like health, like (anti-)narcotics, (and) like terrorism," he added.