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Why learn Chinese? A few reasons

When China Rules the World(This continues from yesterday’s blog post) So there’s a way to learn Chinese … but why learn it?

It’s funny, I get asked this question a lot … by Chinese people! It seems they don’t realise just how important their country has become.

Meanwhile, in the west, it seems we are becoming more aware of the importance of China – in business, and in every other part of life.

As a westerner, there are two ways to approach this:

1. Fear. After all, China is different from us in almost every way. Their system of government, written language, spoken language, food, sense of humour, etc. Different is scary, especially when the “other side” is becoming more powerful by the day.




2. Curiosity. I am a big fan of Star Trek, where the crew of the Enterprise would seek out “new life, new civilisations”. Well, China’s not exactly ‘new’ but it is the nearest thing on earth to another planet – and I find that really fascinating! By getting to know friends in China and learning about our differences, we can appreciate what we have in common – our humanity.

If you’re interested in this topic (and you love to read) I recommend Martin Jacques’ “When China Rules the World”. It’s a clever title, because it plays into that fear mindset. But the message of his book is, China will be more and more important, so we need to adopt a curious and learning mindset.

So, here are some quick reasons to learn Chinese Mandarin:


  • By 2018, China will be the world’s largest economy

  • Chinese consumers are becoming the world’s wealthiest and most numerous consumers. China is now the top source of tourists to New Zealand and New South Wales (replacing each other as the top source of tourists)

  • As China gains more power, there is less emphasis being put on English, and more of an expectation for global business people to have at least a passing awareness of mandarin.
  • Mandarin is the lingua franca of the Chinese world, spoken in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore, as well as connecting the Chinese diaspora around the world.

As Martin Jacques says, “When doing business with Chinese, speaking mandarin is a must – unless, of course, you want to have one hand tied behind your back”.

And Confucius has another reason: “If you don’t understand a man’s words, you can’t understand his thoughts”.

I don’t know about you, but I want to understand what’s going on in the world around me. And if it takes learning another language to do that, well, let’s do it!

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4 comments for “Why learn Chinese? A few reasons

  1. Jon
    November 6, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Hi Simon – Thanks for posting an article about learning Chinese. I would say your curiosity reason is the most common reason we’ve seen students studying Mandarin Yes, China is large on the world stage and we’ll see their economic plans after this weekend (Xi is meeting with top Chinese leaders), but ultimately an interest in working with the people and the culture and language is what drives language learning. People might learn language on a “fad”, but if they take classes, immerse themselves in music, movies and surround themselves with opportunities to interact with Chinese people, it is then they’ll become fluent.

  2. Simon
    November 6, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Thanks Jon, yes, you’re quite right! I’ll have more tips on ways to do “full immersion” coming soon.

  3. Georgie
    November 25, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Persuading Joe, my son, to study Mandarin at school in Yrs 9&10 instead of French. Fingers crossed he is persuaded. Think it is essential. Thanks for your post.

  4. Simon
    November 26, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Thanks Georgie! And all the best with Joe. Mandarin may be harder but will be so much more useful in the long run.

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